Friday, June 4, 2010

Romancing the Stone Circle

Many of us fantasize about the historic and famed places we want to go. Ideals get buried in our heads and are hard to budge. Idealizing historic sites can lead to disappointment if reality is ignored. Large tourist crowds and bad interpretations can often hinder the enjoyment of an historic site. More importantly, it can limit what is ultimately taken from the visit. My recent visit to Castlerigg Stone Circle, located in the quaint Lake District town of Keswick, sparked this realization. At this visit, the crowds of tourist littered about the stone circle immediately extinguished my previous delusions of a primal stone setting in the wastes of the Lake District.

I have long imagined prehistoric sites as surrounded by myth and lore and as otherworldly portals to a vague long ago time. In my love of things prehistoric, like the Castlerigg stone circle, my appreciation of their history was left by the wayside as my imagination sped on.
I admit that I am an avid romantic when it comes to historic sites, especially prehistoric ones. I want an almost passion-like historical conversion experience—and all sites should deliver thusly. I hope to one day look at a historic site and see a glimmer of a past I will never truly understand, envision, or experience—except through paltry conjecture. I yearn to see the true glory of a site not marred by tourists with fanny packs, hiking sandals worn over socks, and rude children running wildly over a nation’s treasure.

I need to stand in the face of history—raw, naked history.
And that is hard to do when you are surrounded by the ugly and uncompromising truth of historic sites as tourist destinations. The general public (i.e. non history minded members of the public) often do not share my visions and expectations. Nor are they mindful of the true sacredness of the spot upon which they have discarded their Mars Bar wrapper. They obstruct the best camera views, they chase the darling lambs around the field, and they tarnish the historic landscape with soda bottles and completely unhistorical potato chip bags.

Why are they there? Who knows—maybe they do appreciate history just a bit and want the same things I do. You absolutely do not need to be an academic to enjoy history and all its marvels. These destinations are popular for a reason—good ones, I’m sure. I wonder at these people’s expectations and wonder if they are hoping for a magical historical experience as well. Then I apologize for obstructing the nice Welsh man’s photograph.
-Haley Grant, Tourist

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