Like any good market, it is a feast for the senses, filled with both the expected and the unexpected: stocking-clad mannequin legs pierce the sky, accompanied by signs proclaiming “panty 3 voor 10E” or “netpanty 3.50E!”, American pop and rock songs play from ancient radios, shop proprietors singing and whistling along as they neaten this and adjust that for their potential customers, eyes flicking out into the crowd and sizing us up as we wander past. Fish sellers call out in unison – eyes sparkling and faces friendly, even in the cold wind.
There is little order to which stalls are located where. Some have permanent locations – extensions of storefronts along the street, they beckon passers-by to step in past the tented façades to browse a while longer – but the rest are ever-changing, auctioned off each morning to whichever vendors show up wanting them.
From one stall to the next, then, you will find bright bolts of cloth, shoes, jackets, and jeans interspersed with tea, bread, charcuterie, flowers, fish, and cheese. Just past that, piles and bins of toiletries lead into a drugstore. Then, a wig shop whose merchandise flaps dangerously in the rising wind. Next, a juice stand, where vibrant fruits and vegetables are mounded around pre-filled cups, refreshing jewel-toned drinks ready to be grabbed and sipped. On it goes for blocks and blocks – it is, after all, Amsterdam’s largest street market.
Partway through the market, we stumble upon Priscilla Bon Bons and are drawn in by the impressive heaps of sweets: veritable mountains of chocolate bark studded with dried fruit and nuts, cocoa-dusted cream-filled truffles as large as eggs, whole candied orange slices, glistening like gems and dunked in milk and dark chocolates, and row upon row of chocolate breasts and other edible unmentionables (yes, really!)
We pay a remarkably low price for a massive amount of orange slices, and, considerably weighed down, stroll onwards, munching thoughtfully and soaking in the sights.There are food carts, too, serving up piping hot goodies to be eating then and there. First the savory: Vietnamese loempia, Surinamese roti, raw herring served up with onion, pickle, and a Dutch toothpick, kibbling with whiskey saus, and the ubiquitous Dutch-style fries topped in tangy, mayonnaise-y fritesaus.
And then the sweet: piping hot poffertjes, tiny stacks of pancakes doused in butter and powdered sugar (and even Grand Marnier that you can pour yourself, for a bit extra); gooey stroodwaffels, oozing caramel and brushed with chocolate if your sweet tooth so guides you. Which, of course, ours did.