On Sunday, my friend and I visited Britanac, or Britanski Trg. This flea market is a fascinating, lively array dusty fox stoles, paintings, cigarette boxes, Soviet watches, books, loud jewelry, and curmudgeonly characters. My friend and I were especially drawn to tables with booklets of old pins. There were Yugoslavia pins, Tito pins, pins celebrating the life of Lenin, pins for employees of Nama (a centuries-old Croatian department store), pins for Dalekovod (a company responsible for Croatian infrastructure), pins for Koka (a poultry production company), and pins for Pliva (a pharmaceutical company, whose sign looms over Trg bana Jelačića:)
We bought a handful of pins, and we continued weaving through tables in search of more. We found one table, which had a couple of pins in a tiny display booklet. I was particularly drawn to one:
I wanted to know how much the pin cost, so I held it up to a man standing to the side of the table. He was a small, stout man, perhaps 60 years of age, and he seemed to be watching me and my friend browse the items of this particular table. I held the pin close to his eyes. He squinted at the pin and spoke the word, “ruža.”
He looked up at me quizzically, repeating the word, “ruža,” in a semi-curious tone.
He looked back at the pin, as if searching for additional clues about its meaning, its value. He continued to toy with the word in his mouth, “ruža…ruža….ruža….”
After watching his quest for the meaning of ruža, I finally realized that this man may not be the vendor of this table. Incapable of properly communicating a question, I spoke the word “you?” while gesturing between him and the table.
His eyes instantly seemed to clarify as he replied, “Ne, ne!”
”Aaaah.” I said back.
He gestured to another man, who quickly trotted to the table and resumed a vending position. I held up the pin to his eyes. The vendor exclaimed something in Croatian with a semi-amused facial expression, and flapped his hands in a shooing gesture. I tried in English, “price?” only to receive the same wave.
I did not understand. My friend laughed and explained to me, “He wants to be rid of this stuff; it’s free.” I laughed, too. All of that effort, the series of inquiries, only to discover that my object of interest is truly another person’s trash. I put the pin into my pocket, and we left the table.
When we returned home, I looked up the meaning of ruža. It means rose. Maybe the pin was a nametag for a waitress or cashier? Maybe something else entirely. Either way, I am certainly keeping it for a long time.