Shopping always seems to be a popular pastime for people on vacation. And it was certainly enjoyable for me on my last trip to London– I relished the chance to visit high street shops and department stores like Marks and Spencer, to see what kinds of fashion and jewellery they were offering. And what I found was to my taste; I came away with a few new tops plus a pleated olive drab skirt and some jeans! But even those delightful articles of clothing pale in comparison to my other finds.
I’m always on the lookout for antiques and especially military artifacts when I’m out and about. Markets are always good places to start, and London abounds with them! I came across the Piccadilly Market outside St. James Piccadilly, and it soon became apparent that it was fortunate I did!
The market had crafts, antiques, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. And some lovely Union flag bunting!
I quickly looked around most of the stalls, only pausing at the antique ones. But there was something even more fantastic than antiques at this market– there was a stall selling Russian things, including an enormous array of genuine military badges and pins! I couldn’t believe my luck. At home I always hope to find some sort of old Soviet military artifacts at garage sales or surplus stores, but there never seems to be anything. So this was incredible, and just looking at all of the pins was one of the highlights of my trip!
This is a Komsomol pin– Komsomol being a Soviet youth organization and political party joined by most young Soviet citizens
The pin with the bat is a Spetsnaz pin; Spetsnaz is Russia’s special forces and it remains to be surrounded with great mystery and intrigue. The star/banner pin is a Guards pin; Guards units were military units which either earned the name by their valour in battle, or which were designated for special tasks. And the Lenin pin is a Pioneers pin; Young Pioneers were children too young for Komsomol
Away from the market, I found some fantastic loot at museum gift shops. I went to the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast (both managed by the Imperial War Museum), and they each had a very impressive array of educational and unique souvenirs– including lots of books! I only wish I could have bought another suitcase to fill with books and take back with me…
I love books, and these ones are just enthralling! Frugal cooking, war poetry, and a secret agent’s manual: what more does a WWII aficionado need?
A look inside my very own ration book
This is full of facts about two brilliant tanks, which I can’t wait to memorize!
A lot of these tips would be good to remember today, given our consumer culture!
Kitschy souvenirs never do much for me– when I go somewhere, I want to bring back something that has a story and that will make me remember it. That’s why even though, for example, my military pins have nothing to do with London, I know I’ll always link them with this trip. I was so fortunate to find the awesome things I did, and I value them considerably more than I would an “I Love London” T-shirt or a Big Ben keychain!! I could not be more happy about my London hoard!