Old tins, postcards, stamp albums, books, comics, cameras, records, DVDs, jackets, handbags, shoes, perfume, china, household goods, plastic horses, Rubik’s Cubes, swords, Lenin busts, icons, self-made stuffed animals, jewellery, small leather bags, paintings – all these and more can be found at Bolhapalota (flea palace). And even this is just a snapshot because the range constantly changes.
In the centre of Pest at the crossing of Ferenciek tere and Irányi utca a bright and colourful signpost leads the way to the shop. The round sign with the yellow, big-eyed flea and the striking decoration of the shop window make it impossible to walk past the right door. Behind it a self-service, 130-square-metre flea market awaits on two floors. What is special about it is that anyone can hire a place to sell their things. Besides all kinds of old objects Bolhapalota also offers a platform for young designers.
Between Hungary and Germany
The owner is Adam Szabó, who was born in Munich to Hungarian parents. He grew up in Germany but as a child he often came to Hungary to visit relatives. “Eight years ago I moved here to test it and thought I’d stay for one or two years, and so far I am not planning to go back,” says 38-year-old Szabó.
He feels good in this city. “It is alive, it is alive day and night, and I like that very much.” He appreciates the rich cultural life and that you often have the opportunity to go to concerts and exhibitions without having to pay.
Asked if he rather feels Hungarian or German, he answers: “I’ve never felt like a German when in Germany and I’ve never felt like a Hungarian when in Hungary, but eventually I should come to a decision. I’m just something in between.”
In both countries Szabó is enthusiastic when it comes to flea markets. “I especially like going to flea markets where there are no professional dealers, but where the people from next door are trying to get rid of a few things. You can get much more interesting things there and above all also more cheaper ones. It is easier to get a good bargain there.”
When comparing flea markets to conventional shops, he can see only one disadvantage – in flea markets you cannot find everything. In his opinion they can inspire you and make it possible to reuse things. “Many people just throw the things away but maybe someone would have been happy about them, maybe he even would have paid for them.”
In his shop you do not meet him that often because the professional computer scientist mainly works in the IT sector. But what led him to become the owner of this shop? “I saw a shop of that kind somewhere in Munich and thought that this is a great idea. And then I was standing in front of a shop that was for hire. Then I thought you could open such a shop in Hungary as well, maybe they do not have something of that kind here yet.”
In summer Bolhapalota will celebrate its fourth anniversary. The shop was initially opened at Deák Ferenc tér and after two years moved to the current address. The new beginning after the relocation was not too easy but now business is better.
Bolhapalota was the first shop of its kind in Budapest. “We do not have any own goods but hirers who sell their things with our help. We are mediators, we let the shop in small parts.” An advantage is its central location, which also attracts many tourists. “Now there are more shops in Budapest that have adopted the same business profile, which doesn’t annoy me because I like that the idea is spreading.” Other Hungarian cities too, such as Debrecen, Győr and Szeged, have similar shops.
His is more than just a flea market. “We also try to provide an opportunity for people who are making jewellery themselves, which in Hungary is a good way for students to earn some extra money.” Most of the jewellery is rather simple but also beautiful and creative, with some high-quality pieces. Szabó hopes that in future such quality and thus expensive design articles will find more buyers.
In the past years some odd items have made their way in and out of his shop. “There are two things I think of again and again. It was a long time ago but these were fragments of Elisabeth bridge, which was bombed in the Second World War. They had been pulled out of the Danube River. And a detector for bugging devices.”
One of the current objects he especially likes is a dancing and singing doll of footballer Ronaldinho with oversized teeth.
Bolhapalota is the ideal place for all those who want to sell something but have no time or motivation to stand in a flea market themselves, cannot or do not want to sell via the internet and do not have a shop of their own. CDs, DVDs, computer games, hobby articles, electronic devices, household goods, clothes and “large and small treasures” such as jewellery and antiques sell especially well. You can hire places in shelves and showcases, hangers in clothes racks and spaces for paintings on the wall for one or four weeks.
Some vendors have been selling there continuously since the opening three and a half years ago. New items can be seen on their Facebook page, where they regularly post pictures. One floor is still vacant and Szabó is looking for someone who wants to open an own business, and then they would support one another.
Address: Ferenciek tere 5, District V
Entrance from Irányi utca 20
Open: Monday to Saturday, 11am-7pm