The lead article in the Sunday New York Times Travel Section today is “12 Treasures”. It’s about what we bring back from distant places. The first 3 examples pictured are tiles from Portugal, Belgian chocolates, and Hungarian paprika.
On page 4 is a very sweet and thoughtful article by Stephanie Rosenbloom. “Finder, Keeper” is about the practical items we buy abroad–scarves, shoes, etc.–and the nonsensical stuff we pick up–rocks, matchbooks, what Stephanie calls the “orphaned things in the world”. She gracefully reminds us that “Souvenir” comes from the French word for remember, and so I began to review the souvenirs Ruth and I have brought back from travel.
Over time, they have become smaller and smaller due to airline restrictions, security demands, etc. I used to come home with tablecloths and glassware from Budapest, blankets and cookies from Iceland, etc. But no more. Our rule now (mostly) is to buy only one item apiece, something non-liquid that can be tucked into a suitcase pocket. Ruth’s tucks tend toward jewelry.
Most of our travel treasures fall into the nonsensical realm. For example, we just brought back 4 packages of pasta from Melbourne, Australia. When we were in Venice a few years back, Ruth & I fell in love with Bigoli de Bassan spaghetti, a strictly local specialty. We figured we’d never find it again unless we went back to Venice, but then we found it in a wonderful kitchen store called The Essential Ingredient in Melbourne’s Prahan Market. We shared all that we bought with Australian friends, eating it almost every night in Canberra. Research has proven that there are only 2 places in the entire world where you can buy Bigoli. If you know of any others besides northern Italy and southeast Australia, please share.
Stephanie says that acquiring things in far away places gives them an aura of mystery. That’s surely true. After reading her article, I went from room to room looking for mysterious objects and found at least one in each. In the office I found the cast-metal and plastic Trabant that I bought at Statue Park near Budapest. The ugliest, plainest car ever manufactured, the Trabant was made in East Germany between 1957 and 1990. It became known for its lung-destroying exhaust fumes. The toy version for sale was about the size of a fist, and I just had to have it. And then there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas train that Ruth just had to bring home (find 2012’s “Governor’s Holiday Train” blog in Search).
I am not superstitious, but in my green utility travel bag is a 10KR copper-colored Norwegian coin with a church roof on one side and Harald V on the other. Don’t ask me to explain why it’s in there and don’t ask me to remove it. Stephanie would understand.