I live in a region that generates a lot of income from tourism. So the sight of the old town filled with people of different nationalities, speaking almost every language on the planet doesn’t make an impact on me. When all the best seats in my favorite café are taken by people, who come here for a couple of days and will be taking off soon, I’m not pissed off. Things like that do not bother me, because I got used to them over the years. I don’t like them, but I don’t hate them either. And yet, I understand the irritation of all the others, whose life doesn’t involve this usually slowly walking, unfashionably dressed species with cameras. If you want to avoid crows and are brave enough to discover the city on your own and to see something more than what’s in the guidebook, here are a few tips for you.
GET OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
The guidebook tells you that the island XYZ is a must? Go to the ABC instead. This solution doesn’t go without the risk, of course – you can waste a day or two in the godforsaken village, where the biggest attraction since year 2000 is actually your arrival. But! If you’re lucky, you’ll have a shot at experiencing something truly extraordinary. Like watching a sunset on a deserted beach. Or going fishing with the locals. Or taking part in an annual celebration of the island patron’s name day. All this is possible if you just allow yourself to explore something unique.
Oh, no, no no! That’s not what I meant! Don’t leave this site! If you want to find some place unusual, forget the maps, the guides, the tours… The best way to feel the place you are visiting is to wander off. Try not to think where you want to go and what you want to see. Instead, like the slogan for the not very recognizable sportswear brand says: Just do it! Feeling like taking a turn left? – take it. Want to stop and observe the people for a moment? – feel free. You’ve been on this square before? – that’s ok, just try to find something you missed the first time, and then leave choosing a different street than before. This is what I try to do in every city I visit. Especially if I don’t have much time there: I know I won’t stay long enough to see everything I want to see, so what I visit and don’t visit I leave to a chance. I try to feel the place and the atmosphere, embrace it’s unique character. And wandering the streets, boulevards and squares is really acting on my senses. Not only vision, but also hearing and smelling. I believe that in order to experience it all, you must be on the streets, walking. Using public transportation is not as rewarding. In fact – metro is the worst, because the only thing you see are tunnels and stations (although I don’t deny, that in some cities some metro stations are also a piece of art). If walking is not an option, take a bus or a tram – this way you will at least see some parts of the city. A good solution is also, what a lot of cities offer: tourists and locals can rent city bikes.
FOLLOW THE RABBIT IN A UNIFORM
I bet you often heard this advice: “For the best food in town, follow the locals.” I’m gonna go even further and say – “For the best food in town, follow the police”. I was once told that the policemen who are on patrol are the ones to know where the food is. And not only tasty food but also not too expensive. Think about it for a minute! They have to patrol the streets, so they don’t have a lot of free time. They need some place, where the food is prepared relatively quickly. They have the best places checked out and maybe even ranked. (I bet they even have a scale: a good enough place is a “sergeant”, but a great one is a “lieutenant” – wouldn’t that be awesome?)
A good idea might also be not booking a hotel but trying to rent a room or a flat from locals. Living right next to them you will have a chance to observe the pace of the everyday life. And if you get friendly with them, they could even invite you to dine with them or include you in some of their activities. This is the closest you can get to understanding other country’s mentality, without actually having to live there for months, so it might be worth trying.
However, if you still want to see the most typical attractions of the place you visit and you want to avoid all the other tourists that get in your way, I might have a solution for you. But it’s not for everybody – just for the most determined ones. It’s difficult, but also pretty simple at the same time. Ready? Here it comes: wake up early. Not the 1 pm kind of early – the 6-7 am early. See? I told you it’s not for everyone. Because you’re on holiday, and the first thing you want to do then, is to forget the sole existence of the satan’s tool called the alarm clock. However this way you get to visit the usually crowded old town and the city parks uninterrupted and relaxed. You will be able to admire the architecture and you’ll be one of the first ones in a line to the busiest museums, saving plenty of time! Also, a great experience might be visiting a marketplace. Getting there early enough you will be sure you get to taste the freshest fruits and vegetables, the most delicious bread and cheese, you simply get to enjoy the local products. Did I convince you to wake up early? Ah… I see the audience is split in half. Like I said – the hardcore waking up – just for the chosen ones…
OK. I gave away all my carefully concealed methods for spotting the unique attractions and avoid crowd for free. Now it’s your turn. Spill! I want to know how you do it. Comment box is just below the text, so comment away!