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… second in a series on mass tourism

H

erding. It’s the only word for the gangs of mute tourists meandering around in red hats, or sporting yellow badges, or chasing blue flags held aloft by multilingual guides wearing headsets connected to portable speakers. Hundreds of groups, thousands of tourists, an endless procession of the semi interested, suffering back ache or sore feet or the effects of last night’s wine, traipsing daze-like around San Marco Square in Venice, then squeezing through St. Mark’s Basilica and ganged like lemmings on one bridge to peer at the Bridge of Sighs behind the Doge’s Palace.

These hordes have turned Venice into an empty shell with vast parts of the city now home only to old buildings, canals, hucksters and tourists. All pretense that this is, or was, a living community has been washed away in the tsunami of sightseers.

It’s no different at other global marquee destinations including, for example, Ephesus, the ruins of the Biblical city near the Turkish town of Selchuk. Dozens of bus tours unload there each day. Passengers are guided around, they snap pix, buy trinkets and leave (in an hour or less).  There are so many people that the last time I was there, I wondered if it was possible for cameras to suck the light out of a place, like sucking the air out of a sealed room.

Surely we’re meant to respect places like this. Surely they deserve not only protection, but a considered approach, a sense of what they mean and why they matter. Surely they are meant to be cherished, not treated like a one night stand. Surely…