You find yourself with nothing to do on a Saturday morning, but the weather is beautiful. What to do?
Well among the typical South African answers of hiking a mountain, going biking, or any variety of outdoors activities [South Africans love the outdoors], a staple of a weekend morning is going to the market. Now when I share this with friends back home, I can just see their thoughts resorting to the select pictures of far-away markets they may have seen in some National Geographic issue. As such, I want you to take whatever market you are imagining, and upgrade it.
South Africa has markets like what you’re imagining- wooden crates full of fresh fruits and veggies, staples for a week of cooking, maybe even something hot and cheap to eat. However, what few may imagine is that South Africa has some of the most beautiful, diverse, and lively markets out there. Markets like the Neighborgoods Market, which exists in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, sell locally made goods from upscale jewelry to different spreads to fudge to Rooibos flavored beer and beyond. It’s the type of place that you can celebrate the weekend by strolling with friends, tasting tidbits of everything, splurging on something you probably don’t need but must have, and listen to live music. It is, by far, my favorite way to spend a weekend morning and gives you a nice chance to celebrate small businesses and local flavors.
Here in Stellenbosch, despite being a small town, we too have our markets to offer. One being the Stellenbosch Slow Market, and the other being the Route 44 Market. Both, unsurprisingly, are hosted at vineyards, as Stellenbosch is in the heart of South African wine country.
True to form, the markets are, though joyful, also a reminder of wealth inequality within the country. Though the prices of goods may not seem high for a Western visitor, or a wealthy white South African, they are not the “place to be” so-to-say for the normal South African citizen. If the cost of your meal at the market is R60 (about $6) or the sweater you buy is R150 ($15) and you are paid the South African minimum wage of R10- that’s 1 U.S. Dollar an hour, these markets just aren’t feasible to visit, nor do they supply the types of goods that you’re looking for. As such, and perhaps this is the case too of Farmer’s Markets in the United States, these markets attract a specific section of the population and though fun, are only representative of the more upscale version of the market.
However, markets of a different kind are a staple nonetheless. I’ve gone to township markets where everyone from grandparents to children are playing and eating. In fact, it was there that I first tried a “smiley” which is a barbequed sheep’s head. I’ve also been to markets in Johannesburg that sell locally grown staple foods and working-man’s food for R2 ($0.25). No matter what market you attend, you will find something adventurous to eat, a true taste of the country, and friendly locals who will be glad to have you there. So if you ever have the chance in any country, my biggest suggestion is to find the markets!