You shouldn’t avoid tourist traps just because they are tourist traps. I know this because I have been to some really famous tourist traps and most of them were pretty great. One of these days I’ll make a couple of lists—which tourist traps I’ve seen (and I can rank them!), and which I haven’t. A couple I recently visited were in Rome.
Despite my good-natured but well-justified loathing of the Catholic Church, I really LOVED Saint Peter’s Basilica. An absolutely magnificent piece of architecture containing thousands of works of art, Saint Peter’s is also an absolute zoo. Every inch of the place is decorated—overdecorated—and the massive walls and enormous floor just stretch on and on. We thought we had reached the front of the church upon arriving at a gigantic Bernini sculpture, only to find we were only about halfway to the front! It really is a great place. You would have to be dead to not be amazed by it.
We also went to Mass there the next day. I laughed inwardly when the priest “turned the wine to blood” and “turned the bread to Jesus’s body.” I went to communion, chewed Jesus’s body scrumptiously as I was very hungry, and marveled at the 40 (or more) priests who stood around during Mass, apparently with nothing else to do that morning. I have to admit I really enjoyed how some of the readings and petitions were read in languages such as German, English, Spanish, and Italian, a real improvement on the (dead) Latin we were subjected to during the rest of the Mass. One out-of-place woman even got to read something. (The 40 priests were men. We have a little work to do on the equality thing.)
Recovering Catholic Digression
Have you ever wondered how anyone knew what was being said in the Church for HUNDREDS OF YEARS when the Catholics worldwide attended Latin-only Masses? Yes, this actually happened until well into the 1960s! The 1960s! Not the 1460s! I know Catholics explain they seemed to figure out what was going on through the years, but I object. Words are meaningful. Unless you can’t understand them.
The next day at the Trevi Fountain, we tossed coins over our shoulders into the water, just like all the other superstitious tourists. (It’s said that doing so ensures that you will return to Rome someday.) It was exactly the sort of outrageous, grotesque behavior that 1) I had wanted to avoid on vacation; and 2) I ridicule Christianity for (immaculate conceptions, rising from the dead and coming back to earth, miracles, turning water to wine, thinking that some old guy created the world, etc.). But I loved the Trevi Fountain. For a few minutes I just put aside the logical brain that “God” gave me, enjoyed the beauty of the art, and hoped the coin would work.
It’s true, I guess. I can’t just post a couple of vacation photos and smile about them and tell you how much fun I had.
Can’t . . . or won’t.