Bucharest In Your Pocket’s first visit to the huge Bucharest market at Obor would have been some time early in the spring of 1999, just as we were preparing our first guide. We were looking for one of those little metal devices you shoved into your television cable in order to get free HBO. In those days that’s the kind of place Obor was: a byword for dodgy deals. The old market hall where you bought your meat was accompanied by an open-sided building where costermongers sold fruit and vegetables, while the surrounding area was a kind of shanty-town where traders sold just about everything, and where you didn’t ask any questions about where the goods came from.
Obor has been a market since at least the 18th century, when it was known as the Piata Targului de Afara, a place for traders from outside of Bucharest to do business; the name Obor came into use during the early part of the 19th century. During this period Obor was infamous as the location of Bucharest’s gallows: public executions would take place on market days to ensure a good crowd.
The practice was halted in 1823, but the gallows itself remained in place until 1870. In 1877, market traders raised a stone cross on the site of the gallows to commemorate those killed here. The cross, despite being declared a protected monument in 2004, was nevertheless moved in 2009 during the renovation of the market.