Whether you enjoy shopping or not, a trip to the Odessa Pryvoz Market is obligatory. This massive ‘farmer’s’ market is one of the biggest markets in the world. It is filled with both new and old items – cheap bargains and extravagant luxuries. Even if you do not want to spend much money shopping, a visit to the Pryvoz Market is recommended since it is an excellent way to experience the local culture.
According to the history books, Pryvoz farmer’s market started in 1827 when wares were first sold from the back of several horse-driven carts in Privoznaya Street. This was an offshoot of a nearby market known as the old Staryi Bazaar which was Odessa’s first bazaar. Slowly the trend of selling different goods from this location caught on and people of all sorts started selling virtually anything here.
Soon, a market grew and the Privoz farmer’s market became an institution. To this day, the Pryvoz market at Pryvozna 14 is still one of the best places to go shopping for fresh produce. It is the largest food market in Ukraine and possibly one of the biggest in the world. However, the Odessa Pryvoz Market is about more than just fresh fruit and vegetables. The market has become a place where just about anything can be found. Construction materials, clothes, consumer goods and second-hand parts are everywhere. Cheap clothing knock-offs are popular with buyers on a budget while pirated movies and music CDs are commonplace. You can buy caviar, shoes, perfume and toiletries; rusty tools and old floppy disk drives – there is virtually no end to what you will find here.
The Odessa Pryvoz Market has been said to resemble a cross between a recycling center and a department store. Fully-fledged shops are mingled with street-side vendor stalls.
In the 1940s zoo animals were moved from the Odessa zoo to Simferopol. Four-year-old elephant Murza escaped. It ran to the fruit section of the Pryvoz Market and ate several apples, pulled out pickled cucumbers from a barrel, tasted some fresh cabbage and dried fruits. Murza was caught and returned to the zoo. A popular Soviet comedy film, Striped Trip was inspired by this incident.
A western journalist explained his visit to the market:
“I headed over to Pryvoz Market, which is sort of like a cross between a department store on the one hand and a recycling center on the other. There’s caviar, shoes, accessories, food, perfume, toiletries, things like that. And then there are the guys selling things like rusty old tools laid out on moth-eaten blankets. Or the old school five and a quarter inch floppy disk drives. There’s even somebody selling wheels, just wheels, including a matching set of three that were obviously taken from a perambulator at some point.”
Pryvoz was also mentioned in The Odessa Tales of Isaak Babel.
“Moi sieur Jason, you are as scary as Monia the Artellerist firing out of two guns. I’d rather go to aunt Pece at Pryvoz and would buy a glass of sunflower seeds as you painfully interestingly ‘goutareetie’.”
Haggling is expected and pickpockets are quite commonplace so it is advisable that visitors be wary of this. For centuries the Pryvoz market has been favorably referred to in literature and music as a place to meet people, go shopping and enjoy some light gossip. There is so much available here that some have even joked that it is possible to purchase nuclear devices at the Pryvoz market. Whether that is true or not, a visit to this massive market should be a part of every visitor’s travel itinerary.