Day trip to Benkovac flee market
If you happen to be at Lilly’s Cozy Cove on a 10th of any given month, rain or shine, visiting Benkovac flee market is an opportunity to experience some real local culture. The city of Benkovac has held the fair on the 10th of every month for at least 100 years. This century old tradition has been an opportunity for anyone who has something to sell - from food, clothes and plants, to tools, animals and pets; to buy, or someone to meet. Instead of window-shopping, shopping at the Benkovac fair involves interacting with real people who spread their s**t on some blankets or bare ground, or tables - if they are more serious about their appeal. Jumping in line, shouting for a price, expressing discontent when the price is too high, negotiating, laughing, throwing jokes - all is allowed.
A few simple rules apply:
Be ready for a crowd of up to 10,000 humans. So have your elbows out and leave personal space at home.
Be ready to walk a bit or pay for parking. Anyone living on the road that leads to the fair is out and ready to park visitors in their yard, for a fee of 10 kn or more. Free parking and walking up hill is available at the lower section of the road.
Bargain. There are no set prices, and if someone refuses to reduce the price, leave and find another vendor.
Put on your walking feet and bring a donkey to carry your purchases. Or, be ready to turn into one yourself.
Eat a piglet or lamb roasted on an open fire. If you are a vegetarian, consider staying at home.
Connect with locals; while sitting down for a meal is the best way to strike a conversation.
It is strongly advised to arrive early; no later than 7 am. Weekdays are less insane than weekends. Time of the year does not make a difference. The first time we went, we got there at 10 and were stopped in a line of cars, several kilometers long. Speaking the local language helped us to find a woman who was walking home with bags of groceries and told us where to park. We have been parking at the elementary school parking lot since then, and walking up the goat trails to get to the fair; always following the locals.
Since we don’t have a donkey, we turn into two. In the past, we carried a rug for one of our apartments, and a 10 kilo bag of peppers that turned into ajvar (Croatian specialty - roasted pepper and eggplant spread). This is also where we buy large amounts of fruits and veggies for a bargain, so that we can get our winter pantry stocked up.
If we get lucky, our friend Vito, whom we met at the first visit to the fair, is at home and walking to the fair with us. Vito’s presence assures even better deals, best quality produce, and that my latest and greatest tool is fitted on a handle properly.
Even on those months when we don’t need anything from the fair, we sometimes go to get our crowd fix and our cultural experience. We love to drive through the farming countryside of the Dalmatian inland, also known as Zagora, away from the beach traffic and business. The landscape looks like 50 or more years back in time. If lucky, a herd of goats or sheep may cross our path, followed by a slowly moving slim figure dressed in all black, and kept in a close pod by a gang of curly, black hair avlijaner (translated as a dog whose birth details are unknown). Going to the Benkovac fair is a hoot!