Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Greece ~ A Souvenir Studded Staycation

It isn't difficult to self-distance when living in our Stone House on the Hill, in the Kalamata olive-growing area of the Peloponnese. With five of six neighbors trapped in varying places around the globe and a nearby non-English-speaking Greek couple taking sheltering in place with gusto, we sometimes don't only feel rather isolated - we ARE rather isolated.

Isolated in Our Stone House on the Hill during the pandemic
Our second week of our Greek government-ordered self-distancing has come to an end. As I reported last week, we are allowed go out for only six destinations or reasons and must complete required notifications before doing so or face fines if caught.

The two-week lockdown has been extended for another three, until  April 27th.  While we've adjusted quite well to the permission-to-go way of life, social media is burbling with speculations about possible tighter rules coming the closer we get to Greek Easter, April 17th.  We'll deal with that, if, and when it comes.

Going out for a glass of wine 'to go'

For now I am preferring to think of this experience as a rather strange 'staycation'. One we are managing with mental escapes to some of our favorite places, thanks to souvenirs we've collected along the way. Those things that remind us of another time, another place in our lives . . .

Souvenirs - Are The Keys to Escape

Souvenir - the noun, as defined by the dictionary, as a memento, keepsake, or token of remembrance collected or purchased and taken home by a traveler. It comes from the French verb which means 'to recall or have in your memory'.

The word has been in use since back in the 1700's. But the act of collecting mementos dates back even further, according to travel writer Rolf Potts in his book, Souvenirs.  He tells of Egyptian Prince Harkhuf  who collected skins and tusks on his journey to Sudan about 2200 BC. His souvenirs were gifts for the pharaoh.

I was re-reading the book (it IS a good read) last week when one passage in particular seemed to speak of this time in our home-bound world::

'People feel the need to bring things home with them from the sacred, extraordinary time or space, for home is equated with ordinary, mundane time and space,' scholar Beverly Gordon observed. 'They can't hold on-to the non-ordinary experience for it is by nature ephemeral, but they can hold on to a tangible piece of it, an object that came from it.'

A Souvenir Studded Staycation

While a few of our souvenirs do represent some sacred, extraordinary time or space, all of them  bring back happy memories of the place from where they were purchased.

Lake Chelan - between Chelan and Manson

I am sipping a cup of Starbucks Italian coffee while writing this afternoon. It was made from a bag of coffee we tucked into our suitcase back in February while back in the States. We love the stuff and it isn't available anywhere near us in Greece. This bag, purchased at the store in Chelan, Washington reminds us of the other village in our lives.

Last week another edible souvenir took us back to Washington State 'for dinner'. I made soup using a mix purchased from the kitchen store in Chelan.  On cold and blustery days in Greece as we were having on the day of the soup-making,  it is nice to be warmed by the memories of that other place we hang our hats.

A taste of Budapest

Another night we 'traveled to' Hungary and to Thessaloniki, Greece when I used paprika purchased in Budapest in November for Hungarian goulash which was accompanied by a red wine purchased on a trip to a vineyard in northern Greece last summer. We had taken a tour of the wine country and enjoyed chatting with the wine maker at Domaine Florian. As we sipped wine at dinner a promised ourselves a return trip when 'this' ends.

Domaine Florian a highpoint of Thessaloniki trip

The table cloth I am using these days, with its pattern of lemons, was purchased in a small Italian town many years ago. I took it back to the States and for years it served as our taste of the Mediterranean in our suburban Seattle home. It has come back across 'the pond' with us and still brings back memories of our time in Tuscany. Who would have thought that one day I would have a bowl of lemons sitting on it that had been grown in our own Mediterranean garden?!

That time in Tuscany

Some of our souvenirs though do take us back to places that were so extraordinary that we remember them with almost disbelief. 'Were we really there? Did we do that? Suppose we will ever get back there again?'

Turkey and Egypt travel memories

Take the metal teapot on our fireplace mantel. Even better than a magic carpet, it transports us back to the Nile River each time we look at it. When we first spotted it in the dimly-lit shop in Aswan, Egypt, it was amid a hodge-podge of other dust-covered items. The elderly galabeya-clad shop keeper, a man of few words, was a no-pressure salesman. He explained the inscription on the handle was likely the name of the person for whom it had been made. And yes, it had been used for tea in a Bedouin camp. The price was roughly $25US. It took two trips back to the shop before we decided it would fit in the suitcase.

The Tree of Life is the subject of the ceramic plate that hangs above it.  We had just purchased our Stone House on the Hill and had been looking for something to fill the empty space on the fireplace.  While wandering the streets of Kusadasi, Turkey rather aimlessly and on our own (our favorite way to do cruise ship stops) we happened upon a ceramics store. Just looking at it takes us back to that  cruise adventure few years ago.

Jordan, France and Greece on a table top

Another cruise introduced us to the wonders of the Middle East. One of the most amazing wonders was Petra, Jordan where we watched an artist create one of our smallest souvenirs - and one of our most treasured. The little bottle of sand art is like a talisman that we hope will make us lucky enough to return to the Wadi Rum and Petra one day.  It sits next to a small tray purchased in Paris many years ago and behind a piece of rock art made in Greece - a souvenir from a friend. Tiny items can stir big memories.

