An Annual Highlight – The Backyard Flea Market Season in Munich
Flea markets are not to everyone’s taste, but anyone who has ever visited a backyard flea market will confirm that it is much more than just the sale of second-hand items. Backyard flea markets have an appeal all their own, as they take place at home, as it were, in front of peoples’ front doors. Many residents use them as an occasion not only to sell things, but also to socialise with their neighbours over a cup of coffee. Some residents decorate their backyards with balloons, put on music and sell home-made goodies.
Flea markets as neighbourhood projects
When there is such an intimate atmosphere, one cannot help thinking of a street party. Residents of some apartment buildings have got to know one another through taking part in a backyard flea market. Neighbours of different generations stand side by side at their tables, but their aims sometimes vary: to make money, get to know one another better and help one another out. Residents come into contact with one another by changing a neighbour’s banknote for small change or looking after their stand. Some residents use the opportunity to socialise with their neighbours again. And for buyers, too, it is not just a matter of looking for a bargain that attracts them to the backyard flea markets. Most backyards are not usually accessible to the public, so these events also give visitors a rare opportunity to take a closer look at the districts. The market also offers people ample opportunities to have a chat.
It is precisely this mixture that is drawing more and more people to these special markets each year and also more and more residents are discovering the appeal of combining successful selling with cultivating good neighbourly relations and register their district to take part.
The people of Schwabing set an example
The fact that the first backyard flea markets were held in Schwabing is very much in keeping with the district’s flair and artistic atmosphere. Schwabing is still one of Munich’s in-scenes. The idea was launched more than ten years ago by Dorothee Fichter of the Seidlvilla neighbourhood help scheme. “The idea was inherited,” she admits. A former resident of Schwabing had previously applied the concept to a small area covering four streets, without much public advertising. Fichter developed it further.
At first, there was considerable scepticism on the part of the residents. Only a few wanted to put out their sales goods, consisting of personal items, for their neighbours to see. Thus, in 2000, when the first event was held, only 33 were willing to take part in the project. You can join in the fun of selling for 15 euro per apartment building. For that price, all the residents who want to can take part. It is cheaper than having a stand at a flea market and there is no need to transport the goods. That is definitely another reason why more and more residents have joined in over the years. But unfortunately, others have joined in too, with hangers-on increasingly using the popular markets. Professional dealers also use the opportunity to hawk their wares. That even led to the police coming in in 2011 to ensure public order and to expel more than 20 dealers from the event. After all, the organizers would like it to remain a neighbourhood event.
Other Munich districts follow suit
Meanwhile the number of participants in Schwabing alone has risen to the residents of more than 200 apartment buildings. Other Munich districts, too, were quick to follow Schwabing’s lead. In 2003, the Glockenbach district followed, and the number of participants has seen a similar development to that of Schwabing. In 2006 the districts of Maxvorstadt and Haidhausen followed. In the case of Haidhausen, it was the shops that wanted yard flea markets to take place. In 2008, Untergiesing and the Au also registered to take part. In 2012, 13 city districts are taking part in the project, including some featuring garage and district flea markets.
So far, only a few other cities have followed suit. Nuremberg took over the Munich concept about three years ago. In 2012, a total of 173 backyard flea markets took part in the private sales. Beyond Germany’s borders, it is also known that Vienna holds backyard flea markets. But the number of backyards taking part is far smaller than the number taking part in Munich. Thus, Munich remains more or less unique as the German city with the most backyard flea markets.
is a media sociologist, freelance journalist and media consultant. She lives and works in Munich.
Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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