Pyramid syndrome

Photo by Cordon Press
Photo by Cordon Press

Our intrepid travel writer reveals why you might want to take another look at your bucket list and revise your expectations

by Brian MacReamoinn

Built by the omnipotent Pharaohs, the pyramids are an everlasting symbol of their all-conquering majesty. They’ve appeared in countless films and TV series. Now you’re going to see them for real. As you approach Giza, your excitement begins to grow. You are about to witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Then suddenly there they are. You stare in awe, mouth wide open.
Well… the thing is, they’re just lumps of stone. And it’s not that they’re small, they’re just not that big. And no thank you, you don’t want to go on a camel ride. No, you definitely don’t. But the friendly smiling guides don’t seem to understand that you haven’t come all this way to get carted around for hours in the baking heat on a large, hairy, smelly animal. But the pointing and gesturing and the three words of Arabic you’ve learned are to no avail.
All in all, it’s an unsatisfactory holiday experience. But, with a little foresight, it could be improved. First, maybe lower your expectations. After all, what did you think was going to happen? Were the Pharaohs themselves going to greet you and welcome you into their ancient tombs for a cup of tea?
Yes, it’s true, the Pyramids are a bit smaller in real life, and you should be prepared for heat, sand and camels. They’re still worth visiting though.
Then there’s the Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is probably the most famous in the world.
However, If you‘re envisaging yourself gazing upon this enigmatic portrait in the calm surroundings of the Louvre with time to ponder her famous smile, think again. It’s easily the most popular exhibit in the Parisian museum. Tourists swarm like ants around it and the sound of a thousand smartphones clicking simultaneously can be heard. Also, La Gioconda doesn’t occupy much wall space. It’s actually quite small and, because crowds are kept a few metres away, it appears positively minuscule.
Manage expectations by arriving very early or very late. Another tip: don’t go on a Tuesday – the Louvre is closed.
The Book of Kells is a well-preserved 9th century illuminated manuscript, housed at Trinity College Dublin. But if you pictured yourself casually leafing through the precious pages, admiring the ornate Latin text and intricate artwork, a word of warning. It is a major visitor attraction and draws huge numbers of people from all corners of the globe every day. You can’t touch it; and only two pages are visible at any one time. For another historic document, the Magna Carta, it’s a similar story.
Take a deep breath and tell yourself that it’s logical: you can’t be the only person who wants to experience these amazing buildings or objects, and therefore there are going to be lots of other people doing exactly the same thing. So each person gets to take away their own fraction of the whole experience.
To paraphrase Bette Davis in the classic Hollywood romance, Now, Voyager: if you’re not expecting the moon, then you’ll be happy with the stars.
Avoid stress on holiday. Accept that sometimes small is beautiful and you won’t suffer from Pyramid Syndrome.

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