Over the weekend I descended into the heart of “tourist Copenhagen” — the area that radiates out from Tivoli. The main shopping street, Strøget, was stuffed full of tourists doddering along with their maps out and daypacks bulging, and the Metro station’s ticket machines had line-ups 10 deep of confused looking visitors unable to parse the local transit system.
Tourists are annoying, and my trip into their enclave was the least pleasant part of my time in the city. The irony of writing this as a tourist myself is not lost on me. But man did I ever breath easier once I got back out of the melee.
Which got me thinking: the least interesting parts of any city are those that are frequented by tourists. Think of the Halifax Historic Properties, or Peakes Quay in Charlottetown, or Quincy Market in Boston: worldwide these tourist ghettos are increasingly morphing into one giant mass of Beanie Baby and homemade soap shops, “authentic” pubs, faux heritage pageants, and souvenir stalls.
Every city has its official “tourist zone” — in Copenhagen, for example, it’s essentially the the city bike zone (the area where you’re allowed to take free city bicycles), and here’s the tourist map of Charlottetown.
So here’s my idea: in the same way you can now buy a DVD player that strips out profanity, why not publish “masks” that can be applied over city maps that filter out the naughty tourist bits — cartographic “here be boredom” devices. Take it to the next level and you could integrate the masks with mobile devices so that they would vibrate and flash when in danger of veering out of the interesting parts of a city.