A tale of two markets

by Sarah on April 5, 2014

bread at Market Bürkliplatz

A few weeks ago I went on a spontaneous mini holiday to Switzerland.  Like most leisure trips I go on- especially the last minute kind- I had almost nothing planned. I knew only two things- I would land in Zurich on Thursday night and on Friday morning at 9:00 sharp I’d meet Kerrin at the fountain near Market Bürkliplatz.

It was serendipitous meet-up that like-minded bloggers sometimes do.

Although I’d never met Kerrin before, I was acquainted with her blog, My Kugelhopf, where she shares her passion for food, travel and everything sweet. It wasn’t long before the confectioneries, bakeries and chocolatiers she often wrote about became a basis for the Sweet Zurich walking tour. Indeed, for many a virtual taste of the city was not enough.  This evolved into an even bigger and sweeter business- as a professional chocolate taster and an organizer of Zurich’s Salon du Chocolat, one of the most prestigious chocolate conventions of the world.  It’s a profession,  like an ice cream flavor developer or whale watcher, that seems too good to be true. It’s not all about sweets. When she’s not testing a new brand of chocolate, she’s stocking her pantry with fresh, seasonal and locally produced foods at the outdoor market.  That’s what we did Friday morning after I emailed “I’ll be in town, will you be around?”

radicchio and white asparagus

 Above left, radicchio, right, white asparagus

The first thing I noticed when I walked through the market was the quiet. Vendors were not trying to attract customers with boom box voices with calls of “parsley, coriander, basil…3 shekels a bundle”.  Tomato price wars between competing sellers do not exist here, or at least not so obviously LOUD.  The cheese seller didn’t whip out a megaphone to announce a special sale in Gruyère cheese, a technique occasionally used in outdoor markets in Israel. I imagine he would be arrested for disrupting the peace and quickly escorted out of the premises.  Customers somehow find their own food without the prompting from the fellows behind the counters. It’s a bit like an al fresco supermarket, more subdued and relaxed, yet operated by a group of dedicated and knowledgeable professionals.

tomatoes and pears at the Market Bürkliplatz

cheese Market Bürkliplatz

The market in Zurich felt so contained and tidy compared to the mayhem and buzz of Middle Eastern souks- a pleasant place for a promenade. In Israel, especially on Friday and before holidays when the shopping can be extreme the debris quickly accumulates. Vendors stack empty cartons by the side of their stalls. Often unsellable produce, either damaged or old, isn’t whisked away until the end of the day. It’s lively, messy and occasionally robustly aromatic as well, where being pushed and nudged is taken in stride. A visit to Zurich green market was the antithesis of what I was used to- pristine and attractively arranged- more a Disney World emulation than the real thing.

artichoke at the Market Bürkliplatz

Perhaps I committed a cultural faux pas. Was I the only one eating as I strolled? I certainly didn’t see anyone lugging their market basket in one hand and munching on lye bread with the other. Well, except for me and Kerrin’s cute toddler, Chloé. Street food is a big part of the Israel outdoor market experience. At every corner there is another pita sandwich delight- falafel, shawarma, kebab, eggplant- or ice cream stores, bourekas stands and more. Eating just about anywhere is the norm in this region and it is perfectly acceptable to tackle even the messiest of sandwiches while on the run.

Market Bürkliplatz

bread at the Market Bürkliplatz

With the exception of a few European style markets such as Shuk Hanamal (The Port Market) in Tel Aviv, most produce is simply labeled. There’s eggplant or eggplant baladi, tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, pomegranates, the sour or sweet variety…and the list goes on, each item with a handwritten sign and price which the more savvy buyers can reduce with a bit of haggling. In Zurich the produce have names of aristocrats.  Israel’s fruit and veggie nomenclature is rather more plebian- we have apples named after grannies not Musketeers. Kerrin told me that there are more than 20 apples varieties she can choose from, some locally grown and others from farther off.

market scene Market Bürkliplatz

apples at the Market Bürkliplatz

honey at the Market Bürkliplatz

Above: Wild and local honey

Yet in many ways, both markets are essentially the same. It is a colorful backdrop for business and a place to socialize, where the more formal customer-vendor relations can eventually meld into friendship. It is an outdoor museum, where new exhibitions happen continually with the seasons with the excitement and expectations that come with it.

