‘What did we see in Rome?’ wonders a character in E M Forster’s A Room With A View.
‘Rome? Guess that was where we saw the yellow dog,’ comes the reply. Forster was sending up the fatuous business of tourism at the end of the 19th century, when Americans were flooding into Europe to do the sights.
But from their visit to Rome, with the wonders of St Peter’s and the Coliseum, the only memories that some could recall were the sight of that yellow dog. It wouldn’t surprise Forster or Mark Twain (who poked fun at American tourists in The Innocents Abroad) that things are even worse today. Much worse
I’m sat on the deck of a cruise ship in Kusadasi, Turkey - watching thousands pour off the neighboring vessel to board buses which will take them to the ancient city of Ephesus. The temperature is 100 degrees and the crowds are oppressive. Is there any pleasure to be had in tramping around a classical site which, let’s be honest, looks much like any other classical site?
All any tourist risks doing in these circumstances is a) succumbing to heat stroke and b) speeding up the destruction of a famous antiquity by tramping over its fragile stones?
So I’m staying near the tourist shops, which sell the same old junk - but offered with a knowing grin (see the image above).
At Ephesus you can buy ‘genuine fake tourism.’