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Get The Best: 5 Buys From Around The World

MOROCCO | Tuesday, 29 March 2016 | Views [305]

People travel the world over to possess some of the most beautiful handmade pieces ever made; coveting the chance to go to exciting locales is sometimes even overshadowed by the drive to get their hands on pieces that can only be found in these exciting places. Turquoise water and white sandy beaches in Mallorca, snowcapped mountains in the Alps, and fields of tulips may be some people’s version of a holiday, but it’s for sure that a trip to Paris is as concerned with the Eiffel as it is with the baguettes, wine, and haute couture.


But what’s the secret to the trade of the best souvenir gifts around? Check out my tried and true list for getting the good stuff, even when you’re a traveller, even when you have a limited budget, and even when you feel like you’re not quite sure what the real thing looks like. Because there’s nothing else quite like it in the world when you return home like a victorious pirate, celebrating all your hard earned loot.


  1. Crystal in Bohemia.

Czech glass is one of the most sought after presents around; the area was home to the monarchies of the Middle Ages and the tradition of excellent chandeliers for gigantic halls and places to show off their endless wealth (in fact it’s the place where that beautiful champagne glass design was invented), and it’s a shame to head home without a nod to the culture and tradition when travelling in the area.


The big thing is figuring out whether the crystal is actually crystal or just glass. First, you’re going to know based on the weight; glass is infinitely lighter than the 24% or more lead-filled Czech crystal. The second is that glass is sometimes cut to be multifaceted and heavier, making it appear to be like crystal, but in the end the difference is in when you hold the product up to the light—the glass may reflect light beautifully, but the crystal is going to send rainbows all over the room in a way that must be seen to be believed!


  1. Carpets in Morocco.

Carpets are a famous Middle Eastern tradition reaching back thousands of years and in the last hundreds, it’s been one of those trade items that have made merchants incredibly rich and wealthy patrons very sumptuously decorated.


But when it comes to picking out a carpet for yourself it’s down to getting your hands on the mats. The golden rule when it comes to carpets from Turkey to Oman is all in the detailing, especially the mistakes. In a machine made carpet, there’s going to be no frayed edges, no piece out of place, and it’s going to feel a little different from a real carpet. If you’re looking for the real deal, stick your hand out and run it along the edges of the carpets, where there should be small imperfections that mark the weave for one that is handmade. If you can’t find a single mishap, put it back down—it’s definitely not one that is from a


  1. Electronics in Southeast Asia.

I’ve heard friends the world over tell me to get myself to every Chinatown in the world, or Taiwan market, or Thai stall, to get myself a great deal on electronics. I absolutely always resist and here’s why: a lot of time the goods you’re purchasing are not made in good conditions, are fakes, or even stolen.


Western electronics like iPhones that come with an iCloud lock on them are absolutely pickpocketed and sold on the black market somewhere, and that Blueberry you bought may not explicitly say it’s a Blackberry, but I’m not sure anyone shopping around here would notice. When I’m in Asia (or even Eastern Europe is the same) I stay clear away from anything technologically related, unless it’s at least 100 years old. My vote when traveling is always to go with handmade, and when possible, Kokeshi dolls.


  1. Leather in Turkey.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a major stop for everyone searching for beautiful silk scarves to spice stalls to turn into perfect Instagram moments, but high quality leather may be the thing that trumps even the beautiful handmade rugs, and getting the best deal is all in knowing your leather.


In fact, if you’re really into getting great quality, step away from the tourist hotspot that is the Grand Bazaar and instead try searching in Zeytinburnu—it gets you away from the shop traders who are used to haggling with unprepared tourists and into an area where over 500 shops are selling everything from leather handbags to beautiful jackets. Next, make sure you feel the leather of the products, experiment with a couple of different stores, and trust the less shiny, matte hides over a glossier finish.


  1. Masks in Italy.

Venetian masks are a cornerstone of the Italian provinces’ culture; a long tradition of Carnivale has made these decorative pieces some of the most sought after in the world, and it’s all because of the handmade intricacies that the masks are so well known for. But how to not be taken for a fool while you’re abroad? Stick to these few tips.


First, Venetian masks that are meant to be worn are typically made from papier mache, not porcelain or plastic. Also, less intricate design patterns are a good sign they aren’t original either, despite what stickers say. Look for minute details, gemstones that are set rather than glued, and if you find someone else sporting the exact same mask, here’s a hint: it probably wasn’t made by a mascherieri, in a tiny alleyway, off one of the grand canals.


It’s more than just getting a piece of your trip and heading back home it’s also helping keep those cultures, and their hand making traditions alive, well, and financed (which is the singular easiest and best way to make sure they survive for thousands of years to come). But if you’re not discerning in your search then you could benefit the fakes, and that undercuts the originals. So don’t take a blind eye—be vigilant, and then incredibly happy that you came home with a one of kind piece.


Tags: around the world, bohemia, italy, morocco, souvenirs, turkey

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