And it is also a place where the most reserved sellers will offer gifts from their stands when met with a smile of a small child.

Zurich green market

Above, left: Multicolored carrots, right rhubarb, bottom left, wild garlic, bottom right lye bread (Laugenbrötli)Zurich green market

tulips zurich green market

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa April 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Kerrin is a lovely lady and great pictures! Our markets are quite quiet…




Rosa April 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Sorry, I meant “Kerrin is a lovely lady and these are great pictures”… ;-)


Jennifer April 5, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Sarah, what are the beautiful, looks-like-wilted-rose-petal-lettuces in the picture above the butterzopf braided bread?

Wonderful post — I enjoyed it enormously! I’m also a fan of Kerrin’s blog, so it is great to hear about her from someone else. Thanks for the fascinating comparisons between the two markets and cultures. I also love the comment on how they are outdoor museums with ever-changing exhibitions — so true!


Sarah April 6, 2014 at 8:32 am

Hi Jennifer, Thanks! I don’t know what the wilted rose petal lettuce is but trying to find out….will update you as soon as I know.


Eha April 5, 2014 at 9:58 pm

‘Knuspefrisches Oberländer Bauernbrot’! Cannot believe it reading on a Sunday pm in Australia! Crispy, fresh to the table, from the high meadows and made by the local artisans!! God bless!! Can I afford it :) ?


Jennifer Barnaby April 5, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Personally, I think I’d prefer your market over the one in Zurich. I love buzz and theatre at outdoor markets. I think it enhances the experience. BTW, if you’d like a guided tour of my markets in Monaco, Menton and Ventimiglia, let me know. We can do all three in one day.


Sarah April 6, 2014 at 8:30 am

be careful, I might take you up on your offer one day :-) three in one sounds like fantastic fun to me


Yael April 6, 2014 at 8:22 am

A very Swiss experience. We stumbled upon a weekend market in Prague and it was loud, and messy with people munching on sausages and gulping beer. So not all European markets are the same. But they are all very different from Shuk Hatikva…


Yael the Finn April 6, 2014 at 10:29 am

Beautiful pictures Sarah!


Karin@yumandmore April 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Another wonderful story Sarah. They are always so delightful!


Charu April 8, 2014 at 4:28 am

Such a lovely post. True that local markets are usually social hubs – and I usually head to one whenever I am in a new city. First time on your blog and I really enjoyed it :)


Sarah April 8, 2014 at 4:42 am

Thanks Charu!


Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf April 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

oh wow did i love reading this post of yours, sarah ! of course because it allowed me to revisit our time together at the market. (i will always think of you when chloé and i get raspberries there this summer !) and i just smiled from beginning to end at your comparisons of our markets – so different and so similar at the same time. you are spot on for zürich !! :) an outdoor museum for sure, its exhibits changing with the seasons.

funniest bit is that on fridays, the market here is bustling ! just wait until i visit you in israel !! i may be a tad overwhelmed…. haha !

oh, to answer jennifer’s question above about the pink rose-like lettuces, they are a white trevisano, a very expensive lettuce. but so pretty !


Sarah April 8, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Thanks Kerrin! You’ll do fine in any Middle Eastern market, all you need are elbow pads :-) I try to avoid the Friday market crowds, either by going very early in the morning or earlier in the week. Miss the raspberries and the lye bread, not something readily available here…need to make another visit


Jennifer April 8, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Thank you Kerrin, and Sarah, for the information on the lettuce — so gorgeous, I’ll have to find it and try it for myself! Kerrin, I love your blog, it is mouth-wateringly fun to read. I enjoy your travel posts the most — can’t wait to read all about it when you head to Israel.


Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf May 9, 2014 at 6:01 am

haha, i’ll have to remember to pack elbow pads ! and when you miss our lye breads way too much, and you want a quiet break at the market, it would be so wonderful to have you back here again ! chloé said she’d happily snack with you while you stroll around together – no faux pas ! =)

jennifer, thank you so much !! i haven’t planned a trip to israel yet, but gosh how i dream of going one day…


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