The Best Travel Tip Ever: Look But Don't Buy!
Souvenirs Travel Home
Look, But Don't Buy!
Why is "Look, but don't buy!" my number one travel tip? This became my motto because of my observations and experiences during several trips to my ancestral Poland.
Primarily, following my tip makes packing for the bulk of your trip, but especially the homeward trip light and easy. Following this tip avoids damaged or ruined purchases and disappointment. But it can lead to getting significant mementos home.
This lens focuses on visual exploration and paying attention to the thousand-and-one souvenir items competing for a traveler's attention. "Window shopping" becomes an educational experience. A close Israeli friend once told me that you could tell more about a country from exploring its material culture in malls, markets and gifts shops than by haunting museums.
However, this exploration also leaves an opening to decide what you really have to buy and carry home, or might be able to buy from an online merchant once at home. I'll also show, from my personal experiences, how you can substitute small, lightweight memorabilia for heavier, cumbersome and breakable objects.
Taking a long hard look can increase your powers of observation and also leads to memories. Strengthen memories with business cards, easy-to-pack pamphlets and postcards, and your own photos. Keep a travel diary.
He who would travel happily must travel light. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Photo: Krakow Airport - ©Georgene A. Bramlage
When you visit Poland....
Leave your shopping list at home! Go with the flow. Have fun looking and appreciating this country's ethnic crafts. Enjoy the color and vibrancy of the local markets and market squares. Take pictures and buy postcards; collect teabags, soup packets, and chocolate bars. Keep a travel diary; use business cards as reminders of where you've been, what you've eaten and what pleases you the most.
My Reminders of Poland
Lightweight and Inexpensive Mementos
Easy-to-pack and sure-to-please friends and relatives, especially those with a sense of humor.
- My sister hates to travel, but enjoys knowing what I do. She also, like most of us, has enough stuff. So, I collect for her items typical to Poland like sugar packets which really do vary in different countries, tea bags, small pieces of chocolate often served with a cup of coffee, napkins, and complimentary bottles of local toiletries.
- I love Boleslawiec Polish pottery but it is too heavy and cumbersome to pack for the trip back home. There are plenty of importers and wholesalers in the U.S. with selections just as good as those at the various factories. If you want a memento, why not look for a tablecloth (!) in a typical pottery pattern? I've never seen one for sale in the U.S., but did buy one at a Polish factory outlet store. Most factory store also have larger than life items on display. These make great pictures, especially with you in one.
- Amber is everywhere, but specially in Gdansk and Krakow. Because so much of amber jewelry is in the silver setting, I prefer to buy in established stores around the marketplaces in Gdansk and Warsaw, and the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) in Krakow. It is possible to buy amber from home, but I do believe the selection, and at times, the prices are greater in Poland. And you can always wear your purchases home or tuck them, wrapped in tissue, at the bottom of a camera bag or backpack. It pays to read up on buying amber before you do so.
- Lapel pins make great souvenirs for yourself or gifts for friends and relatives. Most museums like the Warsaw Uprising Museum have a lapel pin of their logo. There are also pins of crossed American and Polish flags as well as those commemorating the Solidarity Movement. Here is also an internet source of unusual Polish Patriotic & Religious Lapel Pins.
- Polish Paper Cuts (Wycinanki) pronounced Vee-chee-non-kee means 'paper-cut design'. No one seems to know just when and how this folk-art form began in Poland. One speculation, among many, is that this was one way of bringing beauty to peasant cottages by cutting colorful scraps of salvaged paper with sheep shears. Two well-known modern styles of paper cutouts are the symmetrical Kurpie cutout and the complex and multilayered forms from the Lowicz area. If you find ones that you like and can afford, place them flat between papers and layers of clothes near the bottom of your suitcase.
Reproduction of Our Lady of Czestochowa
Poland: Travel Guide Overviews - These have sections near the back of book about what crafts and souvenirs are available.
DK Travel (April 19, 2010)
Cepelia Polish Arts and Crafts Shops
Operates approximately 60 shops and oversees about one dozen cooperative shops throughout Poland. At times, online presence is weak.
Begin your adventure in learning about Polish handcrafts in the "Cepelia" shops, tremendous places to begin learning about and searching for Polish goods. They are easy to find and sell among the best of Polish handcrafts and arts to the public. But unless you want tablecloths, wooden eggs or sculptures, be advised that Cepelia does have an online shop. and you can order from home. Because they are usually linked directly to the craftspeople, prices are steeper than items of lesser quality found from street vendors.
From the "Cepelia" website
"The purpose of the Foundation "Cepelia" Polish Arts and Crafts is to protect, organize, develop and promote folk and artistic handicraft and art and art industry. The Foundation has taken steps to ensure the conditions for the creation of new values and the cultivation of traditional material culture of the Polish nation, preservation of cultural identity of the nation, and participates in the creation of contemporary Polish culture.
Company "CEPELIA" Polish Arts and Crafts carries on business in the retail, wholesale, and export of folk art and folk handicrafts and arts.
Visitors can buy textiles, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, wicker, went, jewelry, leather goods, textiles, lace, trimmings folk art, furniture, and memorabilia. On the market there are also private stores using brand "CEPELIA."
Photo: Easter decorations at "Cepelia", ul. Piotrkowska - Lodz. Permission of Giulia via Flikr
Do you collect Polish pottery?
Polish Pottery Honey Jar
Polish Baltic Amber
Tricks to buying Polish Baltic Amber Jewelry
There are numerous stores and market vendors in Poland selling Polish Baltic Amber jewelry.
The "trick" to buying amber jewelry is to check the settings or fittings and for necklaces and bracelets, the material beads are strung upon. If the settings are silver, reputable dealers will deliver a certificate stating so along with the jewelry. High quality silk or beading cord will last infinitely longer than elastic ro cotton cord.
Amber Drop set into Sterling Siver
Shopping While Traveling
Do you like to shop while traveling?
Shop for the very best from Poland without leaving the comfort of your own computer.
Here are links for web sites that sell wonderful items that are either too heavy or too breakable to carry home from a Polish trip.
- The Polish Art Center - Treasury of Polish Heritage
Polart carries everything you wanted to buy in Poland in one location. Located in downtown Hamtramck, MI this Polish import shop has belonged to Raymond and Joan Bittner since 1974. The shop carries everything Polish from Amber And Silver Jewelry t
- Polish Art Center - Edward Bar Polish Christmas Ornaments
Don't buy Bar's ornaments in Poland and worry about breaking them on the plane trip home. Edward Bar's ornaments can be purchased at several websites, on Amazon, from Polart, or through his own eBay site. This web site also features photos.
- Polana: A Polish Experience
Polish food at its best from Chicago, Illinois. They stock everything from homemade-tasting prepared dishes, pantry items, hard-to-find white farmer's cheese, soup packets like those sold in Polish cash 'n carry stores, as well as gift baskets. Als
- Eden Polish Bookstore
No need to carry heavy books home from Poland or worry that DVDs and CDs won't play correctly when there are bookstores like Eden. This is fine bookstore in Hamtramck, MI that carries Polish language books as well as an assortment of items from book
- Traditional Glass Christmas Ornaments Manufactured By Impuls
Another option if you want Polish-made Christmas ornaments but don't want to risk breaking them on the trip home is to start searching stores such as T. J. Maxx and Tuesday Morning which sell IMPULS ornaments in the U.S. IMPULS began in January 1986