Flea markets, or Trödelmarkt, as they are called locally, are popular fundraisers and pastimes in these parts. Berlin is loaded with these flea markets, scattered all over the place and on a regular basis, and in some cases, with their own specialities. If you are the type of person who loves bargain hunting and has the patience to comb through endless amounts of second-hand items, then the Trödelmarkt world is definitely for you. I had a phase - a very short one - where I enjoyed organising, selling or even shopping at garage sales, flea markets and second-hand shops. If you are on a tight budget and love knickknacks, a Trödelmarkt will offer the perfect solution. Decades have passed since I was last involved in one, but last weekend changed things around a bit.
The Tierschutz Verein Berlin (Berlin Animal Shelter) held its annual flea market weekend and all shelter volunteers were on deck. I was concerned that it would be held outdoors, and with the freezing temperatures we experienced last week, wondered how I was going to hold out that long. Much to my delight, it was held indoors and made for a lively atmosphere with visitors on two and four legs of all ages.
It never ceases to fascinate me what you find at a flea market, who buys the items, and more interestingly, the sales techniques applied and the stories involved. The additional twist was the presence of all the dogs who tagged along and waited patiently while their owners decided whether to buy the book, picture frame or vase. Quite frankly, it was sometimes more interesting to capture the expressions of the animals than the shoppers! If you knew where to look, it was not just a good bargain you would find under the table, but also a pet or two on duty.
If the bargains and the delicious bake sale were not enough to entice some to support the shelter, the tour around the grounds should have. I initially tagged along for the photos but discovered how well organised the TSB really is. Did you know, for example, that there aviary section offers a breeding program? You can bring your favourite parrot to the shelter to find a mate and leave it there for a maximum of one year. Once the mate is found and the eggs hatch, you can take both birds home! In the rabbit and rodent section you notice that there are no plastic containers in use. Most of the animals dropped off at the shelter have massive dental issues and the vets to through great lengths to handle these. If you adopt a bunny or hamster from them, the shelter offers free lifetime veterinary services (dental in this case).
Last time I visited the cat section I thought that was it, but thanks to the tour I realised that I had been in the indoor cat section. There is another area for the outdoor cats , fully equipped with jungle gyms, chairs and benches, and a special enclosure for senior cats who can't be bothered with the younger, more energetic felines. Then there were the various canine departments including, training, rehab, and kennels.
The last section we visited was the farm animal section, with goats and chickens galore. Many people buy chickens with the illusion of having their own fresh eggs but end up unable to deal with the noise. Same with the goats, families fall in love with a cute kid, take it home, and when the kid grows and starts trampling on the flower beds, eating up all the vegetables and pulling up all the plants, they get dispatched to the animal shelter. One popular resident is a pig who was dumped after the Grüne Woche Messe (Green Week Expo). The farmer who brought the piglet along decided that it was not worth bringing back home since it was a runt and was not likely to become a viable porker for commercial purposes. The fellow is huge now and is a favourite among school trips.
Naturally, I dropped by the quarantine section and gave them an update on Kessy. Needless to say they were flabbergasted at the photos and the transformation after seven weeks.