I have spent the last few weeks travelling in Europe, principally in Italy.
I have seen many wonders to refresh the soul, but as you travel through popular Cities and Resorts, you cannot escape the throng that is now modern day tourism. Each day, resorts are awash with the daily influx of holidaymakers, eager it seems to tick off that sight or experience from their bucket list.
Each destination has of course to face its challenges; Venice being one of them. Many tourists are trapped in the main canal thoroughfares, paying exacting prices for that Venetian experience. However, a short walk away from the main tourist areas reveals quaint and narrow canal passageways, peppered with small bars and restaurants which offer fine food and hospitality.
The main thoroughfare however is around St Mark's Basilica, its Square and the waterfront by the Doge's Palace. Hordes of tourists, with 'follow my brolly' tours whizz past in a frantic froth, some stretching to hear where they are, whilst others gaze at the ground in silence listening to their guide espouse some aspect of history through their ear-pieces.
I noticed one man trying to take a photograph of his wife with a rose, obviously bought from one of the many rose-sellers. I offered to take a photograph of them both and with his American twang, he instructed me how to optimise the best photo using his camera phone. Once taken and approved they asked us where we were from. My wife responded that we were from the UK. In response, his wife stated, 'Oh, you're British; but you speak English'. We continued the conversation without a blink of the eye and discovered that they hadn't apparently spoken to anyone other than themselves for several days, because they did not think people would understand them.
As we left these gentle adventurers behind, I would recommend that if you get the chance, sit in one of the waterfront bars and gaze toward the beautiful islands and their churches and buildings across the lagoon.
But, you need to be prepared, for as the afternoon stretches into the early evening, several colossus will appear and glide slowly and carefully across the lagoon into the Adriatic. These giant cruise ships offered their passengers that unique glimpse from the upper decks, of the sights around St Mark's Square, then turning their backs against the City until their next return.
As I walked through the back streets of Venice, I saw protest banners hanging from balconies calling for the end of these leviathan cruise ships from entering the lagoon; I think I agree with them, there is something obscene and out of place with their presence - the final piece of the jig-saw in turning Venice into a theme park?
I think that Tourism is such a precious experience, that it is in danger of overcrowding those precious gems around the world. What kind of experience can you be said to have had if you are simply frog-marched around a destination; do you actually care that you are missing a moment to savour a simple sight or sound? What kind of tourism delivers the belief that only your own language, food or culture can deliver the goods; should you have left home in the first place if you are not willing to stretch out and sample life elsewhere? Does gliding past centuries of history because you have the money to do so offer respect to that history, its environment or the people who live there?
I believe that tourism can deliver many experiences for many different tastes, but, must it be delivered at haste and only with a tick-box mentality; shouldn't we think about the the destination, our footprint and the people who live there who could perhaps deliver a richer experience?