I’ve written here before about my love for walking tours.
Still true. So much so I spent 7 hours on them today. 11a.m. The Royal Krakow Old Town tour. 3p.m. The Jewish Quarter tour. All the same tour guide, all free (besides tips).
And I do love them, I really do. But the audience can really make them, and they can really try to break them sometimes. The crew is usually made up of twenty-somethings, travelers on a budget. A group with very little knowledge of the area, open to anything they’re told, eager to take photos, hear funny stories. 50% are usually hungover.
But every once in awhile, you hit a tour that’s very mixed youth-adult. And by adult, I mean serious, fanny-pack wearing, expectation-packing, bores.
I know. That probably sounds awful. But these four people in the group have probably been here before. And if they haven’t, they’ve read about it. And if they haven’t, they watched a special on The Travel Channel. Or, more likely, The History Channel.
And so they feel the need to set the agenda of the tour. They ask questions irrelevant to the topic being spoken about. “But what about…” becomes a drinking game. They “teach” the tour guide.
This morning, before the tour had even officially began, Paulo was explaining the election coming next week, and offered his personal thoughts on the political parties. An older woman, not the woman who had asked the election question, not even there at the beginning of the conversation:
“I don’t want to know about politics, I want to learn about history.”
My jaw, pretty sure each jaw of the four Australian girls next to me as well, drops.
Paulo though, what a guy: “Yes, well in ten years what we call politics today will be history.”
I think my frustration with this tour and its many off-topic detours (Paulo was fantastic – a few in the crowd were driving me up a wall) peaked when I realized I was on a tour with two Birthers.
I hear this couple, fifties, talking to Paulo up at the front. We’d been walking awhile and the group was pretty spread out. I hear “Obama,” I start eavesdropping.
Okay, I don’t care Republican, Democrat, I haven’t read a headline since August (and that’s insane, since I’ve read every headline daily on three online news sources for the past five years), and I don’t think any one party or politician is doing tremendously well. I’m simply out of the loop.
“Well for starters he’s not even American.”
Okay, I’m in the loop enough that’s still going to rile me up. People are still making that argument?
Paulo looks surprised, but remains serious and does not react too strongly. “But it is against U.S. Constitution, is it not? You must prove you are born in the United States?”
“No. He was born outside the country. He’s been lying from the start.
He’s from Kenya. Half of his family says he’s from Kenya.
He’s Muslim, and he was raised by communists, educated by them his entire life.
His wife hates the country.
He is single-handedly capable of bringing the country down.”
Paulo – “But that is conspiracy, isn’t it?”
“He had fraudulent papers made.”
I’m biting my tongue. I didn’t enter the political debate and simply asked where they were from. They snap at me. California.
Well la-di-freaking-dah. Me too.
I decided to not debate them. I waited to talk to Paulo until they were out of earshot.
I’m a really poor history writer, and my vocabulary really doesn’t do sightseeing/travel justice.
Tomorrow, I promise, maybe, a “what did you learn in Krakow” post. More on Pope John Paul II, Jewish quarter (68,000 Jews in Krakow pre-WWII, only 200 today)… Trips to Schindler’s Factory and Auschwitz tomorrow. The following photos come from the Square of the Ghetto Victims. The empty chairs reflect absence.
But for now, I’m sure you want to see the part where I was volunteer #7 for the Jewish Folk Dance demonstration.
And the rest.