A scent of place

Smells have an uncanny way of transporting me back to some far-away place, often without my even realizing what’s happening. For an entire year, every time I jogged past a nearby house I was smacked with memories of Ireland, where I lived for six months. Finally, after nearly making myself crazy trying to figure out what the smell was, I realized that they were burning coal. It was the scent of coal smoke that reminded me so much of Ireland, though I can’t recall ever noticing it when I lived there.

And when I arrived in Bangkok for work last fall, I couldn’t stop smiling because all the smells I had forgotten about were slamming me. The city mixes a chunky scent stew of frying oil, curry, exhaust, urine, incense, and wet cement. I love it – it’s Thailand to me.and I love Thailand. In reverse, when there I’d walk into an air-conditioned Starbucks, with its somewhat sanitized coffee aroma, and feel like I was back in the States.

I usually never noticed these scents when I was constantly surrounded by them. But their sudden appearance out of context (or upon revisiting a place) will jolt my memory completely unexpectedly.

What smells do you associate with a specific place?