CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 27, 2015 – Around the world, curious travelers often seek out and visit famous sights they have heard about all their lives. Sometimes, however, such quests result in disappointment when one of these storied places or monuments fails to match its glowing reputation.
In alphabetical order, the following is my personal list of the 10 most eagerly anticipated treasures that failed to live up to their advance billing.
1 – The Alamo – This historic onetime mission and fortress is today a museum located in San Antonio. Though the history of the battle is impressive, this larger-than-life story is overshadowed by the structure’s modest size and cramped downtown location.
2 – Bethlehem – One difficult aspect of traveling in Israel is getting a rational handle on the considerable variety of religious sites.
The site of the manger where the birth of Christ is traditionally believed to have taken place is an example of one such site. Historians have made general estimates on the likely location of this momentous event, but its exact site is unknown.
More unsettling, however, is that 180 degrees behind the entrance to the manger is a mosque that was certainly not there at the time of Jesus’ birth. Somehow, that detracts from the aura of this important destination.
3 – Island of Capri – All those exotic and salacious stories about Tiberius, Caligula and others like them conjure images of Roman decadence in an otherwise idyllic location surrounded by the sea and bathed in glorious Italian sunshine.
Although Capri is still a gorgeous destination for the traveler, today it is a glorified shopping mall crammed onto an island. Crowded with day-trippers, Capri today is more notable for its congested streets and overpriced merchandise.
4 — The Channel Tunnel – The 31.4 mile Channel Tunnel is one of the greatest architectural achievements in history.
Linking Folkestone in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais in France, high-speed Eurostar trains travel through the “Chunnel” in approximately 20 minutes from country to country.
While the tunnel itself is an amazing accomplishment, the ride through the darkness as you travel from one side of the English Channel to the other is decidedly a non-event. That’s the reason why it’s included on my list.
5 — Leaning Tower of Pisa – Unlike many other sites throughout Europe, Pisa’s campanile, known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is a worthwhile tourist destination. This nearly 200-foot tower underwent extensive restoration between 1990 and 2001 to reduce the degree to which the tower leans.
Unfortunately, Pisa failed to get the message about tacky vendors and junk dealers. Today, there’s little to do in Pisa except to see the tower and shop for junk, making this site a “been-there-done-that” experience.
6 – The Little Mermaid – The operative word here is “little.” This internationally famous and beloved statue has been a symbol of the city of Copenhagen since 1913.
The harbor sculpture was a gift to the city and was meant to honor the well-known fairy tale written by native son Hans Christian Andersen. But it’s the miniature size of the statue that causes the letdown. When seen in photographs, the Little Mermaid always appears larger than it really is.
7 – London Bridge – We only have ourselves to blame for this one. The “original” London Bridge is actually now in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. But what was dismantled in London and re-engineered and re-assembled in Arizona was actually the 1831 edition of the famous bridge. Legend has it that the people who bought it thought they were buying its predecessor, Tower Bridge, but the UK and U.S. principals involved in the deal have long denied this.
Today in the UK, New London Bridge has replaced the one now in Arizona, and there’s nothing particularly distinctive about it. But head for the Tower of London and get a view of Tower Bridge and you will be pleasantly surprised.
8 – The Mona Lisa – It is the most recognized painting in the world. Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile has been the subject of speculation for hundreds of years. Many experts believe it is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
Yet as with some other members of this list, size matters. The diminutive nature of this famous work by Leonardo da Vinci leaves many visitors busily discussing its dimensions rather than its genius.
9 — Plymouth Rock – Future colonial governor William Bradford is said to have been the first of the Mayflower pilgrims to step ashore in 1620, and the site of Bradford’s monumental step has become an important American symbol. Truthfully, Plymouth Rock is more accurately described as Plymouth Pebble. Plymouth Rock shares once again that problem of diminished size, which also minimizes its reputation.
10 – Pyramids – The Pyramids of Egypt have been around for nearly 5,000 years. Little wonder they have been the focus of archaeological and historical curiosity for centuries. Sadly, the hordes of beggars and street hawkers are more prevalent at the site today than flies on honey. There is no escaping the throngs that surround these astonishing ancient monuments, and that fact alone immediately eliminates the joy of experiencing some of the greatest architectural and historic achievements in the history of civilization.
The destinations and attractions described in this list are unquestionably worthy of their notoriety. Unfortunately, other influences have combined to relegate many of them to little more than curiosities.
That said, the greatest joy of travel is discovery. As someone once wrote, “every place is undiscovered until you discover it yourself.” As you travel, take the time to explore. Absorb the world through your pores. You may be amazed at what you “discover” for yourself.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award- winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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