Weighing Fruit, Place des Halles, Neuchâtel
Farmers, fish mongers and cheese makers
have been selling their wares from the town's market square centuries ago,
and today they still do. Merchants weigh, and sell their produce, most of
it grown in the immediate area, and townspeople nudge by one another choosing
ripe tomatoes from this stall, onion and radishes from another.
Some of the foods are imported.
Broccoli is often imported from Spain, and zucchini from
Morocco, especially during the winter. Olives and bottles
of oil may come from Italy, Greece or southern France
as may the bottle of wine that will go with the evening meal.
Open markets like these are
one of the many reasons we moved to Switzerland. We gladly
left the huge supermarkets with their sprawling parking lots for an
intimate cobble-stoned town square with stalls piled with fresh produce,
cheeses displayed and ready to cut, tables of local wines and bottles
of fresh local fruit and fruit syrups.
Isn't this the way life is
supposed to be lived, mixing with fellow townspeople, inquiring a
farmer the prices of his radishes, a fishmonger what he suggests your
dinner, and all out in the fresh crisp air in winter and the warm
breezes of summer?
After shopping you can sit at one of the
outdoor tables of the Boulangerie A. R. Knecht, drink a bowl of coffee, munch a pain chocolat (a bread
roll or croissant baked around a bit of chocolate) and watch a sight that
as gone on in this square for many generations.
The activity of the market place is the
first thing that grabs your attention, but check out the exceptional architecture
ringing the square. Many of the buildings date from the 1500s to 1700s.
The building with the audacious tower is fine architecture
with exceptional reliefs. At one time grain merchants sold their goods on
the bottom floor while cloth merchants bargained on the floor above. Today
each floor houses a restaurant.
The market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from about 7:00 am to just after noon. Saturdays are the busiest days. On any market day if you arrive before 7:00 am you can watch the merchants unloading their trucks, and setting up their stalls. The number of stalls on a given morning depends upon the season and the weather.
Market days during the summer are almost always bustling, with winter of course being the slowest season.