I've been writing copy for a travel agency. If you are calling yourself a professional copywriter, it is essential to avoid saying things like: "The Oxford dictionary defines Machu Picchu as 'A fortified Inca town in the Andes Mountains in Peru that the invading Spaniards never found.' But there is so much more to it than that."
So I spend a lot of time on TripAdvisor, skimming reviews for the highlights and pitfalls of visiting monuments and ruins. It's good for inspiration, but not adjectives. Everyone describes old places as "magical," and rates them based on how much "magic" they found to smuggle away in their cavities, to snort up whenever they're having a slow day at the office.
Machu Picchu, it turns out, is TripAdvisor's top-rated attraction.
And yet, I noticed a few visitors rated it as "terrible."
People leave bad online reviews for bad reasons. The line was too long, the weather was bad, it was more expensive than Applebee's, and they didn't know that was possible. If there is any kind of exchange of money for goods and services, someone will leave a bad review.
The reviewer in question had to reschedule their visit because someone in their party had a headache. They were unable to get a refund for their entrance ticket, prompting the reviewer to say that "...people here are willing to rip off their ancestors."
I located an Incan ancestor for comment.
Seen here being like, "Fuck, you guys."
(This is the mummy of an Incan girl sacrificed in her early teens, probably to ensure a good crop. Archeologists overwhelmingly give this mummy 5 stars for its freeze-dried tissue, and ambiance.)
This particular reviewer describes Machu Picchu as something "nature provided," as if the Andes just rolled over one day and pooped it out.
I know what you're wondering. Histories and mysteries are all very well, but how were Machu Picchu's nom noms?
For being on top of a mountain in Peru, Machu Picchu has surprisingly terrible pizza, "that has horrible tasting llama cheese on it."
It turns out the Machu Picchu staff will "do ANYTHING for money." Even sell you a pizza, like greedy prostitutes, who sell pizza.
After the llama cheese pizza, their next point is that "THE HUMANITY IS LOST HERE." In all fairness, cheese quality is a good litmus test for overall humanity. My house? Great cheese. Chernobyl? Cheese is fucked, probably.
Btw, Chernobyl gets really great reviews.
This made me wonder what other famous monuments fucking sucked.
Close your eyes and picture Stonehenge.
Open your eyes and look at this picture of Stonehenge.
Think about the fucking name, "Stonehenge."
Then read the title of this review.
According to this reviewer, Stonehenge is "The definition of a tourist trap." The Oxford Dictionary defines tourist traps as "Anything built by druids to track the movement of the sun, that also turns out to suck."
Just as reviews for restaurants take into account atmosphere, you can't expect tourists to put on blinders when it comes to crumbling monuments.
This is not a review of the Great Wall, the reviewer clarifies, but a review of a bad smell he smelled because of his trip to the Great Wall.
"...when u get off the cable car, a very stinky smell will hit ur nose."
Sure, it's good at keeping out those goddamned Mongolians. But while the Great Wall can keep the hordes at bay, it somehow failed to protect someone from a little bit of stinky stink.
Back to the drawing board, ancient China!
They're not the only ones who need to stop resting on their wizened laurels. The Great Pyramid of Giza it whatchya call one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. So called because it's notoriously difficult to create a pyramid with naught but a hammer and a sun dial.
Sorry, still does not pass muster with jamie r, who "can tell you in seconds how its built."
The only thing he wondered "was why people don't tell the truth...its boring its blocks on top of blocks."
Without warning, he switches gears from reviewing the Great Pyramid to the Sphinx.
Here's something I've always wondered about the Sphinx: Is there even one good thing about it? According to Jamie, "...the one good thing about the sphinx is its right next to McDonalds." Yeeeeaah boi! I'm so hungry after that shitty Incan pizza.
(If you're remotely tickled by jamie r's review, I recommend the TV travel documentary An Idiot Abroad, and Karl Pilkington in general.)
My quest for information on the downsides of famous monuments led me all over the world. If the Pope shows up while you're visiting St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, you'll be subjected to a rather long-winded Mass (my, how he does love to go on).
At the Taj Mahal, you will encounter street peddlers that peddle like they've never been hurt and pickpocket like no one's watching. If you ever go there, I recommend that you wear a protective fat suit, stride purposefully, and flip the double bird at all times. Make sure people know how you feel about their annoying, abject poverty.
My favorite monument to turn my little nose up at? So glad you asked. I grew up in the D.C. suburbs, and I've always been unimpressed by the squat, white buildings that characterize the nice part of town.
And then there's this garbage.
Tourists stand in line to get a view from the top, approximately 4 feet off the ground.
Glenda, you seem like a hot mom. Tell us what you thought of the Washington Monument.
If you've ever lived in Maryland, you will also have had the unfortunate experience of getting trapped in a room with a Civil War enthusiast. If they were here now, they would explain that the Washington Monument is worth staring at for hours because, if you look closely, you'll notice that the stones are slightly more beige toward the bottom. They ran out of stones because of the Civil War. Then they had to wait til it was over to get more stones, and those stones
AAAAHHHH I'M SO BORED!!! SHUT UP I HATE YOU I'M MOVING TO AUSTIN!!!
What is safe from traveler rebuke, besides Chernobyl? Everyone seems to really love the Roman aqueducts in Spain. And you can't go wrong with Easter Island.
I also tried in vain to find a bad review of Mt. Everest, but only came across this jokester:
I give your joke review 1 star, Nathan. It's almost 2 stars, but I'm too disappointed to be fair.
If you'd like to learn more about the ancient world's relationship to pizza, click here for a lecture on the subject by Professor Kevin Kendrick.
And if you've seen any marvelous reviews lately, drop me a line. This seems like a rich vein.