Today I got one of those great gifts that a traveler's gotta love. Unusual, one-of-a-kind, retro. On the other end of the continuum from the snazzy travel gadgets and apps available these days. Which are also nice. But this gift was unique.
It came wrapped in a map, In this case, a map of Germany with tourism information on the inside. Double-sided travel wrapping paper! And tied with string? Hardly. Tied with neon green shoelaces with the word "travel" repeated throughout. They'll be on my sneakers as soon as I finish this post.
The book, "Where on Earth: A Geografunny Guide to the Globe" was promoted in the 90's by the Smithsonian Institution, where my gift giver works. It has entries such as, "The Silk Road is not a street made of cloth. It doesn't have 'Dry-clean Only' written on it. It isn't even really a road. There are no signs saying, 'Silk Road, Next 3 Exits.' "
Or how about, "The Andes are not a bunch of guys named Andy--though it's pronounced that way." (I would add, guys or girls!)
A great book for kids for learning about geography. It was part of a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and National Geographic Society exhibition called, Earth 2U, Exploring Geography.
On the very first page, "Fig.1: The Earth," shows a flat earth with water dripping off the side and a ship falling off the edge. The caption? "(Just kidding)"
Yeah, okay, it's for kids, but it's a hoot reading it as an adult (which, really, is the only way I'm able to read it at the moment.)
Other friends returned from Germany the morning of Christmas Eve (hm, detect a pattern here?) and gave friends gifts bought at a German Christmas market. I got a slender glass mug that says, "Wintertraum: Das Eismarchen auf dem Stuttgarter Schlossplatz." No, I don't know what that means either and when I look it up I get German-language web sites, not surprisingly.
In the flurry of gift opening with eight people at a Georgetown bar last night, I didn't get around to reading the fine print and asking. But I love gifts brought from other countries or that make me think about far-off places in the world.
Did you get any travel-related gifts this season that travelers should know about?
Photos: Ellen Perlman