‘Vrijmarkt’

01-05-2018

Ken Lambeets – also known by his pen name 'Belg aan de Waal' – recently moved from Brussels to Nijmegen to strengthen the Vox editorial team. He will write about his experiences over the next few weeks. Part 3: the King's day flee market

The morning of King’s day, the alarm goes off just as early as any other day. The orange ‘tompoucen’, the snack that I surprised my inlaws with a few days earlier (‘you are more catholic than the pope!’) are still in my stomach. On the way to the Goffert park, people are quickly hanging flags from their windows, a wandering drunk burps loudly.

We arrive fifteen minutes before the official opening, but it is already possible to crowdsurf over the visitors of the Nijmegen Central Parc. Bargain hunting is best done in the morning, everybody knows that here.

Children’s clothing

On the topic of flee markets, I dare to call myself a connoisseur. In Brussels, we went to a different neighbourhood every weekend after the beginning of May, looking for – what, exactly? The brocantes and vide-greniers in the fields of the French region Poitou-Charentes are also very dear to me. Last year, we even went to the braderie of Rijsel, the biggest flee market in Europe.

At first glance, the flee market does not look very different from other markets. Professors and bricklayers alike have emptied their attic, and have put the items on display on big sheets and canvasses. Young parents are trying to sell their piles of children’s clothing for a nice price, a stand with hamburgers, sausages, beer and fries is already making a lot of money early in the morning. The visitors are not necessarily looking for something, but might not go home empty-handed later.

Still, this flee-market has its particularities. In France and Belgium, I often found the sellers and visitors to look resigned. For some of them, the yield of the flee market made a big difference. When I think back to the tristesse in the eyes of elderly French women sitting next to the little pieces of art that they crafted in the winter, but that nobody wants to buy, my heart fills with melancholy.

Bargaining

In the Goffert park, there is no room for this melancholy. Today has to be fun. Everybody seems to realise that. Goods are touted with the necessary volume, with horns, bells, rattles and music. Sellers and costumers make jokes together. A part of the visitors has dressed up in orange, while they still can, a month and a half before the world championships.

‘I am starting to understand why the Dutch economy is thriving’

The family is the cornerstone of the flee market. Husband, wife and children have cleaned up the attic together and will share the proceeds. Attracting customers, negotiating, counting the change: everybody has their own task. At the same time, it’s an educational project: the smaller members of the family have to learn about the entrepreneurial spirit. Some children tell jokes or play the violin or the flute to make some extra money. For their parents, bargaining is more competition than tradition. I am starting to understand why the Dutch economy is thriving.

The longer the flee market lasts, the further the prizes drop – nobody wants to drag their old stuff back up to the attic. Because of that, visitors start buying stuff nobody needs. Next year, the exact same junk will be offered for sale, but in a different composition.

Oranjebitter

Over two and a half hours later, our legs feel like they do after a mountain hike and our heads feel like after a heavy day of classes. Trop is te veel en te veel is trop (Trop is too much and too much is trop), we say in Belgium. With a special ‘mail edition’ of the Jan van Haasteren puzzle (0,50 euro), a jar of Goffert honey (4,50 euro) and a new winter coat (4 euro), we cycle home.

In the centre, I look for a glass of oranjebitter, but it is nowhere to be found. Luckily, you can also enjoy the footage of the royal family in Groningen while sober – they have not changed a bit, sir. Let’s hope our Willem celebrates his birthday again soon.

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