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Among my Souvenirs

Updated on January 5, 2013
London Souvenir Stall
London Souvenir Stall | Source

Among my Souvenirs

I’m a sucker for souvenirs. Travelling definitely wouldn’t be the same without them. I know it’s crazy, filling up my luggage with mementoes I don’t need. And nowadays they are rarely made in the places you buy them. Just call it addiction.

It’s reassuring that I’m not alone. You know the plot. At a tourist venue the gift shop is positioned to ensure you walk through before the exit. No escape, so we go with the flow. Clearly holiday makers are relaxed and in spending mode. It’s not so much what we purchase but the memory attached to it.

There’s a pecking order in souvenirs. For some it’s a status symbol; been there done that. For others it’s meaningful – a keepsake to treasure. Serious collectors are intent on finding that certain object. Then there’s the fun side – buying gifts, often tacky, for friends or family to share the experience.

Who Started It?

So where did it all begin? Well, there is evidence that the European Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land from as early as the 12th century arrived back bearing badges. These were attached to clothing and usually depicted a saint. Maybe a forerunner of today’s T-Shirts – look at me I’ve been travelling (and you haven’t)

Sir Walter Raleigh arrived back from the New World bearing tobacco. You really started something serious Wally.

And what about Lord Thomas Elgin who in the early 19th century souvenired (or looted) rare antiquities from the Parthenon in Greece.

Known as the Elgin Marbles, now in the British Museum, the ownership debate still rages. Greece wants them back, England stands firm on ownership.

In 1851 the first world fair was held at the Crystal Palace in London. This exhibition introduced souvenirs as we know them today - but perhaps more tasteful. Mugs, plates, toys, games ceramics, and paperweights all commemorate the occasion.

Royal events equal big bickies in the keepsake stakes. In 1887 special issue coins marked the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. By 1952 when Queen Elizabeth was crowned there were mugs, biscuit tins, key holders, brooches, stamps.

I don’t think I need to mention the impact Princess Diana had on the memento industry. Today, of course, in London, it’s William and Kate.

The Australian Collection

So what do people holidaying in Australia take home? There’s an endless assortment of souvenirs all purporting to represent us. The inevitable snow domes contain anything from Melbourne trams to the Sydney Opera House to the Great Barrier Reef.

Opal allsorts, iron ore jewelry, koala toothbrushes, hats with dangling corks, two-up games and G’day Mate tote bags.

Unique Aussie animals, birds or capital cities are plastered on mugs, pens, coasters, thimbles, spoons, or anything you can think of. These items are universal; just the flora, fauna and cities change.

For fun there’s life size inflatable kangaroos, packets of sugar coated witchetty grubs (all candy). Signs – Aussie Beer Builds better Bodies or a chomping toothy crocodile - I Love Tourists.

Looking for something more bizarre? Try pouches made from genuine kangaroo scrotums. I ask you - bad enough we eat our national animals, but is this dignified? And what about a stuffed crocodile or a mounted crocodile head? Fashion accessories made from cane toads, a key purse perhaps - with or without the legs. Or the ultimate in bad taste – fair dinkum koala poo earrings or kangaroo poo paperweights.

Give me the old favourites. Clip on koalas. On trips to the UK I’ve found these suitable for handing around in the pub – patrons can clip them on to their lapels and burst into a rendition of Waltzing Matilda. Well, it happened once.

Boomerangs are plentiful, identifiable, mass produced, easy to pack but may cause problems. They are expected to come back when thrown. They can clonk unsuspecting persons in the park when practicing the throwing. Trust me.

To be fair there are up-market stores. Hand painted scarves, wood carvings, jewelry, fabulous wines, a selection of goods all attributable to Aussie pride.

Now I’m older and more sensible I look for Australian made, traditional and contemporary Aboriginal style art. A huge range of goods including real boomerangs, didgeridoos, paintings, hand painted terracotta ornaments, genuine souvenirs from our indigenous people.

Gifts for home-sick ex pats? Try Vegemite, Tim Tams, Cherry Ripe, Violet Crumble, Freddo frogs, eucalypt oil to sniff and recall the scent of the bush - they’ll all be appreciated.

Fudge for all and some mistakes

Has anyone ever noticed there is one item available in almost every souvenir shop? The inevitable Fudge. I’m convinced somewhere out there is a giant fudge factory supplying the world. It’s a mystery to me what it represents and who buys it.

There’s abbey fudge, cathedral fudge, castle fudge, village fudge, town fudge, city fudge, people fudge - from John o’ Groats to Lands End – Melbourne to Darwin, all over Europe and beyond. Travelling? Bet you’ll find some fudge.

