Lately when I bring something home from a trip abroad, it’s almost always been something consumable that won’t end up taking up space on a countertop or buried in a box only to be discovered again years from now. I like to think of myself as a bit of a minimalist, and I thought I’d gotten better over the years at just letting my photos be my souvenirs since I’m more likely to look back at them than almost anything else.
All I brought from home from a trip to Colombia was some great coffee and from South Africa, a single box of Amarula filled chocolates. But Paris before that was a little different, and Italy too. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I wanted to buy and bring home during my recent trip to Scandinavia.
Maybe it was my happy memories of living in Copenhagen during college or the eye-catching Scandinavian design that overcame my usual (?) tendencies. I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the price of things because there’s no deal waiting to be discovered in Scandinavia. Not even one. Everything is expensive.
Even so, I somehow ended up coming home with a pretty big haul of (mostly consumable!) Scandinavian souvenirs. I think souvenirs are best when they extend the life of your trip, maybe by bringing home a unique flavor or by letting you share your trip with interested friends and family. These uniquely Scandinavian souvenirs didn’t disappoint. So I thought I’d share them here with you.
Here are my Scandinavian souvenirs…
1. Coins from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Coins are the only thing I’ve kept with any regularity from various trips I’ve taken over the years, always adding them to the same small jar when I get home, but these were for my nephews. They’ve started getting excited about maps and faraway places, and coins from other countries are tangible and still very foreign.
2. Reindeer jerky and hard sausage. I got these along with an extensive lesson in Norwegian cuisine from a wonderful little shop called Fenaknoken right near City Hall in Oslo. We saved these until after my nephews has gone to bed. No one wanted to be the one to tell them that people anywhere eat Santa’s beloved reindeer.
3. Old fashioned Danish candy. They’re still handmade at Sømods Bolcher’s store front factory in Copenhagen. Depending on the day you visit, you may be able to watch them cutting, pulling, and rolling out the intricate little hard candies, or you can watch it here if you miss it like I did. I brought back a mixed bag with licorice since it’s so Scandinavian, even though I knew that the Princess candies (vanilla berry flavor) were going to be the real hit.
4. Cloudberry syrup. I had no idea what cloudberries were before I started planning my trip to Scandinavia in April. Somehow I missed out on them completely during my first visit in college. I bought this syrup from the same store in Oslo where I got the reindeer sausage. It’s got a sweet but slightly tart flavor. So far we’ve added it to Prosecco, and I was told that it’s very good heated and poured over vanilla ice cream.
5. Whisky lingonberry jam from Stockholm. If you’ve never tried lingonberries, I think the best comparison might be a cranberry. They’re pretty tart, and the jame is often paired with meat, especially Swedish meatballs. I used this jam to make a baked brie when I had some friends. To say it was a hit would be an understatement. One of my friends left with the rest of the jam, she was so enamored. I found it at a nostalgic little Swedish gift and food store called Alla Tiders Handelsbod while wandering through Old Town Stockholm.
6. Modern ceramic mortar and pestle also from Stockholm. This was my one non-consumable purchase. I debated whether or not to buy it because it’s pretty heavy, and I still had a stop to make in Helsinki before coming home. I’m glad I decided to go for it, and I’m happy to report that I’ve used it multiple times to grind spices in the last couple of months.
7. Tom’s Skildpadde (turtle) candy with rum cream and caramel inside. Apparently, these are pretty popular in Denmark. In 2010 Tom’s produced 500 tonnes of them. But these hardly count as a souvenir… They’re tiny, they almost didn’t make it home, and they weren’t shared.
8. More cloudberries. This time it was jam from Anton & Anton a gourmet food market in Helsinki. I used the jam to make a classic Finnish dessert for some friends right after getting home. Cloudberry jam and cream are poured over Finnish Bread Cheese (which you can buy inside security at the Helsinki airport) and then baked until melty. We ate it with crackers, and enjoyed every bite.
9. Nobel prize chocolate medals. Guaranteed to make you smarter by association, they’re served to the recipients of the Nobel prize at the banquet held in Stockholm every year, and they’re only sold at the Nobel Museum.
And, last but definitely not least…
10. Ymerdrys. Ymer what, you ask? Ymerdrys is what I waited 16 years to taste again after eating it regularly for breakfast when I studied in Copenhagen during college. Finding it involved a trip to a couple of different grocery stores in Copenhagen. It’s rye bread crumbs mixed with sugar. For lack of a better translation, I’ve been calling it rye bread granola.
This is how I’ve been eating the ymerdrys I brought home with me. Over yogurt and with a little jam for breakfast. Once it runs out, I’ll probably take a stab at making it or something very similar myself.
I didn’t really have to wait 16 years to taste ymerdrys again. Even though I didn’t know the Danish name, I could have gotten busy googling, just like I did when I knew I was headed to Copenhagen. Instead, I just waited… Ymerdrys is one of those things for me that was uniquely and specially tied to a place and to a very specific set of memories. And, it was there that I wanted to experience it again.
Sometimes good things do come to those who wait, and this was definitely one of those times!
So how about you… When you travel, do you bring home lots of souvenirs? Or are you simply satisfied with photos?
Other Posts From Scandinavia
Here are all the other posts from my trip:
- I’m in Scandinavia! // I visited Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki and wasn’t ready to leave.
- Daffodils, Fur Hats & Still Frozen Seas, Spring in Scandinavia // It was good, but fun!
- Cloudberries + Bread Cheese = A Quintessentially Finnish Dessert // A great dessert I brought home from Helsinki .
- What Every First Grader Needs to Know About Sweden // Featuring my inquisitive oldest nephew.
- And, The Zen of Norway’s Northern Lights // Just because it’s beautiful!