Travel

There's Something for Everyone in Venice

For 30 years, I've been fascinated by all the goofy gimmicks sold by immigrants on the streets of Europe. The flaming Manneken-Pis cigarette lighters, the "How many more minutes of George W. Bush's presidency are left?" digital countdown clocks, the fluorescent launchers, the click-clack crickets, the selfie sticks.
05/09/2016 07:35pm ET | Updated May 10, 2017

For 30 years, I've been fascinated by all the goofy gimmicks sold by immigrants on the streets of Europe. The flaming Manneken-Pis cigarette lighters, the "How many more minutes of George W. Bush's presidency are left?" digital countdown clocks, the fluorescent launchers, the click-clack crickets, the selfie sticks. One year it's tripods and the next its 4-inch cartoon figures that magically dance against a wall. It seems they all have a season and the next year there's something different. You could fill a museum with them. Lately, a favorite is the blob. These guys are peddling this stuff illegally and are generally camera-shy, but I found a young man in Venice willing to demonstrate his goods on camera. Can you imagine buying this mysterious glob of chemical goo for your child? Yummy!

What are some of other bits of silliness sold on the streets of Europe over the years that you recall?

This is Day 27 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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