Monday, October 12, 2009

Travel Studies Seminar: Souvenirs

Salzburg Window Displays

I don't know why we don't wear dirndls. They look innocent and sexy at the same time. The bodice is made with stays that push you in and out in all the right places, and the white petticoats and lacy blouses peak out coyly top and bottom.

Patterned fabrics are mixed like quilt pieces and the color combos can be playful or sophisticated. There's even matching stuff for the guys. I wish I went places where hats with feathers would look appropriate. Do you think I could wear this outfit to pick up my prescriptions at WalMart?

Salzburg window displays are an art form. Lit up at night even though the shops are closed, they make it fulfilling just to browse.

In my travels I've satisfied my lust by window shopping, writing down color combinations, or drawing some of the displays in my journal. It gives me ownership. I've also discovered I can keep anything I want with my camera. I brought these exquisite ensembles home with me from Salzburg last year and they didn't cost me a euro!

One accessory always finds it's way into my suitcase, however. I have a collection of elegant silk scarves from Salzburg, with hand-tied fringe. I wear them year round and love to add a new color or pattern.

Shopping for souvenirs can be frustrating when there's not a lot of money to spend. I have discovered that when I'm searching for particular keepsakes that I know I can buy, I have as much fun as when I'm accumulating a suitcase full of random loot.

We travel light so we collect mementos that are cheap (or free,) unique, and easy to pack. Dee calls it eclectic collecting. Some ideas are:
  1. Matchbooks. These are harder to come by now that restaurants are smoke-free, but they look great framed as a collage.
  2. Buttons. Antique stores often have big jars full of unusual old-fashioned buttons. It gives me a reason to go into these quirky places.
  3. Art postcards. Tonight I worked on a card catalog containing my favorite works of art from museum store postcards. I now have over a hundred. These are also fun to search for in antique stores.
  4. Cardboard coasters with colorful insignias of the local brew are sometimes sitting right under your glass. Don't spill, and take them home.
  5. Napkins are much cheaper than tablecloths, but can be just as beautiful with lace or embroidered details. I buy a variety that I can layer on top of a solid colored tablecloth. It's fun to take notes of how they are displayed in the stores.
  6. Local crafts. I can't afford to buy each of my 20 grandkids the darling toys and trinkets I see different places, so I buy something for my Oma Kits. In Salzburg I bought ten tiny wood carvings with magnets on the back. They are each about two inches long, and are made like little marionettes, with dangling arms and legs.
  7. Coins, stamps, or cool business cards with interesting logos or foreign writing.
  8. Menus. Some restaurants will give you one if you ask, especially if you offer to pay.
  9. Toiletries in a different language seem exotic. Toothpaste or even tiny kleenex packages make me smile after I'm home.
  10. Books. This is where we splurge. We always ask if the bookstore will send our purchases home. If that isn't possible we take them to the post office where we buy boxes and tape and ship them ourselves. A few days after we get home, our treasures arrive: a package containing colorful maps or antique book plates from a tiny, hidden shop down a winding path where we spent a cozy hour one rainy afternoon.
Ideas, memories and inspiration are some of the dearest keepsakes from our travels.


Hansi wasn't an actual souvenir, but the idea for him was. We saw tree trunks carved into faces on a trip to Austria, and when we got home, we found an authentic Bavarian wood-carver, who made us one. Our daughter Amy was afraid of him when she was a little girl, and ran past him with her eyes covered. Our other daughter Heidi loved him so much that he now sits on her hearth.

Two of my aunts went to Europe together in 1955, and brought me home a collection of little silver spoons from each of the places they went. I still remember the one from Holland—it had a little windmill that really moved. From that little present when I was six, my interest was kindled and I began dreaming of the day I could visit "faraway places with strange sounding names." As the song says, they were "calling, calling me."

What do you do with all the little stuff that you collect on a vacation? My sister artistically framed her memories of a trip to England. On a map, she used string (I think) and map pins to mark their route, and then attached ticket stubs, menus, photos, etc. to create a collage. I'm sure she bought a few pricey momentos, but her arrangement of the free bits and pieces is striking.

Although I spend money every chance I get, I can have fun traveling without it. I've realized that the real souvenir isn't a purchase. The memory of dodging horses in a rainstorm, remembering a long forgotten vocabulary, noticing that even the old ladies in Austrian capes and alpine hats are talking on cell phones as they stroll the 12th century streets—those are the things I want to take home. Genuine souvenirs aren't in the shops. They are free for the taking anywhere you make a memory.

