Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lost in Translation: Souvenirs That Should Be Left Behind

There are always those things you buy while on vacation that look amazing in the moment, but should have never made it through customs. Easter in Madrid is full of such things.  The city is festive. There are parades, street shows -- especially in Plaza Mayor, there are priests in full get up holding services that have been booked well in advance, street cafes are packed, the parks are full of people strolling in the sun, and souvenirs everywhere you look.

Walking along the Gran Via (main street) in Madrid, my daughters and I stopped short at a window.  We stood stunned by this dress (left) of feathers for several moments wondering exactly what occasion you would pull this out of the closet and say "perfect! exactly what I was looking for?" 

We did, however manage to pack plenty of other unnecessary souvenirs into the suitcases ... two traditional fans, a few Madrid pens, a key chain and the obligatory snow globes (thankfully security will no longer allow them as carry on - and no one in their right mind would stuff them in a suitcase ... only to open it on the other end with a burst of glitter everywhere). I picked up a shoulder bag with Mardrid written all over it because nothing says 'world traveler' better then one of these. Yes I did buy it, and yes I'm as geeky as everyone else when I travel.  

I did manage to dissuade my daughters from the puppets they wanted to buy.  We saw a popular and wonderful puppet show in the Parque del Retiro (Madrid's central park). The girls were mesmerized and had to stay for several of the shows. Afterwards (when I could pursued them to step away from the puppets) they kept asking for one of their own.  I could just picture myself with these over-sized puppets in my carry on.  Thankfully, their attention span is fairly short, and this dire need for a puppet lasted only 30 minutes.

So what should you bring back from Madrid?  Well for me, of course, I was looking for the local flare in jewelry.  That I found on a side excursion to Toledo.  A gorgeous old city on a hill side that sits as a majestic castle.  It's known for its steel making (swords, knives and other armor).  But also for a style called Damascene, which is the art of inlaying steel with gold or silver metals.  This stuff was everywhere, and I could not get enough of it!

The procedure includes covering the surface of an object with fine grooves by using sharp cutting tools. Patterns are drawn on the scored surfaces, and gold wires are pressed into these grooves with a steel punch and hammer.  At that point the whole item is blued to produce a black background by a total oxidation of the surfaces which are not damasked. Finally a delicate process of chipping gives a sheen to the object.  The process dates back to the middle ages and became popular in 15th century Europe. Toledo, Spain is the largest producer of Damascene today.  

I bought several pieces of Damascene including several pairs of earrings, a bracelet and a beautiful little pill box. As always with the things I pick up, I take them apart once I'm home.  The pair (left) I re-set on a slender earwire so the hoop has a nice little swing to them when you wear them.

I could have left most of the souvenirs behind, except for the Damascene.  I am so glad these pieces ended up in my carry on.


Anonymous said...

Uuuu, I Love the technique, need to ggole it, maybe there are some videos... Earrings look great :)

Thea said...

You need the feather dress.

Petar RADETA said...

Cool..The best

AntiquityTravelers said...

Yes ... I do NEED that dress ... perfect for everyday at the office :O

Miss Val's Creations said...

LOVE the Damascene! I would have been all over that stuff! The earring findings are gorgeous. When I go to Europe I like to come back with one perfect thing that can be displayed and enjoyed in the house. Interesting dress! The only thing that would be useful for a is a vibrant runway show. Puppets can be creepy so I am glad to hear the kids did not go home with any!

Marcela Gmd said...

Great post!!!
Hermosos recuerdos de Madrid!!!
Toledo es una ciudad fantástica llena de historia y encanto...

Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

Duni said...

I would love to visit one day!
I really like the bag you bought and the earrings are to die for! I usually stick with one souvenir - something decorative for the home :)

have a lovely day,

AntiquityTravelers said...

Many thanks for all the comments, and yes perhaps I should have brought back more of the Damascene. Love that stuff

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