Monday, March 23, 2009

Gifts from the Road: Souvenirs Galore

Unpacking from recent travels through Ukraine into Central Europe, I took a few photos of my souvenir stash. Care to have a peek? Who knows, you might be the intended recipient of something here. The soccer scarves publicize Ukrainian soccer teams including the Donetsk Coalminers and Kiev Dynamo. I have some nephews bound to like those.

The wooden dolls - not matrosha dolls - but they were a bargain in Zhitomer. Then in Kiev I found the blue evil eye, front center, wildly popular in Turkey, thought to protect the owner from the evil spell of a person who looks on with jealousy. The embroidered cloths are part of a traditional Ukrainian wedding ceremony, used for presenting the specially-baked wedding bread. Only the ends are embroidered but I figure it will work as a table runner. And then there's my stash of booklets, guides and maps.

The white wooden things are from Hungary: a little doll that opens, painted spoons. Also handwork is so popular in Hungary - embroidered bookmarks, cut-work, cloth Christmas tree ornaments. Toward the right, a few items from Slovakia: novelty pens and pencils, magnets and a piece of pottery.

You'll forgive me, dear blog readers, for these less than perfect photos. But by the time I got home and was unpacking, I was so camera-weary (no offense there, little Olympus) that I was feeling a little rebellious about getting just the right shots. I'm sharing a bit of my heart with you- about how I was feeling after five weeks on the road as a gypsy.

Oh, speaking of hearts, here's a popular gift from Hungary.

Embroidered felt hearts, several sizes. I didn't buy any but I did capture a few in Debrecen before I was tired of taking photos.

An embroidered apron and little jacket. Let's see, for what sort of occasion would one need these lovely items? Probably for serving tea and crumpets. Do they do that in Hungary? Maybe at the British Embassy. Never hurts to be prepared for any occasion, right?

At the central market in Budapest, I came upon this nice lady lady who had her embroidery hoop, her needle and thread and was stitching away. She kindly posed for a photo and I kindly bought a few little things from her. She embroidered this vest.

Oh and here's a classic Russian painting, Rye, by Ivan Shishkin. I have always loved this painting since I first saw it years ago in Belarus. It reminds of the Bible verse, . . .the harvest is great but the laborers are few. . . The seller wanted only $3.00 so I didn't think twice. An original probably, right? ;)

Picked up a few maps - of Zhitomer, a Ukraine road map, Kharkov. Love my maps. Because chance are that I'll return and need to know where in the world I am. A map makes a big difference. Now also I do need a small compass. Not always easy to figure out where north is. And north is a good thing to know when it comes to map reading.

Even better than maps are books and booklets. Never expected that the Hungarian Revolution would be of interest to me but it is. And here's why...

I was raised on Kertesz Road just south of Akron, Ohio. So what does that have to do with anything? Glad you asked.

Here's Kertesz Street in Budapest. See, kertesz is the one Hungarian word I've known from childhood. It means gardener.

Here's the corner of Kertesz and Whatever in Budapest. It's near the city center. You see, a Mr and Mrs Kertesz moved to the US from Hungary in the 50's, I'm guessing, took up farming south of Akron and eventually allowed my dad to build homes on his land. It's likely that the Kertesz family moved from Hungary to the US during the Hungarian Revolution. Wish I knew more about that family and their story. All I remember was that as a pre-teen, I noticed that they talked funny. And that they had newspapers printed in Hungarian.

Looking down Kertesz Street in Budapest. So speaking of talking funny, I can speak a little Hungarian - I can say gardener and I can say. . . about three simple phrases. At least I could two weeks ago. But let me tell you, folks there figured I talked really funny. But at least person gets bonus points for trying. My point here is that finding Kertesz Street in Budapest was a very special gift.

And then back to Rostov, arriving late Tuesday evening and of course I stayed up for hours unpacking. But in the morning, there was a gift waiting for me just outside my window.