Among my souvenirs.

Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.

~ What do you collect on trips? How do you display your collections?

~ Do you have a unique souvenir in your home? Tell it's story: where did it come from, how did you get it, who should inherit it?

~Who inspired your desire to travel? Write them a thank you note.

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


Deborah said...

You're right... when traveling carting around the souvenirs can be a pain and expensive! My photos are my souvenirs. I collect receipts, brochures, ticket stubs, pamphlets, and then I make a nice scrap book. My kids love to look back on the trips and I'm surprised how much I remember when I read my journaling.

The Grandmother Here said...

When my husband used to travel on business he would bring home nativity sets from the countries he visited. When our son was coming home from his mission in South Africa he knew better than to come home empty-handed. He found an artist who carved wood, told him the Christmas story, and bought a unique one-piece nativity where the Babe is surrounded by the Big Five African animals and the wisemen look like bushmen. A true treasure. For his soon-to-be fiancee he carefully carried home an empty ostrich egg with the nativity scene carved in the shell and a light inside. Beautiful!

Hannah said...

My mom always taught us, "Don't buy it. Take a picture of it." We are anti-clutter people. I do like to buy nativities from other countries if they are interesting enough.

polly said...

I love your Austrian window displays! Beautiful. I am making a picture collage of our Mexican adventure. After I made the England one, I liked it better than a scrapbook, because I can see it all the time, so I collect postcards, ticketstubs, pictures, any little thing, no money, nothing to carry home, plenty of memories! By the way, you were one of those that instilled the love and excitement of travel in me! Thankyou for the inspiration!

Diane said...

I have certainly learned that where souvenirs are involved, less is more. But here's one I still love having around.
wk 7 day 2

Lily said...

My college-age daughter went to China and brought home every gum wrapper and chip bag and anything that had Chinese writing on it. Cheap but.....

Christie said...

Those Austrian window displays look fabulous. I second the dierndal look. Let's be the ones to bring it back!

Nina said...

I love the button idea for souvenirs! I'm going to have to start doing that. Buttons are way fun.

crissy // mama boss said...

Sorry I've been a slacker on my homework. I've been trying to get my house ready for my baby girls 1st birthday party this weekend. Anyway, here's my homework.

diane said...

I collect plates and rotate them on a plate rack. I have a coin I got in Spain with a hole in the middle that I wear on a chain. This inspired me to buy jewelry when I travel. I love your scarf idea. We went in a little bookstore this past weekend on our anniversary trip and it reminded me of you. It was cozy and quaint. The book reviews were all hand written notes hanging from the shelves. It was hard to leave.

audrey said...

I wish we could wear dirndls too!

Pictures are also much of the souvenirs we bring home, but here is a post about another tradition we started.

the wrath of khandrea said...

hmm. i collected postcards, business cards, menus, etc. when my family travelled, particularly through europe. very fun. i still have them all in an album in a rubbermaid in the garage. where my husband can pretend they don't exist.

now i collect pitchers. i have special shelving units built to display them, and then randomly place them throughout my kitchen. it's fun, but i can imagine someday having too many. maybe i'll rotate like diane does.

sorry for the very long comment. just rambling out loud tonight.

Mrs. O said...

I think there should be Dirndl-Wearing Day, they're very flattering. If they didn't take up so much room I'd collect hats, but this is what we end up gathering.

KJ said...

sterling silver charms. I have 3 bracelets, the first one started on my 9th birthday. For every important event in my life (graduation, a recital, trips ) I try to find a charm. They are harder to come by these days, as I think the concept is no longer in vogue. I have a cowboy hat from Jackson Hole, an edelweiss from Austria, an eiffel tower from france, a murano glass bauble from Italy, a mickey from Disneyworld. I love the stories the bracelets tell from different chapters of life. I hope to pass them on to a little girl one day. If not my own, then my 3 nieces.

dalene said...

i love to keep napkins, ticket stubs and such. sometimes i like to mail them home instead of postcards to people who will appreciate remembering the places they represent.

hansi reminds me of some of the wood carving we saw in finland. and speaking of finland, my homework is done.

Miranda said...

I like to find something that the area is "known" for, and then buy it...even if it has to be in miniature. While I was in Hungary, I was always admiring the beautiful I bought a tiny coaster that was hand embroidered.

Mrs. O said...

I finally got around to this one right.

~j. said...

Catching up!

debby said...

a good subject for me to reflect on. now i have a plan for my future travels.