I’ve went through a number of phases when it comes to souvenirs. When I was much younger, and visited Russia I enjoyed negotiating with many of the street vendors on Arbat Street, the lookout by Moscow State University, and many other locations around the city. I was able to bring back a number of lower end matrioshka (stacking) dolls, along with other inexpensive mementos (my favorite being a stack of valueless rubles & kopecks (currency) from the previous government that I found).
Without having access to much travel as a child, I felt very fortunate to have been able to visit such a distant culture. Armed with a very inexpensive & basic point & shoot film camera, and only a few rolls of film, I felt it my responsibility to document the destination, along with my journey, for my family who weren’t as fortunate to take the journey. I had to purchase more film while there, and came back with the (at the time) unexpectedly high number of sixteen rolls for a four week long trip!
My second trip to Russia, less than two years later was very similar, however for my next international trip – a semester abroad, travel books & postcards became my primary purchase (much to the dismay of my foot and my luggage, whose handle broke from the weight the day after an evening excursion ended with me stepping on a Mediteranean sea urchin). As many small items as I purchased, when I returned home with bags and bags of undeveloped film, it was reinforced that my main “souvenir” had become photography.
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Now that I am even older, photography remains my main souvenir, and one of the main purposes of many of my trips. That being said, I still look for the occasional keepsake, but I am now a little more discriminating. Though I still feel like bargaining with the sellers is a huge part of the experience, I find myself no longer looking for the cheapest items, and find myself now looking for a certain type of aesthetic.
While I had purchased an inexpensive Carnavale mask to wear during a visit to the annual festival while in college, the memory of the more elaborate, and much more pricey, options stuck with me. After years of the memory simmering in my mind, on a recent return trip I had decided to find some nice masks to display on my walls. While I didn’t opt for the most expensive options, I was able to find a matching male & female mask that fit my color scheme (black, white, & red of course). After bargaining to get the best deal, the vendor & I agreed on a price, and I only regret not buying more.
The masks in this week’s photo are from a store that specialized only in higher end Carnavale masks on a side street of Siena. Admittedly, the masks at this store, and other similar to it, are much fancier and pricer than the versions I brought home, and can cost upwards of $200 – $300. A few of the options in this store are now stuck in my head (a fact probably reinforced by seeing this photo hanging on my wall), and I am looking forward to a return trip to Italy whenI can step up the quality once again (though doubtfully not to the top tier $300+ price tag options).