1. It is not all about fish
It actually has little to do with fish at all. When I firstly heard there is a spectacular fish market in town, I quickly pictured congested stalls full of wonderous seafoods like the ones in the US or Japan. I somehow expected to run against local fishermen getting a fresh haul or walk into curious displays.
This was the case back in the day, presumably around 1700. In those days a Sunday fish market was meant to provide citizens of then Danish city of Altona — today one of the Hamburg districts — solely with fish. It wasn’t until later on that fruits, vegetables, and plants entered the market, too.
However, today Hamburg’s fish market is somewhat exceptional. It’s like a wild mix of things you failed to place anywhere else. It is neither a flea market, which Germany is so famous for, nor is it purely a food bazaar. You find here all goods possible, from ugly bags labeled with the infamous ‘Made in China’ to authentic Hamburg salami, from over-sized synthetic dresses to bizarre baskets full of fruits. The latter appears to be unfairly pricey as it offers a limited choice of fruits for 15 EUR. In fact, you can make a better deal by purchasing them separately from different vendors. But the basket might be so worth it, up to you!
Trade is trade. When it comes to sales, it naturally results in severe competition. Imagine 20 somewhat identical produce stands with the only difference between them being the vendors’ entertaining accents (a few more words on that below). Pictured? Now add to this they mainly sell short-life products that ideally should be gone by the time the market finishes, at least the more, the better.
Unlike the old couple Schmidt who run their own small shop in the north of Hamburg and just occasionally visit the fish market to showcase their stunning jewelry collection — and probably therefore has time for small talk — the majority of vendors really make living out of this market. That’s where a no-holds-barred struggle starts. Some awkwardly sing, some let you sample their avocados and cheese, some try to tell you an unfunny joke, and some… throw a fruit into your face! Well, all means are good until someone gets hurt …
3. Anyone can sell at Fischmarkt
Remember the point about entertaining accents? It happened to be that majority of the vendors are either Turkish or Arab immigrants. That ultimately adds to the charming vibe of this melting pot. Anyways, the market treats everyone equally. It has neither national, nor social limitations. Its policy is primarily focused on improving the local economy and providing fair living conditions for everyone.
That was my flatmate’s thinking when he decided to try out his luck at the market, too. Besides, not trying to sell there when living within a stone’s throw from the fish market entrance would be a crime.
To enter the market for the first time, he started with the production of these adorable wooden fishes. In fact, he runs his own small workshop — happened to be also in the North of Hamburg — there he mainly manufactures clumsy furniture.
Although anyone is allowed to sell at the fish market, you still need to consider several things. And namely to secure one of the spots at the market, you firstly have to register with the district authority of Altona. There you simply provide an ID card (Personalausweis) or passport (Reisepass) along with a paper with the last registration and valid VAT book. Than you pay money — yeah, bloody fees of 7 EUR per meter plus electricity costs — and here you go. Happy trading!
As you see, there are so many more hidden truths that you probably did not know about Hamburg Fischmarkt. Just make sure to pay it a visit at least once, working hours are somewhen between 4 and 9:30 am every Sunday.
© 2018 Elena Bubeeva, All Rights Reserved.