Searching for souvenirs

What is the best souvenir you have ever picked up on your travels?

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Poland’s unbreakable pottery tradition

Boleslawiec or Bunzlau stoneware comes from the province of Silesia, formerly part of Germany. Skilled artisans continue to create and hand paint each piece of pottery in traditional patterns, some dating back to the 14th century. Today, there are several factories in the city of Boleslawiec that make pottery. The pattern pictured here from a recent photo shoot for Lake Erie Living magazine is known by several names: blue eyes, blue dots and classic blue dot.

The art director for the magazine had purchased the piece in Poland. Coincidentally, my husband was heading to the country on a business trip just a few days later. He found a few pieces at an open-air stall in Krakow’s main square. He brought back four pieces totaling about $42 USD.

You don’t have to book a flight to Poland to buy Bunzlauer or Boleslawiec Polish Pottery. You can find pieces on Amazon.com, among other e-retailers.

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Filed under Boleslawiec, Europe, Poland

It’s Greek to me

If you’re ever in Erie, Pennsylvania, a visit to New York Lunch (922 East Ave.) is a must. The nondescript diner is the place to get a local favorite culinary concoction known simply as Greek sauce. You can’t find it anywhere else in the world.

While the recipe has been a closely guarded secret for more than 80 years, owner Stephen Paliouras (pictured at right) says there are 10 different spices combined with ground beef to create the unique flavor, plus paprika, which gives it a red color. You can order just about anything smothered in the sauce, whether a hot dog, hamburger or omelets that are served all day.

The sauce also makes a great souvenir. Guests can take it home by the cup, pint or quart for $3.25, $6.50 and $14 respectively. Paliouras has even shipped cases of his Greek sauces to fans in Florida and California.

While I mentioned the Greek sauce in the Lake Erie Living Travel Guide this year, I had personally never tried it, so I went to New York Lunch this week to get a taste of the sauce that Erieites rave about. After trying the sauce for the first time, I received an extra special treat from the owner: a souvenir paper holder from his home country, which I immediately donated to the Souvenir Museum collection.

The vintage enamel-covered bronze clip features the bust of Eniochos, the charioteer of Delphi. Eniochos in Greek refers to the “man who holds the reins.” On the back side is Parthenon, one of the temples in the Athenian Acropolis.

I’ve never been to Greece, but the souvenir will always symbolize Greek hospitality, friendliness, openness, and . . . Erie’s famous Greek sauce.


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Filed under Erie, Food and Beverage, North America, Pennsylvania, Souvenir, Uncategorized, United States

The royal marriage is moving merchandise in the U.K.

Royal Wedding commemorative tankardThe minute the engagement of Prince William of Wales to commoner Kate Middleton was announced to the public back in November, souvenir manufacturers were clamoring for a piece of the action. T-shirts, thimbles, stickers and mugs (among other trinkets) are all widely available in tourist shops all over the United Kingdom, but the only officially sanctioned souvenirs are bone china commemorative items offered by the royal family itself.

On a visit to Windsor Castle last week, the commemorative plate ($62) and pillbox($38) were sold out. “We can’t keep them on the shelves,” the shopkeeper told me. There were still a few tankard mugs ($54) available, so I picked one up for the Souvenir Museum collection.

Made in Staffordshire, which has a long history of producing highly prized ceramics, the exclusive design shows intertwined initials in gold and silver with the coronet of Prince Williams and the wedding date of April 29, 2011. Each handmade piece also features a decorative pattern of doves, white ribbon and silver, gold and gray hearts set against a pale gray-striped background. The pieces are individually finished by hand using 22-carat gold and presented in a blue box wrapped in white tissue paper printed with designs inspired by the wall hangings in the Clarence House.

The items can be purchased at gift shops located at the royal palaces and residences, such as Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, or online at royalcollectionshop.co.uk. Profits go to the upkeep and conservation of the Royal Collection, one of the largest collections of paintings and works of art in the world built up over five centuries by successive British monarchs.

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Want your own fine china to commemorate your own special occasion? Hudson and Middleton, one of the china manufacturers tapped to produce the royal wedding souvenirs, will create personalized china starting at $199 for a five-piece place setting. According to the company’s website, “personal logos, crests, initials or tasteful works of art portraying your dog, car, house, yacht or horse can be supplied.”

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Filed under Art, Authentic, England, Europe, For Her, Home Furnishings, Souvenir, United Kingdom

Mementos become muses for photographer Michael Hughes

Photographer Michael Hughes has amassed an arsenal of photographs documenting souvenirs worldwide. “I go anywhere in the world, buy a cheap souvenir and I hold the souvenir in front of the object it’s depicting,” says Hughes.

Based in Berlin, Germany, he has been shooting editorial and commercial assignments for more than 30 years, but the seed for the souvenir project took root in 1999 while shooting for a Finnish newspaper in the Rhine River valley on a very dreary day.

From his perch high on the Lorelei — a rock famous known for its mermaid who would lure sailors to their death — he pulled a postcard out of his pocket with the same view, lined it up in his viewfinder and captured “the one.”

“It was magical, like looking through a window” says Hughes. “You look through it, behind it, at it. I knew this could be the beginning of something.”

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Photos courtesy of Michael Hughes

He’s tackled the most iconic spots in the world, from Times Square in New York City to the Egyptian pyramids. He also put a new spin on the must-have snapshot in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

“My wife found a rainbow-colored lollipop in the shape of the tower,” he says about one of his favorite finds. In the corresponding photo, his daughter, Lea, is pictured licking it in front of the real thing.

Since being discovered on Flickr, the Souvenir series has been featured in National Geographic and  Popular Photography magazines and Hughes was asked to shoot an advertising campaign for TAM airlines in Brazil.

His work is also available for purchase on his website, www.hughes-photography.eu. The photographs make great souvenirs themselves, whether you’ve been to the places or not.

As for the actual trinkets, Hughes keeps most of them in a box, while some adorn the shelves of his apartment. Others just didn’t make it back home, including what he says was the most unusual: a windmill that plays “Tulips from Amsterdam,” while rotating its vanes and lighting up.

“I gave it to the guy at Schiphol airport who checks in the Avis hire cars because I had no space in my luggage.”

Maybe he’ll donate a few to the Souvenir Museum on of these day . . .

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Filed under Europe, Novelty, Statue

One person’s Mexican sugar mold is another’s bludgeon

Before becoming a favorite home décor item, wooden molds like this one were hard at work creating cones of brown sugar in Mexico. But as I found out when I tried to get one home on an airplane, a sugar mold isn’t just a great souvenir; it turns out one person’s Mexican sugar mold is another’s bludgeon.

Too large for my checked luggage, I affixed a rope handle and then slipped it only the belt of the x-ray machine. In a pre-9/11 world, little thought would have been paid to my travel find. But with post-9/11 goggles on, security told me that it would not be allowed as a carry-on. “It could be a bludgeon,” I was told.

Luckily, I had plenty of time to get back to the check-in counter and check the mold through to my final destination. However, with a tight connection, you can kiss that puppy goodbye. USAToday travel writer Laura Bly’s recent travels sidelined a precious memento. Read the saga here.

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Filed under Authentic, Home Furnishings, Mexico, Uncategorized, Wood Carving

A permanent souvenir

Shower caps, shoe-shine kits and shampoo bottles are not the only thing you can bring home from a stay at The Marcel at Gramercy in New York City this week. Los Angeles tattoo artist, Mr. Cartoon is offering his services from one of upscale hotel’s two-bedroom suites until Wednesday, The New York Times

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