A dusting of snow! Big, huge snowflakes. They were so big that at first I thought they might be the fuzzies that come from trees in spring. But no, being below freezing and all, it was a gift of snowflakes. Beautiful and crisp and pure.

Here's the view out my balcony window. More snowflakes. Then I saw that bus on our driveway. That's not just any old bus. That's a funeral bus, a combination hearse and a bus for mourners. The bus didn't stop at my doorway. And that's a gift too. ;)

How about you, dear blog reader. Any favorite gifts from your travels? What sorts of gifts are you likely to pick up for others? For yourself? Oh - have you ever ridden in a funeral bus?


~~anna~~ said...

Well, I can honestly say I have never been in, or seen, a funeral bus. There is no embalming here, so burial is the next morning. Not enough time to rent a bus I guess.

Your souvenirs are fantastic! Love all the handwork items! And your little family of wooden dolls is absolutely precious!

Favorite souvenirs that visitors purchase here are: coffee, vanilla, framed tarantulas (WHY?) and machetes (with reminders before flying NOT to pack in their carry-on bags! This warning started after a group of teens all thought it was best to pack theirs in one teen's guitar case. Amazingly, they got as far as Atlanta International before security noticed them!)
We also have larimar. Other countries sell larimar, but ALL of it comes from the Dominican Republic. According to Wikipedia, it is a rare blue form of pectolite. No, I haven't a clue what pectolite is. But larimar is quite pretty! Makes beautiful jewelry!

Five weeks of gypsy life is quite enough for one lady. Hope you are able to have some 'home' time for a while.
Have a delightful week!

in the Dominican Republic

Jeanette said...

Welcome back Eileen! It must be a huge relief to be back in your Rostov digs. To answer your questions, I'm about out of ideas for souveniers to bring home. I've exhausted the bargain-basement amber dealers, the birch-box vendors, the matrioshka sellers...and the list of Russian folk art and trinkets that my friends and family don't already have just keeps shrinking. Most people, especially my hubby, are glad to have bars of Samara chocolate. SO YUMMY...esp the very dark ones. Now...about the funeral bus. No...I've never ridden in one and hope I never have to. BUT...last year to my great surprise, I saw a funeral procession of a military man. Yes, the bus/van was in the lead, then followed the pall bearers with an OPEN CASKET! followed by the mourners and then a small regiment of soldiers and an even smaller "band." I felt as if I had been transported back in time when people went in procession on foot from the church to the cemetary. After marching a few blocks, the casket was closed and put into the van. The family got in too...I think. Have to check my photos. I just love Russia. Anything can happen.

By the way - I've put a link to your blog on my new blog. So maybe you'll start getting more visitors. Mine is:

Christine said...

I recognize that wonderful orange scarf -- Go, Shaktar, Donets'k!!! We did the souvenir shopping too, of course!!! We bought the scarf at Andrievskiy Sputsk for our little guy Micah to remember the Donets'k region. We also bought traditional wool scarves (made in Russia!), matryoshka dolls, t-shirts, and little matryoshka magnets. :) Oh what fun!
How about one souvenir I don't have such fond memories of? In 1995 my husband and I went on a short term mission trip to Nogales, AZ to help with HCJB's starting of a Christian radio station in spanish. On the last weekend of our trip we went across the border into Nogales, Mexico, and bought a beautiful red chili pepper wreath! I was so excited because I had learned to make homemade chili sauce while down there. I had such visions of making sauce for friends at home or just for our dinners. We put it in the back of our hatchback to "dry" in the sun. However, not long into our drive home across the states we began to smell an unusual odor. Like something was rotting. It only got worse and then we discovered we were not only bringing home red chili peppers but countless maggots...ugghh. Once I got over being so shocked I was immensely disappointed ~ all my plans to make chili sauce landed in the rest-stop garbage. Funny, I never have made homemade red chili sauce again. ;)