I guess most of us have collected some useless items at times – here’s my list –

A flokati jacket from Greece - I thought it very Cher-ish at the time but judging by reactions when I wore it appeared more sheepish.

Soft leather boots I coveted and bought in Florence and had wrapped, okay if you have two left feet.

And the Joy perfume; a last minute splurge at an airport as I raced to board, huh, an empty box.

And I don’t get why the beautiful batik clothes I buy in Asia never look the same once I’m home. I mean I’ve suffered for it. Shop keepers hailing me - ‘Look Ibu – I have Extra Large.’

Have a Google

Having a Google for souvenirs was revealing. The National Museum of Funeral History in Texas might win the gong as most enterprising, Tombstone Cufflinks, Cremation T-shirt, and Coffin Ring boxes. Their slogan - ‘Any day above ground is a good one.’

Hollywood as expected is big. A range of life size cardboard figures include Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, the Lone Ranger and Tonto or our own croc hunter Steve Irwin. Fancy Elvis style sunnies or a replica of his driving licence, or number plate? Elvis features on numerous items, as popular in death as in life. And yes, no need to travel. You can buy them online.

I know souvenirs are kitsch and often are rip-offs. But when I look around at my wall hangings, my carved wood, fans, tiles, T shirts, slate, brass and copper items, I’m transported back to the places I’ve been, the climate, the smells, the food, the fun, the people, the whole experience.

A reminder of a past I’m nostalgic about. So yes, despite the negative connotations, I’ll keep on buying. Even the fudge!

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    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Great article on the origins of souvenirs. I also am a sucker for a souvenir during my travels.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      THis was interesting! I liked your hub.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Souvenirs-masons?! You bet. I am the same as you. Each memorabilia takes me back. Thank you

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      A really interesting and well researched hub Maj...I usually buy a fridge magnet when I travel..your observation about fudge made me laugh because it is so true, but I hadn't really thought much on it..but you are so right, it can be bought almost everywhere you go!!

      Enjoyed this Maj, it was a great read, thanks for sharing it :-))

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hello shiningirish - thank you for stopping by - yes, souvenirs are a somewhat addictive - but got to go with the flow.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hello Pavlo - glad you stopped by and read about souvenirs, all part of travelling -

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hi again Mattter - glad you enjoy souvenirs too - my godchildren (now grown up) were reminiscing about the funny things I used to bring them back from travels when they were young - at the time they couldn't wait.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      lol! yes that fudge! I remember going to Windsor castle a lot of times, and the gift shops in the street outside always have fudge, loads of it! with the queens head on it, the castle, even the statues outside and so on! I think I will leave the kangaroos um, well, you know though! lol!

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Thanks once again Valley - I'm always amazed by the amount of rubbish available but still tempted. Fudge makes me laugh - I wonder if they have Castle Fudge in Clitheroe - no doubt some around somewhere in the Valley. Cheers...

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hi Nell Rose - now I know I'm not wrong about fudge - with the Queens head on! LOL. It is strange - I wonder if someone sits around deciding where to market the next batch of fudge - but I agree perhaps a tad more tasteful than the kangaroo....

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      A fantastic hub maj. a great read from the history to the funny. I have teaspoons, tea cloths (especially the ones with recipes on, like hippo stew), and china bells from almost everywhere I've been, that fudge never lasts long though Lol. And yes that irresistable koala, even a koala suit with hood for the baby Haha.

      All reminders a happy vacations sun and sea and fun with the kids.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Thanks Rosemay, for dropping by and such fun comments. Yes, can't resist - they must see us coming! My current favourite is an oven glove, shaped like a crocs head - it snaps when I take things out of the oven!! NT - Darwin of course... cheers and thanks....

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 4 years ago from On planet Earth

      Souvenirs are nice to take back home atleast to keep as a memory as to i went to this place or that place even if its just a key chain. Yeah sometimes we go crazy when we see souvenirs and it hurts us when we buy in a hurry and only to walk to a store right next door and find it much cheaper.

      I went to barbados last october and spend out most of my money on Souvenirs ,hmmmmm

      Thanks for sharing

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hi LadyFiddler - thanks for stopping by, nice to know I'm not the only souvenir buyer - and yes, it always happens, buy something and then find it so much cheaper. I never learn, but it is good fun - by the way, Barbados sounds very nice...

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Oh travmaj! I love the truth and the hilarity of this hub. I am a big sucker of souvenirs too whenever I travel and that starts from pinching pens from the hotel and the small bottle of lotion that always come handy in my purse. Lol!

      Personally, I only go crazy with fridge magnets and shot glass for give-away to family and friends. They are very easy and convenient to take along and no need to declare at the suspicious custom officers. (:

      Tim Tams we buy it here in Canada even though it's quite pricey almost $4 (plus tax) per packet. My daughter and I love it.

