Last few days have been a blur. Finished off Oslo in a mad rush, visiting the Norwegian Holocaust Museum (housed in the same villa Vidkun Quisling appropriated for himself during WWII). The museum has, surprisingly, a fine collection of ephemera from the era:
Then a blast across the Bygdøy peninsula for a peek at something altogether more humane: Viking raiding ships.
Went to the Norwegian Folk Museum to chat with a Trondheim farmer’s wife circa 1950:
She gave me coffee. I’m not gonna pass up free coffee in this town, even if it’s full of grounds.
Oh, we did all kinds of stuff. Toured Oslo’s fine city hall, went to the resistance museum, had kebab in the city’s historic core, talked with locals about Norway’s immigrants (surprise, many of them are Swedish) and so on. But I’m not here to tell you that. I’m here to rant.
Specifically, I’m here to rant about tourists. Cheeky of me, I know, seeing as how I’m a tourist myself. Well, a tourist of sorts… see, there’s traveler-tourists and then there’s tourist-tourists, and they suck.
It’s not just that they drag entire unwilling families around, complete with screaming toddlers and bored, sodcasting teenagers. It’s not just that they obsessively photograph everything forty times. It’s not just that they back across entire walkways to take pictures (and have the nerve to act irate when you cruise through their photo-op). It’s not just their idiotic spending habits that jack up prices everywhere for everyone. It’s not even the last-copter-out-of-Saigon way they panic-crowd every queue for a train, bus, or museum opening. It’s all those things, but it’s more than that.
It’s mostly just the bucket list.
The been-there, done-that way they move from site to site, smacking their gum and fussing with equipment, not really paying any attention to what’s going on around them. There’s a reason the Munch collection in Norway’s national gallery is constantly mobbed, and it’s not because he was Norway’s best painter, it’s because he’s Norway’s best-known painter and all the guidebooks steer people right into his collection.
Done this way, Europe is just some funny people on shitty bikes riding past old buildings and statues of kings on horses.
Why bother, if you’re not going to slow down for one minute and walk three blocks off the Strøget, where you may find a group of college kids set up in the streets playing a ripping rendition of ‘But not for Me’?
Why bother, if the only question you’ll ever have for a local is “where’s the toilet?”, if every meal you eat is from TGI Friday’s or Burger King, if you’re only checking off monetized sites from the past at the expense of entirely missing the present?
I don’t get it. Give me the off-season, the side-street, the local bus, the cramped pub any day. I’m no fan of laundromats, but figuring out how one works in Denmark has been an experience in personal growth, entirely worthwhile (hint: use the separate centrifuges). Learning that you can’t always trust Google translate (you’d say “jeg er met” to mean “I’m full” in Norwegian, not “jeg er full“, which means “I’m drunk”) might be a tad embarrassing, but it also provides a story. Fighting with simple things, like light switches and toilet handles, provides a needed respite from the terrible dailiness of your normal life and gives you a true vacation.
Or at least something to talk about when you get back.