Saturday, 27 July 2013

Memorabilia

Tourists give themselves away so quickly when they walk into new surroundings, rubbernecking, checking maps, and fumbling with the currency.  Fortunately, the tourist trade is often profitable business for the locals.  With experience, cajoling locals can entice eager tourists to open their wallets with the "gotta have it" trinket or treasure to remind them of their journey. We have all picked up little things that eventually, and laughingly, land in the bins of the "white elephant", or garage sale.  This Black Sea tour is loaded with such fare.  Little stacking matrioshka dolls, Black Sea beach towels, Black Sea Fleet hats and shirts, miniature plates and pots emblazoned with the location, small reminders of a good vacation by the sea.  And photos of this mysteriously beautiful sea! 

The Black Sea coast is a place of fabulous vistas, and absolutely inviting seascapes.  Warm and hospitable, the climate is perfect for a summers beach holiday.  We have seen lots of people swimming at the crowded beaches near town here in the summer, but that is not really what it is about.  In fact, the fresh water draining from the river deltas around populated port cities like Odessa continues to be polluted, and not recommended for drinking.  So most people use the opportunity to stroll endlessly, and visit arcades, cafes, bars and clubs here.  Nonetheless, at Chersonesus for example, while the archeology of the site speaks volumes, some obliviously walk through in search of a place to a "swim", to assert their dominance over a little portion of the pebbly beach at this fabulous government protected site.  They seem indifferent to the foreign eyes who thirstily soak up a sense of its hallowed and honorable past.  

I imagine living in a place absolutely soaking in history can affect a person's character, perhaps of the entire nation.  It might get tiring, boring or tedious to see old stones, old temples, places that are ancient, when you are yearning for new, for opportunity, for the newest technology, for prosperity.  It might seem that the stones could be better used, the artifacts crushed, burned, or repurposed.  All that old stuff means one thing to the locals, easily gotten resources to sell.  It is something completely different to tourists from newer civilizations. 

Feeling a bit like a tourist, a bit like a native/foreigner, and a curious traveller lately.  Can I bring more trinkets, more "stuff" into the collection of valuable artifacts that I call home?  What about embroideries, pottery, and textiles?  What about songs, dances, melodies, rhythms and subtle turns of phrase?  Stories and history?  Without my active engagment with them, they are silent as the stones at Chersonesus.  The treasures I am acquiring don't take too much room in my suitcase, my mind is a buzzing.  
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