The Dutch Tourist Dilemma

26 October 2010

Only people without historical knowledge will buy it

I’ve been in Athens now for two days and I have twice been forced to leave my bed at 6.30 – which is pretty hard for someone suffering from DSPS – because I wanted to visit the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. You need to be there very early, preferably when they’re opening, and with a reservation; it is the only way to actually see something. Even then, you will enjoy it for only an hour, because at nine, large groups of tourists start to arrive from the cruise ships in the port. Like cattle, they are driven along the sights, and to be honest: they don’t seem to understand the things any better than a cow would do.

It’s not just the Acropolis Museum. I’ve not blogged about the Agora Museum because I found it too crowded to enjoy. In Delphi, the well-meaning visitor will face the same problem after eleven o’clock, when the groups from Athens arrive. Fortunately, after four o’clock the shrine of Apollo is quiet, almost serene. I have beautiful memories of sitting near the temple, watching the sun go down, completely alone, except for one guard and dozens of birds.

What to do with tourists who are visiting a place because they’re expected to do something, but have not the faintest idea about what they are seeing, and are spoiling it for people who have prepared themselves? I once read an article in La Repubblica, in which this was called the Dutch Tourist Dilemma. Florence suffers from many Dutch tourists, people who at the end of the year decide to use the last free kilometers of their company’s car to go on a holiday and chose Tuscany because you can reach it in one day. They cannot distinguish a Botticelli from a Boccaccino, and make it difficult for those who do know the difference to understand it.

The author of the article did not know what was the solution. On the one hand, museums are within their rights to send away people when they make it impossible for other visitors to enjoy the works of art; on the other hand, even barbarians might learn a thing or two if they’re allowed to enter the museums. I don’t know the way out either, but I feel increasingly dissatisfied with modern museums. They do anything to attract visitors, and the people who do most to prepare themselves and study them, are forced to accept Vatican-like situations. Doing nothing is no longer an option.