Why didn’t I think of that? The first anti-travel book.
We all have places we’ve vowed never to visit again. For me, it’s Wisconsin, where I spent the coldest winter of my life over the course of 10 days in June, 1982. Brrr! Never again! Fortunately, a young writer named Catherine Price has hit on the capital notion of an “anti-travel” book, warning of places best avoided.
While plenty of people might disagree with me about Wisconsin — looking out the window from my perch next to the stove, I could see it is a place of natural beauty — Price has traveled to locations most of us will agree we’d just as soon not visit.
And she puts them all down in 101 Places Not to See Before You Die. As NPR puts it: “Price takes it upon herself to go to terrible tourist destinations…so you don’t have to.”
Like The Gum Wall in Seattle — “It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Price says. Or the Karostas Cietums Prison Hotel in Latvia, where you can sleep in a prison bunk. For an extra fee, “you can arrange to be abducted at your workplace and delivered to the hotel.”
Or the Beijing Museum of Tap Water (need more be said? Those wacky Chinese!). Or the Museum of Anatomy in Turin, Italy. Or the Tunnel at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.
Or the Montana “Testicle Festival” — do you really want to know? Me, neither, but I’m guessing it has something to do with bulls. Or steers…
Price identifies a few surprising destinations, places you might think you want to visit. For example, Ireland’s Blarney Stone, where, legend says, you get the Irish gift for gab if you kiss the famous stone.
Problem is, with thousands of tourists laying their lips on the thing each year, it’s rated “the most germy” tourist attraction by CNN in 2009.”
That’s even ahead of the Gum Wall, which came in second.
Despite the high-concept snark factor inherent in the project, Price has written a real travel book. It’s more than a collection of jokes or light observations, but consists of her narrative accounts of visiting these unsavory places.
You can get a taste (yech!) of her surprisingly serious writing style in the account of a night at a Korean Buddhist monastery in an excerpt at NPR. You can also visit Price’s webpage.
So what’s the most awful place you’ve been to?