I Heart New York

Most Clichéd Travel Souvenirs


It seems memories just aren’t enough. Whenever we visit a distant city we don’t stop at taking photos, but feel compelled to return home with a small cache of tacky, mass-produced souvenirs in tow. Whether it is stuffed animals, fridge magnets, traditional arts and crafts or woefully out of date postcards, we seem to have an obsession with mementos recording our travels. Here is a look at the top 5 most clichéd travel souvenirs in the world.

Eiffel Tower Figurine

Eiffel Tower Souvenir

Eiffel Tower Souvenir by picturesquire/flickr

Christ the Redeemer, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge; in some places you just cannot escape tacky figurines. But the most ubiquitous of all of these poorly captured, usually inaccurate and overly weighty scale models is surely the Eiffel Tower, one of the most visited sites in Europe. Central Paris is thronged with tourists at the best of times, and the iron lattice monument at the end of the Champ de Mars is number one on the list of must-see attractions for first time visitors to the French capital. And small models of Gustav Eiffel’s towering engineering achievement find their way into the suitcases and backpacks of far too many people. As Guy de Maupassant once said, the only place in Paris where you can go to escape the Eiffel Tower is up the Eiffel Tower itself. Now, with figurines in the homes of people around the world, you can’t even escape this famous icon by leaving Paris.

I Love New York T-Shirt, New York

I Heart New York

I Heart New York by nbabaian/flickr

Though now considered one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, New York City in the 1970s was a place in the doldrums. Suffering from decaying buildings, high crime and a faltering economy, the city was a grim and depressing place; quite in contrast to the slick hustle and bustle we are so used to now. So the city government, in a bid to turn around the Big Apple’s fortunes, approached graphic artist Milton Galser to design a new logo for the city, and so was born the iconic I Love New York symbol, comprised of a capital I, a red heart and the letters N and Y. Visitors cannot help but see t-shirts emblazoned with the logo hanging for sale on stalls and street vendors across the city. You could say that the phrase ‘been there, got the t-shirt’ was invented for this town.

Clogs, Netherlands

Dutch Clogs

Dutch Clogs by rexroof/flickr

Maybe it’s because windmills are too big to carry, and poppies die before you get home, but it turns out that clogs are the most popular travel souvenirs in the Netherlands. You are more likely to find these hardy wooden shoes hanging on walls than being worn on the feet of people these days, as, outside of a small band of traditionalist farmers and manufacturers, nobody else in the Netherlands really wears clogs anymore. They’re not exactly stylish or lightweight, and they make you sound like a trotting horse as you walk down the street. But despite the ungainly form, clogs are recognised by Dutch industry as accredited safety boots, capable of withstanding impacts that would even dent the toughest steel capped boots.

Cuckoo Clock, Switzerland

Cuckoo Clocks

Cuckoo Clocks by doogsta/flickr

It’s a little known fact, but Switzerland is a nation constructed entirely from travel souvenirs. Scratch beneath any surface and you will find fondue sets, yodels, alpine embroidery, Swiss army knives, and beer steins and decorated cow bells. Okay, maybe that’s a lie, but it is certainly true that the Swiss punch above their weight when it comes to producing kitsch travel goods. It’s not all fine chocolates, Rolex watches and slightly dodgy bank accounts, you know. But the most clichéd travel souvenir of all in this mountainous land-locked nation has to be the Cuckoo Clock, the world’s most irritating invention. Made from cheap wood and often crafted to look like timber Alpine chalets, anyone gifted a cuckoo clock is soon driven mad by the incessant noise that is set off every hour or half hour, with especially annoying music played on the strikes of midday and midnight, perfectly timed to interrupt your lunch or to stir you from your sleep. Yet, funnily enough, the Cuckoo Clock wasn’t even invented in Switzerland, and actually originates from the Black Forest in Germany. It seems the Swiss just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sell yet another tawdry souvenir.

Matryoshka Dolls, Russia

Matryoshka Dolls

Matryoshka Dolls by a.munich/flickr

Fun fact: there are more Matryoshka Dolls in Russia than there are people. Maybe. It can certainly feel like it at times when pounding the streets of Moscow or St Petersburg in mid-winter, dirty snow piled at the side of the streets, the sun barely rising above the rooftops, just a few well-insulated elderly comrades queuing in the cold for borscht, and a thousand different varieties of nested doll for sale at the souvenir stands. First invented in the 1890s by a humble artisan, there is barely a house in the world still standing that does not proudly display its ever-diminishing sequence of painted dolls. Top tip: if you don’t have much luggage space left when departing Russia you can handily store each doll inside the next biggest, saving valuable space.

Date posted: 6th February, 2012

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