Souvenirs: material or mental?

Souvenirs. What is attractive about them, and what is their value? What do different kinds of souvenirs represent, and what are the meanings behind them? I do not promise that I have all the answers, but I offer at least a few reflections on these questions.

This post started with a visit to the archeological museum in Thessaloniki. A must-see according to many, one of the highlights of Thessaloniki. Usually on top of the list, one of the places that you ‘HAVE TO SEE!!!’ when in Thessaloniki for one day, three days, a week. Finally, after four months in the city, I made it there. When you spend almost a year in a city, you don’t have the same sense of urgency as tourists. You don’t feel the need to visit everything right away. I guess this pace fits the city better, anyway. Σιγά σιγά, as they say: slowly, slowly. In January of this year, I finally went there. 

Female head of an ancient Greek marble statue, made up by small pictures of archaeological findings
Image taken in the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki

Copies and souvenirs

The museum had a special exhibition on ‘copies’. It highlighted the theme of copies in relation to archaeology and history. What especially caught my attention was a small section on gifts and souvenirs. It discussed mass tourism in Greece, which is for a large part based on its ancient history. Because of this, many souvenirs are copies of ancient artefacts. Souvenirs, stated the exhibition, “are reminders of the travel experience for each individual tourist, but also symbolic artefacts that testify the experience and the personal “mythology”, possibly linked with their own individual past, as well as their preferred version of authenticity. “

On my way home

Now that I am leaving Greece soon (for now), I am thinking of what kind of things I want to bring back ‘home’. Do I want to bring anything back to my family? What about things to remember my stay here? Perhaps I should take with me some small copies of statues, sold in so many souvenir stores, and most of which were not even produced in Greece. Sure, they capture the image of the original, but is this really a ‘worthy’ way to remember my stay here? But what is worthy, anyway? 

Fridge magnets, a pin and a purse

We live in times of globalization and consumerism. At the same time, minimalist lifestyles are becoming more and more popular. The paradox between over-consumption and buying only what is necessary is sometimes striking. Personally, I am trying to collect as little as possible in terms of material things, as I do not have a lot of space for storage. When moving abroad, it is always difficult to have too much, even if souvenirs are ‘nice for memories’. 

Still, when I went to look for some things to bring home, I could not resist buying a few items. I tried to only get things that would be in some way useful, so I bought a fan, which is practical in the remaining time that I’m spending in Greece, and a small purse. I also bought a pin, which may not be so useful, but of course it also does not take a lot of space. As gifts, I bought some fridge magnets.

Image of a fan with pictures of well known places in Greece on it
A useful souvenir in the Greek summer

A collage of memories

A few years ago, when I started travelling more, I decided to start collecting postcards. Of course, they are still items, and they still cost some money, and they, in the end, will still take up some space. But they are more compact than most souvenirs. And the nice thing about postcards is that you can hang them on your wall! In my previous room in Sweden, I had a collage wall with all kinds of postcards and some other images that I collected on my travels. I usually try to find ‘special’ postcards: not just a picture, but some kind of artistic interpretation, for example, a painting, drawing, or a graphic. During my stay in Thessaloniki, I also made a small collage on my wall with different flyers from places or events I visited.

Image of different flyers and postcards on a wall
My wall in Thessaloniki

Now that I am leaving Thessaloniki soon, I also searched for some nice postcards of Thessaloniki to add to my collection. Luckily, Thessaloniki has many artistic options! Here are a few that I bought:

Postcards depicting Thessaloniki, Athens and hipster Socrates and Poseidon

It felt quite final, somehow, to be buying souvenirs. I walked past these shops many times, paying them no mind because, after all, I was not a tourist, I was living here. But Thessaloniki has stolen my heart, and although I have memories and pictures as well, having a few physical things is still quite nice.

I guess now it is really time to say τα λέμε!

Post Author: Sacha Bogaers

Sacha Bogaers
I am 23 years old and moved from Sweden to Greece for ten months. My main interests are human rights, activism, and art. I also love writing about LGBTQ+-related topics and social justice.

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