Opinion

Marvels dwarfed by humanity

By John Lewis

After weeks staring at the lawn and wondering if you will ever need to mow it again, the day arrives when it is time to go on holiday.

Because I like to imagine the world from my verandah, I find holidays slightly embarrassing and ridiculous.

Living in the privileged quarter of the planet we get several weeks a year to take time out and visit somewhere different to ‘‘recharge our batteries’’ — a quaint phrase that reflects our status as robot workers.

But mention ‘‘holiday’’ to a Cambodian tuk-tuk driver, or a Congolese cobalt miner and there would be no cruise ship snaps to compare.

Most of the world never has a holiday — and yet, the world is being swamped by tourists.

Two years ago I had to follow the fluttering little red flag of a Chinese tourist party to reach Rome’s Trevi Fountain.

I had looked at photos of the place and I thought it was a deliciously crazy example of the ancient city’s high Baroque masters.

I imagined being stunned at the silly magnificence of its size.

Silly me.

It was dwarfed by a heaving press of humanity.

The narrow streets surrounding the fountain were rivers of jostling people — it was impossible to find anything without following the flags of official tourist guides.

Thank God for the Chinese.

I had a similar experience at the Pantheon with its open dome, which I imagined would be a place to contemplate the ancient power of light and human expression from Augustus to the Renaissance.

I imagined being awed at the feet of Raphael’s tomb.

What I got was a shoulder-to-shoulder shuffle with a thousand selfie snappers packed into a circular room the size of a basketball court.

I never saw Raphael’s tomb — I was swept back out the temple door like a piece of flotsam at the mouth of the Amazon.

Next on the list was St Peter’s Basilica — but I said nope.

I would rather look at the pictures, and avoid the elbows of strangers.

It was the same in France — we avoided the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles and went instead to the lesser known Musee D’Orsay home of the impressionists.

Big mistake.

There were more people queueing to take a selfie next to Van Gogh’s Starry Night than there were Chinese at the Trevi Fountain.

It was the same in England — London’s Westminister Palace was a nightmare of tourist flags and queues.

The city of Bath and its Roman and Georgian architecture was smothered by ice-cream and phones.

Stratford, York and Edinburgh were all jammed with selfie sticks and coaches.

I read recently that the good people of Venice are fighting back against the tourist hordes of ‘‘eat-and-run’’ visitors — including gigantic cruise ships that all threaten to drown the magical city on the sea.

So when it came time for a holiday this year, the chief gardener and I chose an island at the bottom of Tasmania.

Bruny Island is a place where you can walk on a beach or climb a hill and not see a single selfie stick, or even a person.

There is one shop, one pub and one main road.

Internet and mobile phone coverage is patchy, and the local wallabies eat your lawn.

The only sounds are waves and bees.

That is it — I am not saying any more.

In fact — don’t go there.

It is really boring and the wallabies poo everywhere.

John Lewis is a senior News journalist.