Pamela MacNaughtan

What is your favourite travel souvenir? Is there a great story attached to it, or is it something that caught your eye while you were out exploring?

I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs when I travel. Part of it it due to space, and part is due to money; and my desire to travel ‘on the cheap’. That doesn’t mean I never buy souvenirs, it just means I am extremely picky!

In my opinion the best souvenirs are the ones that come with a great story. The kind of souvenirs that evoke emotion; and transport you back to your travels whenever you see/touch/use them.

This post is about a souvenir I brought back from Azerbaijan, the man who gave it to me, and the travel memory that I will treasure every time I see it.

The Story of a Souvenir

I was standing outside the customs building at the ferry port in Baku, Azerbaijan; along with about 30 other ralliers who were planning to take the ferry across the Caspian Sea from Baku to Turkmenbashi. The air was hot, the sun was high, the sky was blue, and we (the ralliers, and myself) were bored out of our minds.

That is when I noticed a couple of the guys hanging around the train tracks beside the customs building (the ferries that run between Baku and Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan usual contain train cars. What’s inside? I have no idea!). I slowly walked over to see what was happening.

Coins waiting to be run over by a train car.

I have no idea who came up with the idea, but some of the guys had taken foreign coins from their pocket and placed them on the train tracks. The idea was to see how flat the coins would get when they were run over by the train cars. It seemed silly at first, but when the train cars actually started to move those of us near the tracks were completely enthralled.

Sounds silly, and boring, right? It wasn’t.

Five of us stood by the tracks as the train wheels moved slowly, inching closer and closer to the coins laying on the tracks. We waited, the anticipation mounting, then, just as the wheels were about to run over some coins, the train stopped.

“Ooooohhhhhhh!!!!!!” we all groaned, in unison. It was as though we were watching a football playoff game on TV.

In a very short period of time, these coins had become the most important items in the world. Coins were added to the tracks and taken off. When the train started moving again some of the guys scrambled to place their coins just in front of the wheels. As you may guess, the coins were flattened quite a bit after being run over 4 or 5 times; with the exception of a two-toned Hungarian Forint. For some reason, this particular coin wouldn’t flatten out.

Flattened coins!

It didn’t take long for some of the other ralliers to join in, along with a couple locals.

One of the locals, an older man with a charming smile and a delightful personality, picked up the Hungarian Forint and placed it between in a small space where one track ended, and the other began. Unlike the others (which were laying on the track), this coin was sticking up from the track, so when the train started to move again, the coin bent in half.

I hadn’t seen it happen, but the local man walked over to where I was standing and placed the coin (which was now in two pieces; the gold center having popped out when the coin was bent) in my hand. I looked at the coin and told him how awesome it was, and went to give it back to him. He simply smiled and told me to keep it. I was smiling from ear to ear.

A bent coin, the BEST souvenir I have ever brought home!

A coin that has been bent (and popped) by a train is not expensive, and it’s not something I can find in a store. It is, however, the most unique and absolutely fabulous souvenir I have ever brought home from a trip. Why? It comes with a story, a travel memory that brings a smile to my face whenever I see/touch it.

For years to come, whenever I wear this coin around my neck (I think it’ll make an awesome necklace) I will think of the Mongol Rally, hanging out at the ferry port, and the adorable older man who charmed his way into my heart.


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