Knives, Car Parts and Old Shoes

You Never Know What You Will Find in the Country’s Biggest Flea Market

By Ross Perkel

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What do car parts, throwing stars, knockoff European fashion and the oddest collection of antiques this side of your Aunt Agatha’s porcelain mouse collection all have in common? Don’t think too hard because chances are you didn’t know that you can buy all of these plus anything else you can imagine at Kolbenka, the largest flea market in Europe according to organizers.

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Kolbenka flea market was started in October 2004 by Lukas Svoboda and Roman Cilecek as what they described as “a place to offer people a wide collection of vintage finds.” Located in Kolbenova in Prague 9 near the Kolbenova stop on the Prague Metro B line, Kolbenka is open every Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m..The market plays host to a wide variety of vendors who begin queuing up at midnight the night before a market, or even earlier. Anyone can sell anything they want at the market so long as it is legal in the Czech Republic, and most importantly, someone is willing to pay for it.

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Since anyone can sell at Kolbenka, there is heavy competition for the spots easily accessible from the entrance. Food vendors are required to get a permit and certain vendors rent out the permanent huts for seasonal cycles, but for the most part it is first come, first serve. While most vendors show up around 6 a.m., it’s not uncommon for a queue to form the night or early morning before a market day.

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Most stands at Kolbenka are no longer strictly vintage or antiques. The vast majority of vendors at Kolbenka have some combination of the common and old items which are present throughout the market. Common finds include cleaning supplies, outdated electronics, boxes of old family photos, rusted car parts, used shoes and for some reason, tons of stalls selling tires.

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The market itself is found in a muddy dirt parking lot, the sort you typically see outside of high school football stadiums. According to the official website of the market, it takes up over 50,000 square meters which equates to a little more than 12 acres of stalls crammed in next to each other shoulder to shoulder. The atmosphere is similar to that of a tailgate, with some vendors bringing along their families, complete with small children in tow, or teams of locals who take turns alternating between sleeping in their vans, perusing the goods of other vendors and watching their own stands. The language barrier is particularly high here and most vendors only possess enough English to give you prices of individual items.

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If you can figure out a way to communicate, there are hidden gems to be found. Musical instruments can be found for incredible discounts, with a 1924 trumpet going for the grand price of 600 crowns ($24 USD). For the more visually oriented, film cameras abound with many vendors having full boxes filled with relics of a pre-digital age.

Once you find your stomach growling from the adventures, be sure to hit any of the sausage and beer stands scattered across the premises. Luckily there is a higher bar to be a vendor is far more time-consuming than just showing up, with the vendors work closely with the organizers.

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An adult entrance fee to Kolbenka is only 20 crowns ($0.83), so the next weekend that you find yourself in need of just about anything, take an adventure out to the market and who knows what you’ll find. To get to the market from anywhere in Prague, find your way to the Yellow C Metro and ride it all the way to the Kolbenova stop. Once outside the station, it’s two minute walk down to your right to the ticket stand.

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SIDE BAR: Tips for Kolbenka!

Bring an iPhone and have them type the prices into your calculator unless you have a high level of confidence in your Czech numerals.

Czech people who frequent the market seem to do so early in the morning. Although the market is officially open until 14:00, most vendors will be done selling and packed up to leave by 13:00 as the big crowds get there early.

Bring your walking shoes: if you want to see everything the market has to offer, it’s inevitable you’ll be out wandering for more than a few hours. Bring shoes that you’re comfortable walking in for prolonged periods of time.

Don’t be afraid to haggle: most vendors here just want to make the sale so it’s rare that they won’t be willing to haggle a bit for larger items.

If you have access to a native Czech speaker, try to convince them to come with you. Most vendors have a weak grasp on English and speaking the language will get you better prices and friendlier vendors.

Ross Perkel is in the NYU College of Arts and Sciences. His hometown is Madison, Wisconsin.

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Categories: Spring 2015 Issue Number 1

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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