Until we can travel again. . .enjoy the present

One thing we've discovered is that when you are not focused on researching and planning future travels, you have plenty of time to bask in the memories of travels once taken. Our souvenirs have managed to keep the travel bug from going completely dormant during this time of pandemic isolation.

At our ages, the consumable souvenir is probably the most practical.  We know one day these treasures of ours will just be items of which someone will be tasked with sorting and disposing.

Rolf Potts, in his book, writes of being offered some of his aunt's belongings after her death. Most of the things he describes as being without much usable or resale value; among them, souvenirs she had collected.

'Looking at those items, I was struck by how much we collect in life ultimately becomes depleted of meaning: without any sense of memories or desires that led [her]] to save these keepsakes, they felt like a sorrowful menagerie of lost objects.'

For now, our souvenirs are tickets to travel if only by memories.  How about you? What souvenirs have you collected?  Where are they taking you during your own 'staycation'?

That's it for this week from Greece. Thanks for the time you've spent with us. Stay safe and stay well! Hope you'll join us again next week!

Linking this week with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. I love your souvenirs and the memories they invoke. I have a few, not currently with me. Yet I mostly use photos to stimulate my memories. Digital makes that easy to haul around. Plus, I've kind of stopped buying "things" as I have so little room and don't want to leave that burden behind. Thanks for taking us on these marvelous journeys and sharing more of your delightful home.

    1. We also buy few 'display' souvenirs these days -- as we do know someday they will be a burden, not treasure for someone. But we do buy new clothes and consumable items which are fun to wear/eat/drink and bring back fond memories!

  2. Thanks for sharing some of your precious souvenirs. That last quote from Rolf Potts is very poignant. I remember learning after her death that a person who lived across the street from me had been a travel agent and world traveler. When I visited her house, I never thought to look around and ask her about her collection.
    The other reason I liked this, is that it gave me a bit of a kick in the pants to record, with digital photos and descriptions, the things in our house that survived the downsizing when we moved. I'm hoping that if those who inherit our stuff know the stories, they might keep at least some of it. And we have traces of travel in every room of the house.

    1. And your comment has made me think that we should do the same for some of our treasures so they don't just end up in a yard sale or Goodwill rack. . .or if they do, maybe their story will go with them!

  3. Wonderful for Our World on Tuesday... travelling again after Corona .

    Stay healthy.

    1. Yes, and wishes for a good 'staycation' to you and many opportunities for travel when the world rights itself again! Thanks for dropping by!

  4. Souvenirs are wonderful Jackie and I love that you've chosen to surround yourself with a few well-placed memories. My staycation at home in Albufeira, will soon be entering its 2nd month and it seems like all those memories of carefree travel happened decades ago rather than just a few months and scant years. This downtime may be the perfect time to sort through and print out a few of my own photos for framing. It's hard to imagine what travel after Covid-19 will look like but I imagine that we'll all be exercising more caution. Wishing you good health and lots of enjoyment as you travel down memory lane and anticipate new adventures. :)

    1. Wait - a new staycation home?! I think it is time I write you an email or we at least have a social media chat?! I agree it is difficult to think what travel and the world in general will look like after this ends. . .also hard to envision it ending any time soon! Lets figure out a way to video chat --

  5. Long live souvenirs! I manage to collect them unintentionally. Seashells and rocks among them. As to what to do with them when our time comes, wouldn't it be lovely to pack them up in a little hobo bag to be placed in the ground with us?

    1. What a great idea! I love that hobo bag thought and then 100's of years from now who knows they might go on display somewhere and be as famous as those of King Tut's treasures!! Thanks for stopping by Carole.

  6. We are complying with our stay at home order in our Washington State condo. It's not so bad. We can go out for groceries, pharmacy and drive-through places like McDonalds (we only tried that once, but feel better preparing our own food). It's a good thing we have the condo because we can't cross the border to get to our real home in Powell River, BC, and our cabin up the lake where it would be perfect for self-isolation. A mandatory 14-day quarantine for coming in from the States would force us to stay in town and not be able to get out to walk, get food or go up the lake. So we made the decision to stay here until it is safe and allowed to travel. - Margy

  7. Margy, glad to hear you are safe and well in Washington State! And thanks for the comment today - nice to hear from my blogosphere friends and know where they are and what they are doing to ride out this time in our lives. Keep in touch! xx Jackie

  8. What a lovely idea! I think I will indulge in a couple of the truffle chocolates we've been saving from our trip to Belgium and reminisce about those happier times!

    1. I've done the same with chocolates from Vienna! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  9. Love your souvenirs. Every once in a while we revisit where we've been by going through souvenirs although, truth be known, some of those memories are getting a bit fuzzy;) Agree that those places that have left a strong feeling make for a nice 'warming' especially now. Thank you.

    1. Well it was good writing this post as I found some fuzzy moments in our memories as well. I should do as another blogger said and write the stories behind these items as somehow it might make them a bit more valuable to those who have to do 'the clean out' when that time comes.


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