S is for Souvenirs

Let’s face it, with a hefty 9 year student debt and no full-time employment on the horizon, I’m not exactly one to spend big money or partake in extravagant shopping sprees when travelling. All my carefully saved pennies go towards getting me to my destination, making sure I’m supplied with several meals a day whilst there, and getting me back home again.

Luckily for me, I’m less into souvenirs and more into experience, which generally happens to be free. Walks down cobbled streets, watching sunrises over foreign waters, catching up with far away friends, admiring architecture. These things keep me happy and sustained whilst travelling and frankly I feel I’m rather the better for devoting my time to living the experience rather than wasting it in search of the latest Louis Vuitton handbag.

That said, I do like to bring home with me things that remind me of places I’ve been. Photos are usually the best kind of souvenir, postcards too, but sometimes they just won’t do.

Here’s what I picked up on my latest trip.

Masks of Venice, Italy

You’ll be hearing more about Venice in a later post, but let me just say that this was my 4th visit to the city of love, and it was no less charming than it was the first three times. It is the personification of a place you can enjoy without having to spend a cent, the beauty of it being simply having the opportunity to walk the canals and to get lost in the maze of bridge spotted alleyways. On this trip, however, I decided to take home with me a little piece of Venice in the form of two hand made Venetian masks. The photos don’t really do them justice, but I assure you they are stunning.

Golden Venetian mask

Tragedy and Comedy, Venetian mask

Art of Edinburgh, Scotland

I love checking out local art when I’m travelling. Sadly it is almost never practical to take any of it home with me, but this time I found this beautiful little painting of Edinburgh by Rob Hain and couldn’t leave it behind. I love the vibrant colours and the somewhat fantastical quality of it; the moon in the sky above the castle and the steam engine at its foot.

“Meet me by the Fountain” by Rob Hain

Dragon of Krakow, Poland

As you already know from my past post, Krakow is said to have been built on the ashes of a dragon. Cool huh? So naturally there are dragon souvenirs everywhere. I was disappointed to find that most of them were pretty tacky and sadly labelled ‘made in china’, which is why I was so happy to find this little guy at a local toy maker’s market. He’s wooden, hand painted, has legs and arms that swing and eyes that rattle, and a wire coil to hang him from the ceiling with.

Wooden toy dragon

Life Ring of Hamburg, Germany

I confess, I’m not really sure why I bought this little life ring. Perhaps it’s my deep appreciation for harbours, or the fact that I grew up on a town by the sea. Or it could be that Hamburg surprised me with its canals and massive shipping port. Probably it was because it cost one Euro and I knew it would be light enough to carry home in my suitcase. Either way I picked it up and here it is.

Hamburg Ahoi!

Books of Edinburgh, Scotland

The Folk Takes of Scotland, retold by Norah & William Montgomerie

Edinburgh, the city of literature. Needless to say, here I picked up BOOKS. Oh my, there were just so many pretty ones to choose from. Beautiful covers, rare finds, first editions. But alas, I stayed the trembling hand that willed me to buy them all and restrained myself to these two.

The first is a book of Scottish folk tales and I confess I was wooed by the cover alone. Even so, it is a wonderful collection of beautiful folk stories.

The second is a book, which I think is pretty darn groovy. It’s the Story World Storytelling Kit, and while it may be for ages 4 and up, this 26 year old was enamoured. I kid you not, I opened this thing and fireworks went off in my eyes. Basically, it consists of forty tarot-sized story cards, each with a beautiful image on the front and on the back a one sentence description and three questions. The idea is to get your creative wheels turning to give you story ideas. It also comes with a book that has further card keywords and descriptions as well as tips on how to use the cards and examples of stories created from the cards.

How cool is that?!

But that’s not all. There are EXPANSION PACKS.  The top up packs have more specific cards to add to your collection with themes like “Quests and Adventures”, “Faery Magic” and “Animal Tales”.

I picked up both of these books from the gorgeous Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh’s High Street. Well worth a visit. If, however, you live in faraway lands and don’t own a personal jet plane, apparently you can find these gems on Amazon, so I highly recommend you check them out for you or the kids.

The Man in the Moon storytelling card

Back of the Man in the Moon card

The Story World Storytelling kit

Pottery of Rye, England

As I mentioned in my post R is for Rye, I was rather amazed to find that the pottery trade in Rye had not ceased to flourish with age. With my parent’s house in Australia dotted with the Rye pottery that they brought over from England 15 years ago, I knew they’d appreciate a 2012 addition to their collection, so I bought them Rye Pottery tea cups. They are English after all.

