Friday, January 28, 2011

The Dirtiest Tourist Destinations

The following tourist destinations are renowned for their mystique and popularity but also for their bacteria. In fact, some of these could probably boast not 25 million visitors a year but 25 zillion (if we include Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus salivarius, and E. coli O157:H7). Talk about mass tourism!

In 2009, TripAdvisor listed The Blarney Stone as the dirtiest tourist attraction in the world. When I kissed it last year, I certainly hadn’t brushed my teeth in a few hours. I’m sure I left a colony of little fellows on it (all very friendly and fresh-smelling of course). But what about the three hundred people that day who went before me?

I hate Venice, so I’m going to list Piazza St. Marco as the second dirtiest tourist destination. There’s the pigeon guy who feeds these flying rats so much that they flock to the piazza in biblical-plague proportions. Piazza St. Marco in Venice is a pigeon toilet. Then when Venice floods—and it often does—the sewage washes the pigeon crap away. Thank goodness for sewage. Venice is a tourist trap to be avoided until Italy decides it’s more than a sinking toilet.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is a wonderful place. Entrance is free, and tourists are allowed to spend as much time there as they want. Istanbul should stop letting tourists into The Blue Mosque . . . or replace the beautiful carpet with marble or granite or some other surface that doesn’t absorb the bacteria off the tourists’ feet. I managed to stay for five minutes. It was a hot day, and quite frankly The Blue Mosque smelled like The Blue Lockerroom.
I’m including The Shoe Fence in New Zealand just because I like my picture. Some lists of the dirtiest tourist attractions include The Bra Fence, but that’s rubbish. Bras aren’t dirty. Shoes are dirty and smelly and grungy. Shoes rock when it comes to bacteria.

Have you been to the “Great” Pyramids? Then you’ll know that to get there you have to drive through a village with a drainage ditch full of trash “flowing” through it. And when you get to the pyramids, there’ll be dozens of men trying to cheat you out of your money by getting you to put on a headress and take a picture of a camel (who’s crapping all over the place). Egypt has bigger problems right now than crapping camels, but when one of the world’s greatest wonders is surrounded by such filth, who wants to go? I wouldn’t go again.

I love Brazil, so I’m making this criticism out of love. The Copacabana smells like urine. It’s the public bathrooms every hundred meters. It’s hard to keep a beach clean when that beach can host a million tourists at once. Rio de Janeiro represents Brazil to the world. Careful, Rio. You’ll be another Acapulco if you don’t clean it up.

One of the dirtiest tourist destinations is Oscar Wilde’s grave in Paris apparently. It’s so on my list! I’ll be in Paris later this spring, so I’ll be sure to kiss the headstone. I need some lipstick though.
The dirtiest place you’re likely to go this year? It’s your hotel room, and specifically the bed in your hotel room. North America is smack-dab in the middle of a bedbug pandemic. If you’re not checking every hotel before you go, you should. While the plague is not limited to run-down holes (West End Studios in NYC was my own horror story), you get what you pay for. If you’ve booked a room in New York City for $30 a night, you might think about wondering why.

TripAdvisor has just released their list of the dirtiest hotels in Europe. It’s not astounding that four of these hotels are in London, which has never been the cleanest place on earth. Four were in Amsterdam, though. I’ve never stayed in a dirty hotel in Amsterdam, so I can’t confirm this. The dirtiest hotel in Europe? The winner is Club Aqua Gumbet in Turkey, from which I’ve just returned (the country, not the hotel). My hotel was spotless. TripAdvisor is an excellent source of information. Who would book a hotel where 90% of TripAdvisor readers would not recommend the hotel?

The world is a dirty place, but the irony is WE make it that way. Here’s to a cleaner year of traveling this great planet of ours. Hand sanitizers are neat presents. Listerine. Love Listerine.

I must be off (to gargle),

PS! A friend just sent me this link. Oh the shame, the shame!
PPS! If you liked this post, you will LOVE The Ten Worst Air Passengers of 2010. I promise.