I am sure you know it as well: your trip is almost over and you are thinking about what to buy as a memory for you or as a gift for your family and friends who did not travel with you this time.
I think this decision making is becoming more difficult. Nowadays, much more people travel than once, which means they can buy different things by themselves. In addition, not only in your home country but especially through the internet, you can buy already everything, even items which are produced in distant exotic places.
What is a souvenir? They are many answers to that question. In principle, it is any object (no matter of what price) which recalls in our minds a memory of the place where we bought it.
I think that the very beginning of the souvenir passion belongs to our early childhood. Almost everybody from us hid small stones, shells, feathers and other trifles which we found on the trips into our children’ world in our pockets. Even today many of us prefer some natural material as a memory from our trips. But be careful of laws in a particular country to avoid being fined or even put in prison just for a silly stone from the beach.
I do not know when people started to bring some souvenirs from their trips but I can imagine ancient adventurers bringing some fragments from a temple or clay shreds from a place they visited. And today? I am sure you have heard about tourists who are taking stones from the Acropolis of Athens. Many of them are unaware of the fact that every evening a lorry comes and scatter about a new supply of stones… 🙂 I love these small stones which look like coins. We found them in the Faiyum Oasis in Egypt. The round form was caused by wind rolling them through the Sahara desert.
It is said that postcards and silver teaspoons belong to the oldest souvenirs. Nowadays, the offer is much bigger and it is a huge part of the tourism business: T-shirts, mugs, bowls, key tags, kitchen gloves, hats, ashtrays, pens… Refrigerators magnets belong to the most popular items. In the beginning, I was buying them as well but now I radically reduced it. Now I buy a magnet only in case a place, exhibition or event extraordinarily interests me. In addition, these magnets should have a smooth form. Some of them you can find on our profile picture.
In our family, we started to create some collections which make our decision upon souvenirs from our trips easier. For example, it is a collection of thimbles. Did you know that the earliest known thimble was discovered in China? Originally, thimbles were used just for the protection of fingers in sewing but since the 16th century, the ones made from silver were regarded as an ideal gift for ladies. Nowadays they are made of different materials.
But in some countries, they still did not recognize that thimbles are a sought-after item for many tourists. We could find not a single one in Uzbekistan. After we heavily managed to explain to our local guide what we are looking for he took us to a market stall with threads, ribbons… and just ordinary thimbles. In Iran, we found only one but we had to ask the shop assistant to write the name of the town on it.
The collection of earrings is pretty large already. These souvenirs have the advantage, that they do not just stand on a shelf waiting for the dust to fall down on them but they are of practical use as well. 🙂 I buy this type of souvenirs especially if they are made within a project for increasing employment of local people (women) – as the earrings with green stones from Petra in Jordan.
Somebody still prefers various stones and sands. But be careful if you are going to visit Iceland. Icelandic elves do not like it if you put a stone or piece of lava into your pocket because you are taking a piece of their own world!
The other one is pleased by such glasses. But not everywhere you can find this type. It is only up to you if you stand on the certain form.
But we have also a very special collection. A book can be also a souvenir! We collect different editions of The Little Prince from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, it means the book in different languages. Till now we have 59 books already! We keep also bills to remember exactly the place, the street and shop where we bought it.
Sometimes it is not so easy. During our visit to Iceland, the book was hopelessly sold out. We had to wait for our friends to bring it a year later. I was looking for the book in several bookstores in Nicosia but in some of them, they did not have the faintest notion of Exupéry. In Iran the answer of the shop assistant was pretty unconvincing, anyway I found the book by myself thanks to the pictures on it. A friend of mine visited a secluded teahouse in Kathmandu in Nepal. She saw that they also sell some books so she asked if they have also The Little Prince. The shop assistant disappeared somewhere and in some minutes came back with the book in his hand. The next shock became when he said the price. The book was cheaper than a loaf of bread in our countries!
It is very interesting to browse through these books and watch different types of writing…
Doing recherches I found out that there are even clubs of touristic souvenir collectors, clubs of packaged sugar collectors etc.
And what about you? What souvenirs do you bring from your trips?