Friday, 4 January 2013

To Pazari (Το Παζάρι) - The Bazaar

I'm a member of the CIC, a group that brings together foreigners living in Hania. It organises events such as coffee mornings, nature walks, daytrips in Crete, and fund-raising events for charity. My annual €15 subscription helps the group to organise and promote these activities, and my posts are also published in the monthly CIC newletter. My subscription fee is due at about this time every year, and I always pay it at one of the CIC's events, or at To Pazari.

To Pazari (= The Bazaar) is a consignment shop selling second-hand used goods on the owners' behalf. If the owner doesn't want to pick up any money when their items are sold, they can ask for the proceeds to be given to charity.

The goods sold at To Pazari are not what people just want to throw away: they must be seasonal, appropriate, in good condition, clean and useful. So To Pazari doesn't act like a charity shop - it wants to sell useful items at an affordable price, helping both individuals and people in need.

Second hand shops in Crete were started by foreigners living here. There was no such concept until a foreigner started the first one, which happens to be To Pazari. It has now been operating in Hania for over 20 years (opened in May 1992). I still remember coming across it in amazement when I first moved to Hania about 18 years ago. I\d lived in Athens up to then, and I'd NEVER come across a second hand shop, despite living in a working class area (Egaleo). Such stores were seen as a compete novelty at the time, because they were considered as places 'poor people' shop at, people who can't afford to shop at 'real' shops. That prejudice has been partly broken down now by the crisis. Before the crisis, Greeks thought that second hand shops just sold over-priced 'antiques', as in the Monastiraki quarter of Athens. They are only beginning to understand the concept now.

A lot of To Pazari's original customers were once mainly foreigners: economic immigrants and ex-pats who had made their home in Hania. Buying second-hand goods has always been taboo in Greece, carrying the stigma of  'other people's rubbish'. But the truth is that some of us have always needed to buy things from places like this store because that is all we can afford. There are also others like myself who know that I will find what I am looking for only in places like To Pazari: English-language books for example, which can only really be bought online in Crete. Second-hand shops are also great places for 'off-the-beaten-track' fashion garments at rock-bottom prices. It makes no difference that they have been worn before, since most items are one-off as they have been often been bought in a different country. Multimedia discs are also a good choice in these places - buying a DVD here will cost you less than half the price of one of those Sunday newspapers that offers you a 'free' DVD along with a paper you will probably not read!

St Nicholas
To Pazari is located in one of the historically most important parts of Hania, the former pre-20th century Turkish quarter of the town, in an area called Splantzia. It is a short stroll up the road from St Nicholas church, which is unusual in that it has a both a bell tower and a minaret attached to it, reminding us of past times. Splantzia is now known for its κουτούκι-style food and drink scene - cosy tavernas, wine bars, graphic cafes, and retro eateries - and it is a place where economic immigrants congregate, with a number of organisations based there that look after the needs of people in difficult situations. The link between Ottoman and modern-day Splantzia cannot be underestimated.
My daughter's first second hand store purchase - a luxury evening bag. We found the shoes on the same evening that we bought the bag, in a bargain box outside a kineziko (Chinese clothes store). 

These days, places like To Pazari are busier than ever, due to the crisis. But what differentiates a place like To Pazari with other stores selling low-priced goods is that To Pazari does not trade in the commercial sense. It's a place where people with like minds meet. It takes on different functions at various times of the year: it acts as a library, a cafe or a meeting place for many of its customers, and makes passersby feel very welcome. And there is always a friendly person available there for a chat. You don't have to buy anything to visit To Pazari. You go there for many other reasons.

You can find To Pazari at Daskalogianni St, Splantzia, in the eastern side of the town of Hania - look out for the two minarets, and it is somewhere in between them. Open during all regular trading hours.

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