where it’s at

I guess if you totally love octopus, Markt is your lucky day.

Most stores in the Netherlands close surprisingly early to us Americans – usually by 6pm. So every Saturday, thousands of Dutchmen and women flock to Markt, a tradition that goes back nearly 1,000 years.

Markt is what we might call a farmer’s market, but much, much bigger. Each city has their own, and Leiden’s is an open-air market that takes place along the canals in the old city center. Produce and animal products are fresh, local, and cheap – so cheap that it really doesn’t make much sense to buy it at the grocery store. My friend Pauline got a basketball-sized bunch of spinach and a huge bundle of carrots for one euro apiece (roughly 1.4 dollars.) The variety is astonishing, too.

And it’s not just limited to food – there’s clothes, bedsheets, textiles, toiletries, you name it. I got a pair of hand-made gloves for a measly five euro.

One of the biggest draws of Markt – and, admittedly, of the entire country – is a beautiful invention called the stroopwafel, or “syrup wafer,” which looks like this:

The real reason Dutch children rank among the happiest in the world.

They can be purchased at just about any store, but they are made fresh each week at Markt right before your eyes, cut up into samples and heaped on a plate for your tasting pleasure. The smell of warm dough, caramel and cinnamon is irresistable.

They are usually enjoyed with coffee or tea and laid over the top of the mug, where the steam from the drink softens the syrup inside. I think they’re enjoyable with everything and walked away with an armful!

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~ by curiouskristie on January 19, 2010.

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