Europe Shopping Tips
Shopping Adventures in Europe and Germany
By: Yollie and Dan Bunag
Oh Europe, what a dream vacation--so many places to go to, so many places to visit and sight-see, so many things to buy. In this hub, we will take you to shopping adventures in Europe, offer some tips and recommendations about what things to buy, where to shop, how to buy, and what to look for and may be collected while in Europe. Part of the fun is looking for and finding hidden treasures and bargains depending on your taste, preferences, and likes. Haggling is an art that we can learn and use while shopping at European flea markets. Armed with this information, get ready for your own adventure and have fun!
Do You Enjoy Shopping?
European Chocolates Galore
We love Chocolates
Aloha! As we have promised, let's explore the fun in shopping! Hmm, where do we start? Do we begin with grocery, crystals, chandeliers, Lladros, Hummels, porcelains, Nao's, Swarovski or flea markets shopping? We know, our passion in grocery shopping is chocolate! Europe offers the best of the best. We thought Cadbury is the creamiest and our favorite in the good ol' USA but when we went to Europe, we can't make up our mind which one is the best. Once you open a box of raffaelo confectioner and ferrero, there is no stopping. You won't want to share a giotto since one pack is not enough for you. How about Lindt? Ooh la la Nirvana.... just melts in your mouth. The Belgian truffles are sweet but so creamy so you will save the rest of the box next time. French truffles that come only before Christmas are so creamy but not sweet and melt in your mouth too! The Austrian Mozart chocolate comes with marzipan inside and lasts longer in your mouth. Merci offers variety of flavor so there is one for everybody. But if you want to taste different kinds, get the 7lander box of chocolate because it represents the 7 European countries (Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria). There are a lot more, so what we do if we still don't know how it taste is to grab one, pay for it then come back for more if we like it. Sometimes, it looks so scrumptious but when you open it, hmm, might as well save it and offer it to someone else (not to waste it). Different people have different taste. Our kids love kinder eggs, you know the one with a toy inside and Hanuta, it's a wafer with hazelnuts and chocolate. In Germany, they have big store brand bars of chocolate that taste like Cadbury but very cheap, so they are good to bring home for presents. Enough of these, since now we're craving for these chocolates. They're expensive in the US and anywhere else so might as well stock up and bring a lot.
Shopping for Souveneirs, Antiques, and Trinkets
If you love bargains and antiques don't go to the shops yet, but explore the flea markets first. As the saying goes, somebody else's junk is somebody else treasure. I believe in that because I was able to purchase a lot of collectibles. There are flea markets in every country, so ask in any information booth or counter. Sometimes they move around and in different times, but the one in Frankfurt, Germany, they are open every Saturday yearlong and it's big. I suggest taking the train or bus and bring a heavy duty pull cart with you because parking is near impossible, unless you arrive very early. Always bargain, if they won't profit, no matter what, they won't accommodate you. Walk around first, check and compare prices if you see similar items and try to bargain especially when it's near closing time. Most of the vendors don't want to bring their stuff back home. Some of them even offer them free rather carry them back. I encountered several funny moments while shopping on flea markets. Before flying here in Hawaii, I went to the nearest flea market to see what I can buy. I saw this antique frame with a print out picture. It's about 3ft wide and 1&1/2 ft. long. I asked the guy how much and he wanted 18 euro. I was calculating how much it cost in dollars when he told me to give him 15 euro. Then again I was thinking if I should still bargain or just pay for it. Suddenly he asked for 12 euro and since I did not readily grab the offer and with a heavy heart he told me just to give him $10.00. My, oh my, that's an offer of a lifetime, so I paid him joyfully but when I carried it, it was so heavy! My daughter, 7- year old at that time, was complaining, but we managed to make it and load it in our car. I recalled the old man next to the vendor asking me how much I paid and he was surprised that I got it at that price because the frame alone was from 1920's and he even showed me a smaller version of an antique frame which he wanted at the very least, 25 deustchemarks (DM). Jackpot! This was before the euro.
Flohmarkt (Flea Market)
Bargaining and Haggling
Bargaining is a must in any flea market. Sometimes if you're very persistent, they will just asked for a little bit for profit. On one occasion, I saw this antique candleholders (made from pewters) and a mirror, so I asked the price. The vendor wanted 35 euro each but I was bargaining for 20. He was a little bit annoyed so I left. But I really wanted them so I went back. He still did not want to budge so I left again. My heart was set on buying them so when I went back the third time, his friend was watching the table. I bargained again, offered to buy all three, and asked if he would accept 60DM? He finally agreed. Later on, I found out those candleholders and mirror were priced in the antique shops for 65DM each. What a bargain! It pays to look around and haggle with the prices. I would say haggling is an art and a skill you can learn. Sometimes, you'll get ugly stares especially if you asked for half price, but hey sometimes it works! Think about William Shatner's--the Negotiator ads when you bargain. If the vendors won't make a profit, they wouldn't budge anyway. I love buying paintings and I got most of mine at half the price. Ask for a lower amount and if that doesn't work, asked them to meet halfway of what they want. It works like magic.
Looking for and Finding Hidden Treasures
When I was in Sweden, I went to an antique shop (not enough time to go far since we were on a cruise ship) and I accidentally knocked a painting with my hand. I asked the lady how much since the price was posted on the other side of the oil painting. She quoted 65 sek (Swedish krona) and somehow I exclaimed "what!" aloud. I was amazed because $1 equals to 7 sek at that time and for me that was real bargain! She thought that it was expensive for me so she asked for only 55 sek. The Korean lady whom I have met in the cruise ship was right in front of the painting and she was so disappointed that she did not see it first. Guess it was my luck! I was also fortunate to land some blue cobalt jars and vases with 20 karat gold designs. Those were considered very collectible items in Europe. If the sales people don't want to lower their prices, asked for the antique shop owner and tell them that you'll pay cash. Always be friendly and smile a lot because that's what will attract them to accommodate you. The owners always have the final say, so go directly to them. For example, I was able to buy an Italian wall dÃ©cor (priced $120 on military base) for the equivalent of $70 when I went directly to the supplier. I met the Italian guy when I was browsing around his shop and made friendly conversation with him and he told me if I saw some Italian stuff that I like, let him know so that he would tell me whether I was being overcharged or not. It so happened that his son was the supplier and offered me the discount. If you're bargain hunting, ask around where the nearest flea market or shops are. If you're driving, it pays to have a GPS (because there's so many one way street; missing your turn will bring you to a maze). Otherwise, ride the bus or take the train. It's worth the time and effort.
Traveling in Europe: shopping abroad
Admire the architecture of Prague's historic Old Town Square, check out Berlin's hip art galleries, or find solitude on the remote beaches of the Italian Riviera-Rick Steves' Best of Europe 2009 allows any traveler to experience all that Europe has to offer-economically and hassle-free. Rick offers honest and up-to-date advice on the top destinations throughout Europe, including Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. Rick also includes tips on avoiding the crowds and enjoying a true European experience, from biking through the idyllic countryside near Bruges to exploring the sleepy Swiss mountain town of MÃ¼rren.