Some popular destinations are teeming with tourists, their public squares are congested with pedestrians, and the streets are clogged with taxis and tour buses. Yes, they are overcrowded…but yes, they are worth visiting! With the advent of the mega-humongous cruise ships, too many tourists can become an environmental problem. In some places around the world that once sought tourist’s dollars, they are now figuring out ways to limit the number of visitors per day. For starters, here are four to put at the top of your Bucket List. Go there while you still can.
VENICE, ITALY: One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Venice is also one of the world’s premiere travel destinations drawing some 18-million visitors annually to this unique city. Napoleon called the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) the largest drawing room in Europe. I call it the most unique living room in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It may be the most crowded, (with people and pigeons); the wettest (when the tide rises); or the most expensive ($15 for a cappuccino) living room in the world, but it is by far the most unique.
|PEOPLE AND PIGEONS IN ST. MARK’S SQUARE|
The picture-postcard city of Venice, floating on an equally photogenic canal, has been dubbed La Serenissima, (The Most Serene). She has also been called the faded beauty in the family of Italian cities…“her blondness now from a bottle and her perfume slightly stale”. No matter what you call her, Venice is a city in which you will want to get lost. Finding your way back, amid the maze of streets and “highways” paved in water, is part of the Venetian experience. Whether you choose to walk your legs off, hire a private water taxi, ride the public water bus known as the vaporetto, or glide along in a private (but pricey) gondola, you will find something amazing in every nook and cranny of Venice.
|GONDOLAS PLY THE CANALS OF VENICE|
BARCELONA, SPAIN: When Ada Colau, took the office of Mayor in June 2015 she vowed to limit the number of visitors to Barcelona. She told the newspaper El Pais. “If we don’t want to end up like Venice, we will have to put some kind of limit in Barcelona. We can grow more, but I don’t know how much more.” Barcelona itself is a veritable museum of art and architecture, much of which can be seen and appreciated without ever entering a museum.
Visitors from around the world come to Barcelona to follow the ‘Route Gaudi”, an architectural tour of the works of this pioneer in the Modernist Movement of Architecture. The sinuous lines and curlicues of Sagrada Familia Cathedral (Church of the Sacred Family), with surreal spires said to resemble a melting wedding cake, were initiated by Gaudi in 1882 and has not as yet been completed.
|GAUDI’S SAGRADA FAMILIA CATHEDRAL|
Gaudi’s La Pedrera exemplifies the inseparability of art and technique. Nearby, the Casa Batllo´ is another Gaudi example of Modernism, the architectural trend of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Parc Guell, Gaudi’s architectural extravaganza is a surrealistic park that has been compared to Dorothy’s “Oz” and Alice’s “Wonderland”. The creative magic of this eccentric architect is exemplified in this park where visitors are greeted by the architect’s curvy pink house (Casa-Museu Gaudi), a grinning mosaic frog, and a pavilion that is supported by mushroom-like columns.
GINGERBREAD HOUSE IN GAUDI’S PARC GUELL
REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: The boom in tourism in Iceland is posing a threat to the fragile infrastructure of this small North Atlantic Island. Some restrictions are already being put in place to limit the number visitors to Reykjavik and the island’s other small towns.
Reykjavik, the most northern capital in the world, contains approximately one-half the population of the entire country. Picturesque homes, in a riot of gay colors, surround the Arctic Tern-inhabited lake in the center of the city. The bustling harbor, the historic old town huddling nearby, and the modern new town, are all encircled by mountains for which the people feel an intimate affection. Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik (meaning Smoky Bay) is often called "The Smokeless City" because it is heated by geothermal energy in the form of boiling water piped directly from natural hot springs. Perlan (The Pearl), a geothermal water storage tank, is a domed architectural wonder.
|PERLAN (THE PEARL), A GEOTHERMAL WATER STORAGE TANK|
Just 625-miles west of Norway, Iceland is a craggy land of fire and ice...where steam and snow are side by side...where waterfalls, erupting volcanoes, boiling geysers and bubbling hot springs lie next to glistening glaciers and ice fields. This land of Europe's largest waterfalls is etched with craters of slumbering volcanoes that pockmark an eerie landscape so lunar-like that America's moon-mission astronauts trained there.
Once thought to be a cold barren place sans people, this Arctic land has no snow and ice in the summer. Berries, vegetables and flowers grow in many places and the sun shines on the entire region for at least part of the day from March to September. That is, unless it rains. At the onset of summer, the sun never sets and white nights illuminate the annual June 23rd golf tournament which begins at midnight. They shouldn't call Iceland, Iceland.
ANTARCTICA: The number of tourists landing on the world’s frozen last frontier is at an all time high. While the numbers are still being controlled, the possible danger to the environment could result in a reduced number of people allowed to land there at some date in the near future. The curious travelers who come to Antarctica come because they have long been obsessed by the white continent that lies entrenched behind grinding pack ice at the bottom of the earth. They have a genuine love of nature, a sincere interest in conservation, a scientific curiosity, and a passion for exploring exotic destinations.
CRUISE SHIPS BRING TOO MANY TOURISTS TO ANTARCTICA
While Antarctica is the most forbidding, most inaccessible land on earth, it is also the most majestic and most pristine. This harshest, most inhospitable land is also the coldest, the windiest, the highest and the driest. Yet, this unknown southern land, that contains 90% of the world's fresh water and approximately 95% of the world's glacial ice, is the most eerily beautiful continent on earth. In short, Antarctica is the greatest show on ice.
|BABY IT’S COLD OUT THERE!|
WHEN IN ANTARCTICA, DRESS LIKE THE LOCALS.
TEXT AND PHOTOS by JANET STEINBERG
STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writer Awards. She is also a Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Cincinnati, Ohio