Whining About a Problem of Privilege

November 05, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

I will stipulate that what I am about to write is an ill-tempered screed about a problem 99 percent of the world's population would love to have. I will add that it's a problem I brought on myself.

I'm talking about the inevitable crowds at bucket-list attractions. I'm tempted to write "mobs" or "hordes" instead of "crowds," but I don't want to seem misanthropic.

The picture above was made a little while ago at the legendary Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. If you've never been there, it's a series of palaces constructed by the Arab kings who ruled southern Spain from roughly the eighth through the fifteenh century. It's renowned for the delicate elegance of its arches, tiles, fountains and carvings. If you look above the heads of the small throng of people in the picture above, you can even see some of those things.

When I was a boy, I had a card game called "Authors." Each famous author in the deck had four cards representing one of his or her famous works. One of the authors was Washington Irving, and one of his four works was "Tales of the Alhambra." I couldn't imagine then what an Alhambra was, but that is I guess when I first felt the desire to see it.

But by the time I helped plan the itinerary for this year's trip to Spain, I knew better. I'd been surrounded by hordes at Angkor Wat. I'd pushed through crowds of sweaty schoolkids in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.  I knew that in the modern world, mass tourism is a fact of life.

Still, I couldn't resist. I wanted to see the place Washington Irving wrote about. I did.

I saw sights I will never forget, like the one in the picture above left. A father hunches behind his daughter. She holds her mouth open, so that he can take a phone picture that will make it appear that the little girl is drinking from the stream of water emerging from a lion's mouth in a fountain carved by masterful artisans centuries ago. Very cool. Almost as ingenious as the people who hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Or the influencer who gets her pic made in the Alhambra (above right).

I know. I am snobby and stupid to think that I could have the same kind of experience at the Alhambra that Washington Irving had 200 years ago. I should just be grateful that I got to see it.

But if you know me, and you ever hear me talking about visiting other bucket-list places like Machu Piccu or the Taj Mahal, kindly take a blunt object and beat me over the head with it until I come to my senses.

 

 


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