The Bosnian Bazaar

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One of my great joys of travel is discovering the souvenirs different countries and cultures promote for tourists. I love walking through souks and bazaars, poking around in the merchandise, and listening to the shopkeepers push their wares.

We have schlepped more stuff around the world than I care to recall. We’ve stashed Chinese roof tiles and Moroccan rugs in our suitcases; and coddled an Indian Ganesha mask and Masai warrior shield on crowded airplanes. (That was obviously when airline carry-on restrictions were a lot more lax!)

I’ve come to realize that these souvenirs seem to fall into three distinct categories. And the bazaars of Bosnia do not disappoint.

1. The “Oh…Um…You shouldn’t have!” Gift Souvenir. Remember the item you thought was so unique and fun when you were shopping, but when you got it home, it just seemed tacky! (Ask my sisters. They’ve been the recipients of these gifts for years.) I hereby nominate the Bosnian Belly Dancing Outfit.

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2. The “Bad Taste” Souvenir. In the USA we have so many souvenirs that fit in this category. You know the ones – they usually involve some inventive way to display toilet paper. In Bosnia, the award goes to “Ammunition as Art.” Here, bullets and rifle shells are turned into ballpoint pens. Bad form!


3. The “That’s actually pretty cool!” Souvenir. I always stumble across items that stop me in my tracks and take my breath away. In Bosnia I fell in love with these gorgeous little stained glass lamps that twinkle and evoke such a “Turkish coffee house” mood.

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Alas, we have a rule. “You buy it, you carry it!” And my little red, rolling backpack is already stuffed to the gills. Guess I’ll just have to settle for the photo.

Happy Shopping,

Evil Eyes


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

34 thoughts

  1. The “You buy it, you carry it” rule? I trump it with the “Do you want your mother to think you didn’t care enough to bring her a present?” statement. Works every time… Loved your photos and I want that lamp. Cheers, Jadi

    1. Jadi, I totally love the “don’t you love your mother” card. Too funny. It was all I could do to keep from buying a lamp, but I’ve learned my lesson with things that are heavy and fragile! 🙂 ~Terri

  2. Ha! I would definitely be carrying belly dancer outfits home. And probably a bullet-point pen for my son.

    I think the tackiest souvenir I’ve indulged in a the Manneken Pis corkscrew from Brussels. For those who don’t know, Manneken Pis is the sculpture of a naked little boy peeing into a fountain, so you can imagine what body part is used for the corkscrew.

    1. Juliann, I’m so glad to know that someone else (besides James) fell for the Manneken Pis corkscrew! 🙂 Of course, now he can’t get it through security in his carry-on bag! ~Terri

  3. I love shopping the world and am planning small group shopping trips around the globe, launching next year. I have carried many awkward items on board a plane. Cramming huge ceramic bowls from Morocco in our suitcase, hauling a 4 foot Moroccan lamp around on the Underground in London on a 24 hour layover and somehow we always end up buying a rug (not exactly the smallest souvenir!). Love this post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sheena, given all your fabulous accessories you must be a shopping maven – always finding something unique. I love all the stuff you’ve lugged around the world. The Massai warrior shield I brought home from Kenya was so bulky that I had to sit with it on my lap. At least I was doubly protected if the plane went down! 🙂 ~Terri

  4. Your shopping adventures reminded me of the souk in Tunis where we actually did spend ALL of my allowance on a ‘Persian’ carpet made of silk. We had to offload some items to meet the latter day luggage weight limit coming home. We won’t do that again! I do my gift buying online now. I help pay for Jeff Bezos’ vacations.
    I am curious to see how similar Croatia is to Bosnia. I will find out very soon! Thank you for a great series. – Mike

    1. Mike, that’s amazing! We bought a rug in the Tunis souk too when we were living in London! Fortunately ours was a small wool one so we were able to stuff it in an Army duffle bag … and after all our downsizing – we still have it.

      I think you will really enjoy the shopping opportunities you’ll see in Croatia. When do you depart? ~Terri

    1. I’m with you on that one Judi! The cool ones are the most elusive, but I have a few treasured finds. Poporo from Columbia; masks from Bali; and scarves from Thailand are some of my faves. Thanks so much for stopping by. All the best, Terri

      1. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you find something awesome while travelling as well! I got fisherman pants in Thailand, and they turned out to be the most comfortable pair of pants I own, even now!

  5. I gave up buying souvenirs a long time back, aside from occasional jewelry or textiles that take up little room. These days I take photos instead. But unlike you, I thought repurposing the ammunition rained on Sarajevo rather admirable.

    1. Like you Kathy, ever since we decided to simplify our lives so we could travel, we’ve lugged home very few souvenirs. So it’s just “window shopping” for me, but I do get a kick out of it! ~Terri

  6. I’ll never forget the time I stuffed cactus in my carry-on! Sticky business. In college I brought a portable TV back to school on my lap. Those were the days. 🙂

    1. Pam, I love the cactus story! Ouch! My sister has a tiny prickly pear she brought home from vacation years ago – now it’s as tall as her house! I would have like to seen you with the TV. 🙂 ~Terri

  7. You’d be my new BFFs if you brought me back one of those stained glass lamps! Don’t know where I’d put it tho. It might pose a hazard hanging from the ceiling of the RV!

    1. Too funny Carol … I can just see it swingin’ and swayin’ now! 🙂 It looks like I could have made a whole bunch of new friends if I’d just brought some of those cute little lamps home. ~Terri

  8. As the creator of SouvenirFinder, it goes without saying that I LOVE this post! I’ve certainly made a few souvenir mistakes (like when I just had to buy something from the DMZ!) but for the most part I try to find cool things I’ll use back home. Personally I would have loved the belly dance outfit! And I travel with empty space and a luggage scale to make sure I can bring things like those stained glass lamps back (they look so sad and lonely to be left behind!). Really enjoy your blog, wonderful writing.

    1. Kiki,
      It looks like we are kindred spirits! I think the belly dance outfits would have been a big hit back home. One of our funniest acquisitions was in a Marrakesh Souk. A merchant convinced James he needed some Moroccan slippers, and he tried one on. But when he got home he discovered the second slipper was waaaay smaller than the one he tried on. We still laugh about it.
      So, I would love to know what you had to buy from the DMZ. 🙂 ~Terri

  9. Well, I’d still rather receive bullet shells as art rather than another clunky I Love NY key chain with big rhinestones, pink flowers that weigh 1lb even without keys on it. 🙂

    1. Susan, after your recent camping adventures I was more inclined to get you the “southern staple souvenir” – the miniature outhouse that holds a roll of toilet paper! 🙂 But if you want the ammunition, so be it. ~Terri

  10. Travelling by motorcycle seriously limits souvenir buying 😦 …. still, I guess it saves buying bad ones 🙂
    I did however buy a cartridge pen from Sarajevo; I thought the ways in which the war time artillery was being recycled was creative and skilful – even if I only had room for a pen. Much to my regret I gave it to a friend who subsequently lost it (supposedly!).

  11. Those “Bosnian” belly dancing outfits are also “northern Cypriot/Turkish” belly dancing outfits and made 3 little girls in London very happy – which was just the right age for their sparkly tackiness!

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