Theme Park (n.): Place where people spend exorbitant sums of money for the opportunity to stand in line for 8-10 hours and perhaps also enjoy some rides for 15-30 minutes. Overpriced food not included.
I arrived in Stockholm late at night and awoke the next morning in a city I had been excited to visit. The skies were blue and there wasn’t a drop of rain.
And do you know what? Stockholm was hideous. Various faded pastel colors adorned a lot of buildings, especially in the historic old town where the general atmosphere resembled a washed-out rainbow. The city likes to bill itself as the “Venice of the North” and I wasn’t buying it.
But, the Swedes are pretty ingenious. They’re the folks that gave us Ikea, Abba, and that cute little Muppet with the white hat. Of course they’re going to have great architectural artistry.
And then it clouded up and drizzled the day I left. Normally, rain is your enemy when you’re on vacation and none of the glossy tourist advertisements ever give you a glimpse of anything as “ugly” and “unmarketable” as gray skies. But this is Sweden. I already knew that major European cities with rotten northern weather often use Stockholm’s vomity color scheme, and now I could see why. That day, I took pictures of things I had passed over because they hadn’t seemed like anything special when the sun was out. Here are a few:
Because everything was so wonderful that day, I was running a little late and needed to grab a quick bite to eat before catching my plane. Please believe me when I tell you that you should never buy caviar in a tube from a 7-11. Not tasty.
Welcome to Lucerne, Switzerland. The city houses some of the most amazing tourist spots in the country, which for Switzerland is saying quite a lot. This is the Church of St. Leodegar:
Beautiful, isn’t it? I, like most photographers, took the necessary step of cropping out the street and parking lot near the front stairway. You can still tell it’s a busy area because of all the power lines and bus cables running across the picture.
I get it. Public transportation is clean and sexy and incredibly convenient in a city like Lucerne. But don’t the people who travel massive distances to see this (and the people who see it on a daily basis) deserve to appreciate it when they see it? How about the intrinsic value of maintaining the surroundings of something like this? I know, maybe it’s the ecologically friendly urban planners thinking they can get potential tourists to abstain from using all that jet fuel to get to Lucerne if they quietly sabotage the sights. Only the Swiss are permitted to mess with Swiss landmarks!
Realistically, though, I know it’s not always feasible to divert traffic away from a particular location. The church isn’t totally ruined, after all. All you have to do is look upwards, kind of like I was doing when I cropped this photo, and you still have something amazing.
In the photo, take a look at the far left, about a third of the way up. Here’s a close-up:
Beautiful, isn’t it? And how convenient for the handful of tourists who stay there! It’s like framing a Picasso with a toilet seat.
Never underestimate the tourism industry’s ability to muck up something wonderful and then claim they’re doing it for your benefit.
The hotel sign was smaller than a fingernail clipping on the original picture, and this was an old school photograph. No digital camera. With my old camera, I had to take the photo from across the street and, therefore, had a lot of cables and less-beautiful things end up in my picture. Back then, it wasn’t possible to get really close to what you were photographing and then zoom out to make it fit.
So now we get pretty pictures of the church when we look online and we never learn how the vicinity is really being treated. Chalk another one up to “keeping the people blissfully ignorant.”
Or, perhaps, keeping them ignorant until they spend the money to go visit.