Not-So-Flattering Views of Famous European Landmarks

Audio Slideshow  •  Doug Mack  •  03.23.10 | 10:08 AM ET

Doug Mack is a writer based in Minneapolis. He is working on a book about traveling around Europe using an outdated guidebook. See Doug’s blog for more not-so-flattering views of famous places.


8 Comments for Not-So-Flattering Views of Famous European Landmarks

Sophia Dembling 03.23.10 | 11:40 AM ET

Wonderful concept, wonderfully done, postcard-perfect ending. I love it and wish I’d thought of it. : )

Lia 03.23.10 | 2:24 PM ET

I took a ton of pictures with a similar idea in mind on my own European adventure. If you can’t beat the billboards, gobs of other travelers/tourists, or any other annoyance you might as well include it in the picture. It’s more honest than any postcard any way. A photo of the city as it was when you saw it is always more meaningful than a postcard shot.

tekwriter 03.25.10 | 5:18 PM ET

Brilliant!  The last photo in particular is infinitely more interesting than a pristine shot of the Coliseum without the life around it.  I enjoyed the presentation - thanks!

Fleabell 03.25.10 | 7:11 PM ET

I wouldn’t even bring a camera to Europe, it’s so overdone.

Kelsey 03.25.10 | 10:22 PM ET

Nice work Doug! Absolutely love how you ended this piece.

When I visited Angkor Wat I was much more interested in my fellow tourists and the kids selling them bottles of water and T-shirts. I felt bad about it, but you just made me feel a little better. Thanks!

Remy Scalza 04.05.10 | 8:42 PM ET


This is compelling and well-executed, but in the end I was left with the feeling that it is a bit too gimmicky and a bit too much of an excuse for taking poor photos. 

Here’s my perspective.  By averting your eyes from the big-name sights and focusing on the gawking tourists around them you have made a step in the right direction.  But it’s a small one.  Critiquing the average tourist - on an out-of-the-box package vacation - is like shooting fish in a barrel.  And assuming the holier-than-thou travel writer tone (“I know real culture!”) is a cardinal - just really inexcusable - travel writing sin. 

A true leap forward would be to turn your camera away from the sights and the tourists entirely.  As Tom Swick points out in “Not a Tourist,” travel writing (and photography) begins when you have a real, live entree into a culture and a place.  In other words, observing, meeting and talking to local people - in whatever limited capacity - is much more productive than lurking around the fringes of the tourist gaggles, however snarky and angst-ridden your photos and observations might be. 

Having said all of that, I enjoyed your slideshow.  Thanks for contributing something unique to this site. 


Patrick 04.13.10 | 3:41 PM ET

What does that mean that Europe is overdone?  Europe is a continent with lots to see, not just the big landmarks like the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower.  And things change, too - there are people to take pictures of, new structures, temporary art installments. Also, light and weather can make for interesting photos.  To say it’s overdone means you have no creativity.

Dave 04.22.10 | 8:53 AM ET

I think the point for me is that great visuals and guide book descriptions of an iconic site make it impossible to experience that place on its own terms. There is such an inflation of expectation, that the real thing can only ever disappoint.

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