      Great, enjoyable hub! Up and sharing the goodness!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great hub about the habits we get into of buying souveniers. There may be money in some of the items on your wall though. Hubber Hawaiianodysseus has some good info about selling really unlikely stuff on ebay. Starbucks city themed cups are hot lately I guess, even without the coffee in them.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hello CriSp - thank you for your comments - I'd forgotten about the pens and the shampoo etc. Yes, I plead guilty too. And you make a valid point - so many things the custom officers frown upon. Here, it's food items of any kind and I once had a notebook confiscated because it had a 'leaf 'attached on the cover. Glad you enjoy Tim Tams in Canada - way to go...

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      xstatic - thank you so much for this extra information - I'm going to check that Hub right now. Interesting about the Starbucks cups - you just never know do you? I'm intrigued now - thanks again, appreciate you stopping by.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, some of the things you've collected over your travels can be collectors items!! You've so much to share, and I thank you for bringing a little of it to us. Up and sharing!

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      midget - thank you so much. yes xstatic pointed out the Hawaiinodysseus hub - it's so intriguing how hubs can grow and enable us to learn more - appreciate you stopping by - thank you

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      I am also buying souvenirs in the places I go. Those things reminds of the places I visited. I did not know that it has an origin. Thanks for the useful information.

      Voted up and interesting. :-)

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      ignugent - thank you for your comments and votes. Very much appreciated. I'm so glad you enjoy buying souvenirs too. Always fun.

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      An entertaining read and a very perceptive one. I don't even like fudge! I am terrible for buying daft things in a reckless moment. I agree though, it takes you back to your adventures. Voted up and shared!

    • jandee profile image

      jandee 4 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      Travmaj,

      the first thing I got from your write was your sense of humour. Can anyone beat this(your 2 left feet slippers reminded me)

      Poor you ! re. Joy perfume. We were leaving US and couldn't resist popping into a store B........dls bought the most expensive fry pan for good friend who is mad on cooking-next day discovered hole in the centre ,hidden by the label........

      best from jandee

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      peanutritious - hello, good to hear from you - thanks for commenting, appreciate it. It seems most of us buy things we don't need - because we can I suppose. Cheers...

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      peanutritious - hello, good to hear from you - thanks for commenting, appreciate it. It seems most of us buy things we don't need - because we can I suppose. Cheers...

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Jandee - that is hilarious - love these stories - certainly something to remember! Thanks for stopping by - appreciate it.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Oh gee I love the way you draw your readers in with such a personal way of writing - and everytime I have the distinct honor of reading one of your hub presentations I feel truly blessed as having a souvenir of my own. I enjoy your good humor and it's quite amazing isn't it how marketing can latch onto our imagination and sell us just about anything.

      But I am sold on you my enchanting lady from down under - you are a major Hub force in my humble book.

      Sending you warm wishes and a good night from Colin and his cats at lake erie time ontario canada 12:54am after a glass of wine and watching the first half of a Led Zeppelin reunion concert from 2007 but don't worry it will be Schubert, Mozart or Bach over my morning coffee

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Thank you so much Colin and cats, such a warm endorsement. Souvenirs are indeed a market force but reasonably addictive. By now, you will be having coffee with Bach perhaps, and no doubt writing. Thank you again - Sat 8-34am down under.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      Why do we do this?? I'm as guilty as the next guy...With 7 Grandchildren waiting for me to return home after a visit, they would be so disappointed if I didn't bring them a T-shirt!

      I'm a collector too. That's all fine and good until you want to down size your house like I am in the process of doing right now. I have sold some stuff on eBay, and my family will take what they want.

      This is a fun Hub about souvenirs, I enjoyed reading it. Voted it Up, and will share.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Hi Mary - I'm so glad you also plead guilty to souvenirs. Recently talking to my goddaughter and her siblings, now grown up- she remembers waiting most patiently for me to arrive home with the latest offering.

      I'm a collecter also - or maybe a hoarder. I empathise on this one , our down size time is approaching and I don't know where to start.

      Thank you for your most welcome comments, vote and share.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Sharing these lovely souvenirs!

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hello Michelle -good to see you -plenty of souvenirs to share - I wonder what to buy next...LOL

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I just came back to reread this delightful Hub! I don't get to travel much any more, but when I do I still bring back little things for the kids.

      When my children travel, they bring me back little things for me. I don't have much space in my little apartment, though.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      mary 615 - thank you - souvenirs certainly assist our memories of travelling - I think I'm addicted to collecting and supposed to be down sizing ready to move eventually. Oh dear! Thanks again Mary.

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