Tourism’s greatest fraud, however, is that so many historical places have been so thoroughly renovated or rebuilt that one really wonders what is real anymore.
I first ran across this in Warsaw. Wandering through the UNESCO Old Town, I was hit with an odd feeling of disconnect. The buildings all appeared very old and beautiful, but wasn’t Warsaw flatten during the war? The reality is that Warsaw’s entire Old Town was completely rebuilt like some type of Disneyland. Sure, they did an outstanding job, and replicated it almost perfectly based on photos taken prior to World War II, but that sense of history just isn’t there. In fact, one could argue that the entire Old Town is a bit of a fraud.
With the recent fire on board the historic Cutty Sark, journalist Nick Trend began to wonder what exactly it was going to be like when it was rebuilt and that sense of standing in the middle of history becomes lost amongst 21st renovations (much like the HMS Victory, he points out–a historical boat in which only 17 percent of the original wood remains).
As with the Warsaw example, the Cutty Sark is not the only famous tourist site claiming to be the real thing. Trend has put together a rather eye-opening list which sadly undermines a handful of sites I’ve visited in the past under the assumption that I was gazing upon the real deal–not some recently painted or renovated replica.
The most striking example was the Parthenon in Athens which actually blew up in 1687 and has been completely rebuilt. Had I known this at the time when I visited, it would have gnawed away at the back of my mind and detracted from my experience.
So, under the premise that ignorance is bliss, I would recommend that you do not click on over to Trend’s article detailing Ten famous buildings and artworks that are not quite what they seem. If, on the other hand, you are a seeker of truth, check it out and be prepared to be slightly saddened.