June 11, 2011

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul. June, 2007

Souvenirs. Why do people buy what they buy, I often wonder. But then, others could justifiably wonder the same thing about me. Instead of the typical snow-globes, keyrings and ceramic knicknacks that crowd the shelves of thousands of souvenir shops worldwide, my tastes run toward the practical, the personal, the jokey. (Unless the venue itself is a bit of a joke -- ex. Las Vegas’ Liberace Museum -- in which case, bring on the refrigerator magnets. Oh, and there’s that Pope John Paul II bottle opener I bought at the Vatican; I’m not kidding.) Sometimes it’s a T-shirt or team memento from a local sports shop (I still treasure the Slavia Praha towels I bought in then-Communist Prague in 1972.) When I visit Tucson, I have a tradition of bringing home at least one item that is excessively bulky to pack and highly breakable, too (dozens of votive candles, huge tin or glass Mexican stars, mirrors, framed artwork, etc.) I buy kitchen utensils for friends who cook (knives and wooden spoons from Paris, Lisbon and Istanbul.) Food items not readily found in New England (carrot jam from Portugal, smoked black Urfa pepper and candied olives from Turkey.) I recall the beautiful Shostal shop in Rome every single time I wear the pajamas I bought there. And the “Turkish towel” store in Istanbul where I bought Jay a luxurious terrycloth robe. Dehillerin, the wonderful cooking supply house in Paris, comes to mind each time I slice bread with the sturdy knife I bought there. And isn’t that what souvenirs are supposed to do, bring you back?

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