language barrier pays off at trip to flea market

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 2:13 PM

Annie Valentine

There are a lot of things I enjoy about living in Germany — the weather, the tangle of scenic priority roads, the bakeries.

But there’s one thing that I will never get enough of: The antiquing and flea markets.

I happen to live 15 minutes from the world’s most amazing flea market. Imagine the most impossible thing to find on the planet and you will find it there. It’s a sprawling revamped treasure chest waiting to be haggled over.

One recent Saturday, I left my husband and children and headed out early in the morning to meet two of my girlfriends at the market. Unfortunately we parked at opposite ends and I had to hike half a mile to find them. I carefully avoided looking over any of the booths as I quickly hurried to meet my girls.

“Hey!” Rebecca said as I came up. We visited for a moment before beginning the hunt.

Watching Rebecca haggle over vintage kitchen scales and antique milk bottles was an education in and of itself. Her ability to pay half of their lowest price was astounding. The girl is a master of silent, super cheap intimidation. They almost couldn’t deny her. Geneva and I learned quickly that when Rebecca starts haggling, you never interrupt.

“It’s all about what you wear,” she said. “You never want to dress nice at the flea market.”

I’ve really got to get myself some flats.

We loaded up on shoes for our children, vintage paraphernalia and some random furniture. We wound through the maze of tightly cramped tables and temporary booths selling everything from lanterns to old underwear. There were toys and really ugly light fixtures, glass keepsakes and exercise equipment. Pictures, electronics, chairs, books, shoes, beer steins — it was the best kind of sensory overload.

“I want to head toward the food,” Rebecca said, “But I saw something on my way in that we have to go check out. It’s a trunk, Geneva’s going to love it …”

A trunk? Unbeknownst to my girlfriends I’ve been going to the Homburg Flea Market since last September attempting to find myself an old turquoise trunk. I’ve found two, both of which I was stupid enough to pass up due to a case of cheapitis.

Finally we approached the booth in question, tucked away on the grass under a large tree. There, sitting toward the back, was a turquoise green trunk.

“Hallo!” we said, approaching the booth. Rebecca pointed to the chair. “Was kostet das?”

The old German lady hobbled over, cigarette hanging out of her mouth.

“35 euros.”

“Seriously?” I said to my friends. “I’ve never seen one that cheap, the ones I’ve looked at are always at least 20 euro more.”

Rebecca looked at Geneva. “Do you want it? It’s a great price, I’ll take it if you don’t want it.”

“Well,” Geneva said, “I love it, but I don’t really have a place to put it …”

“Me too,” Rebecca said, “It’s a little too short for what I need.”

“I want it!” I finally blurted out. “I will totally take that trunk, but only if neither of you want it, I know I got here last ...”

That stupid parking space.

“What about you, Geneva?” Rebecca looked at her skeptically as we danced the careful dance of Let’s Not Ruin Our Friendship Over A Trunk That We All Kind Of Love.

“Well?”

“Fine!” the old German lady said, interrupting us. She had been watching our conversation with impatience. “30 euro!”

We stood there and stared at her, not really comprehending her reasoning until we realized that she didn’t speak English.

“Uh,” I said. “Ok, es ist gut.”

And that is how we accidentally haggled our way into the best deal of the morning.

Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at regardingannie@gmail.com or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.

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