Rye Pottery tea cups for the oldies

Shotglasses of The Earth, Everywhere

Okay, so this is my small indulgence. I’m not entirely sure when it began, but many years ago I started collecting shot glasses as souvenirs from places I had visited. At the time I think I figured they were small and light (important things to consider for a heavy packer such as myself), they can be found in every city, and also because I thought they might be nice to pull out of the cupboard when having friends over for drinks. Ironically, I no longer drink alcohol and don’t remember the last time my friends and I thought it would be a good idea to pull out 40 odd shot glasses and get wasted, but no matter.

The point is, I can’t seem to drop the habit, and continue to pick up a shot glass in every town, city and country I find myself in.

Lots of little shot glasses, lined in a row

There you have it. My small collection of souvenirs from the trip.
What do you like picking up or collecting when travelling?
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26 comments on “S is for Souvenirs

  1. The problem I have with souvenirs is that they invariable end up burried in the bowels on cupboards and draws, never to be seen again. Doesn’t stop me getting them though, me and my family are terrible packrats.

    • Ha! I used to have that problem too when I was younger, mostly because I bought junk! Now that I’m much more money conscious, I only buy things I know I’ll put up somewhere or use (with the odd exception, of course). I’ve never heard the expression ‘packrats’, but it sounds fun ;)

  2. I pick up Christmas ornaments wherever I go, for my mom, because she collects those and I pick up a sterling silver charm for my charm bracelet. The charms are not terribly expensive (never ever more than $20) and I’ve been collecting the charms since I was eight so I have a pretty neat collection of memories. It’s the best conversation starter: “What does this one mean?” “What does this one represent?”

    • Christmas ornaments! How very cool! Especially as you can showcase them every year. I went into an amazing Christmas decoration shop along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh; no doubt you would have found a few things in there. Charms are also a fantastic idea, especially if you’ve been collecting them for so long. How heavy is your wrist these days? ;)

      • It’s definitely fun to unwrap all the ornaments every Christmas and laugh over memories of each trip together. My wrist is getting pretty heavy–there are 22 charms in total at this point–and it looks like I’m going to run out of links soon so I’ll have to buy a second bracelet and wear them both at once. It’ll be a unique sight to see!

      • Crazy coconuts! You’ll have to wear one on each wrist just so you don’t walk lopsided with the weight ;)
        Very very cool though. I now wish I wore more jewellery, just so I could collect charms too!

  3. Love the Scottish painting; I wouldn’t want to leave it behind either. When I’m traveling, I tend to pick up books and a few postcards as backup just in case my photos don’t turn out right. These days, I tend to go for smaller items that are easier to pack into my suitcase.

    • There were so many beautiful paintings and artwork in Scotland, I would have loved to bring back more. Postcards are definitely a great back up if photos play up. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Fun! Love the storytelling cards…I might have to check into those. I cannot imagine being in a book shop in Edinburough. I’d go bananas. When we go on trips we try to buy a coffee table book from every new place we go – usually like a history of the area, or something. We have not kept this tradition going perfectly, because we don’t always find a book we want…and sometimes even book stores are hard to find. But it’s so fun to look at the ones we have!

    • The book shops in Edinburgh were beautiful. I got the cards from the Storytelling Centre, which was even cooler! Coffee table books is a good idea too, especially to keep out and flick through of an evening or to brag to guests with!

  5. Fridge magnets. It started as a fridge magnet from every town but I had to reduce that to a fridge magnet from each country (and maybe one or two extras from specific cities with special memories)! They’re super easy to pack and transport and I imagine a wall covered in magnets detailing my travels … one day.

    I love your masks – I have about … hrm … 5 or 6 now. It’s addictive! And I love the painting you bought! Gorgeous! I think any souvenir with a “memory” is a true souvenir, and worth the extra packing and hold-your-breath-is-my-bag-too-heavy moment at the airport!

  6. I hate packing extra stuff to bring back home, so typical souvenirs are shot glasses because they are easy to pack and I know they’ll get used. :-p Occasionally I’ll by an item of clothing if it’s something I’m not likely to find back home. Otherwise, I’d rather spend time taking photos. Those are the best souvenirs.

    • I actually can’t believe it’s taken me four trips to bring some masks home! I convinced myself under the pretence that I may one day need them for a masked ball? Ha!

  7. Hi Katy,
    I accidentally came across your blog and was extremely flattered by what you had to say about my painting – besides the other comments above :) A work of art that is created can only be said to truly ‘live’ when it finds a home in someone else’s heart. This is what I try to remember each time I take up my brush. Thank you.
    Rob x

    • Hi Rob,
      You’re very welcome. Your painting has come to a nice home where it is admired daily! I can’t wait to return to Edinburgh and pick out some more of your work. I was in the shop for a good hour trying to decide which one to take home! :)

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