Today is the Sabbath, a strangely monumental occasion to observe. There are a few cars driving by, but the usual bustle of early morning is completely absent. The train isn’t running and no one is out. We are going to rally ourselves for a long walk into the old city to see what it is like when no one is there. And then perhaps we’ll get a taxi back.
Yesterday we discovered the place where ordinary people shop. This question had bothered me almost the whole week. Where do people buy vegetables? The tiny grocery stores we’ve wandered into have meager and expensive vegetable bins, and no meat to speak of. This can’t be all, I kept saying to myself. Surely people must buy food. The gorgeous salads every night at dinner, the healthy glow of every passerby in the street whispered that there must be somewhere to buy a whole shopping bag full of tomatoes and mint.
That somewhere turned out to be a vast open air covered market, an intoxicating blend of hipster coffee and sushi joints cluttered against aromatic spice stalls, huge mountains of oranges and figs, fennel, displays of cheese, and acres of bread and pastry. It was like walking through the Bamako market except someone from Wegmans’ interspersed beer on tap in between the pomegranates and sesame paste.
The whole city was there buying challah, flowers, wine, and something to roast for dinner. The old and young together hovered over massive trays of baclava and honeyed nuts. Purveyors of onions and ginger called loudly for every person to come and buy. And then suddenly, as the afternoon began to wane, the world rushed away before the train stopped and evening came.
I don’t really eat bread, or make a valiant effort not to anyway, but I bought a loaf anyway. It is too much to be in the city where the Bread of Life walked up and down the streets and breathed in the air and said all the words and not at least taste actual bread. Some olives and a little cheese and I will be able to leave here basically content.