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Bijeljina Market

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Unique to this market from any other I have seen, is the baby chicks!

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Every time I have been to the market in Bijeljina, and that has been three times in the last five years, there are boxes of baby chicks for sale. This is unique to this market within the realm of my experience. Every time I find them as someone is always chasing after a little wildly ecstatic escapee and inevitably the little fellow is captured and returned to his crowded quarters.
This market, like all throughout the Balkans in the growing season, is open all week long, all day long. Early each morning you will find local area farmers with their produce from the day before, and they are usually sold out long before noon. After that, there are still some local farmer’s children or wives remaining to sell products (honey, jam, cheeses, meats, etc.), and the business proprietors that buy from larger farms, or wholesale, sell their wares.
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This is the land of the tomato, and of the meatiest, most flavourful red peppers in the fall. They are the ones you must have to make the best ajvar with. The pale translucent yellow peppers can be purchased from the Italian Centre in Edmonton and must be eaten fresh the first time, to really appreciate the crisp light juicy flesh and the bright sweet paprika flavour.
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The white beans are so fresh and lovely. I cannot get enough of them. Melons are everywhere.
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The smoking drives me crazy. Carrots for Pava. And the beautiful sweet long green peppers are different than any I have eve found at home. Sweet, and mildly spicy with a thick juicy meatiness that makes them delicious grilled or fried with lots of garlic.
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I often think of VJ and Amina when I am in Bosnia. This is the first time that I have seen the fresh and dried baby okra on strings like Amina used to bring home to cook delicious soups with. I wish I knew her recipes. I wanted to buy some, but wouldn’t know what to do with them. I usually do not like okra, but her preparation of them made the usual (in my experience) slimy little critters surprisingly addictive.

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And in the middle of the market, the traditionally shaped outdoor sink I see everywhere here. It is certainly a practical shape, but really ugly.
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On the right, behind the vegetables, the candles that the Orthodox people use to light in the church and at the grave side. I have not seen these at another market, either.

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This is made from the same pastry as burek, but is prepared and cooked “œempty”. It hasn’t any cheese, or meat, only pastry. Apparently people enjoy then like this. Vanja and Ako and Elsada all said that the pastry like this was really good. The woman who was selling them told me to drizzle a little pavlaka over it and eat it with yogurt. (Remember, you drink the yogurt here.) I think it might be an acquired taste? I should have tried one.
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Here I bought the walnuts for the baklava I was going to make for Igor and Lori before we leave, in Belgrade.
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I cannot pass  buy such beautiful, fresh produce without taking a picture. Gorgeous. And below, the honeys and herbs for special medicinal teas. To the right, all kinds of different flours.
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Homemade pastas, and cheeses, and below, homemade meats, and a smoked cheese that is a speciality of this region. I don’t care for it at all. It is dry and bitter.

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Now, I am nearing the far end of the market, and I almost tripped over the little chicky scooting between my legs. I see this time, the “œChick Lady” also has ducklings, and more than one kind of chicken.
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Here she sits with her grandchild selling her little balls of puff.
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And the Bijeljina version of the Veg-O-Matic promotion was hilarious. There the fellow is, top right, with his pile of cabbage as he is chanting madly in that “œVeg-O-Matic” mantra about how wonderful his potato peeler is. That little plastic yellow thing is essentially what he is selling. That should tell you something about the quality of life for some here. The standard of living has certainly increased steadily the last five year. Pensions have not increased a penny since the war, though. So you can figure out who is really suffering.

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And, out the other side. The market is a large square enclosed by stores that mostly open onto the street on the outside from the market direction. I am glad I made the time to go. I understand so much more each time, and always enjoy visiting an open air market. With veggies for Pava, and walnuts for my baklava, we were ready to bid farewell, and head out to Belgrade to prepare for our flight home.

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About Valerie Lugonja

Educator, Writer, Gardener and Traveler who believes in buying and eating locally, and most importantly cooking at home!

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  1. I feel like I was there. There is something so wonderful about having a partner from another part of the world. So different and yet exactly the same. Amazing. :)

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