This year, Janet and I spent the first two weeks of October island hopping in the Aegean. Having studied classical languages and culture in college, I was eager to visit the ancient sites of Greek mythology and the origins of Western civilization. We had planned our trip to coincide with the end of the tourist season in hopes of avoiding crowds. The weather was pleasant. The antiquities and museums were spectacular. Everything we had come to see was there... but our experience was soured by the fact that there are simply too many people travelling these days. The most popular destinations of Europe and many other parts of the world (not unlike our own National Parks) are being "loved to death."
The islands of Mykonos and Santorini were particularly overrun by tourists. Huge multi-storied cruise ships anchor in the harbors--three to six at a time--and disgorge 3,000 to 5,000 visitors per ship per day into the narrow streets of the island villages. At Mykonos the beaches, seaside restaurants, bars, and clubs are the attraction, It has become a party town with a capital "P". At Santorini it's the post-card scenic cliff-side villages of Fira and Oia that draw the crowds. The shops of the town centers (many owned by the cruise lines) sell high-end fashion, jewelry. leather accessories, art, and little else. We were told that local resources and infrastructure were being overwhelmed. I used to think that the glut of tourists visiting popular European destinations were largely from the USA, but in today's Europe, Americans have been joined by increasing numbers from Russia, India, China, Japan, Australia. and Europe itself. There are archaeological and cultural sites worth visiting, but you are advised to arrive early and still you will wait in line.
In present times, more than one million people every year visit Stonehenge. The sheep are gone, as is the elderly civil servant. Tour buses clog a huge parking lot. People wait in line for entry. Barriers keep the crowds back from the monuments. Of course, there is an interpretive center. Admission in 2019 was $27.00 per adult or $71.00 for a family pass.
I have lost a lot of my zest for international travel in recent years. Yes, I'm older and tire more quickly, and it must be said that air travel just isn't fun anymore. But more than that, I must consider my own contribution to the "crowds" I find so oppressive. The "carbon footprint" of international tourism must be horrendous! A good friend at coffee the other day commented that the single thing that an individual can do to positively affect the current climate crisis is to give up air travel. He may be right. I might be close to that decision.