Not So Smart Traveler’s City Guide

“We overestimate the importance of knowing where we are” — this sentence from Robert Musil’s book ‘Man without qualities’ made me think about all the cities I lived or visited.

Few were famous for their culture, party scenes, and stylish folk in the coffee shops drinking coffee from stylish coffee cups. Few were proud of their writers, mountains and history. Few were only starting to copy fashion, stylish coffee cups, and hid their history under graffiti tags. By following certain recipes and guides of those cities I needed to see, to experience, to taste, or to try. Later I would write down observations in my little black notebook. This gave me an advantage of knowing, or so I thought at the time.

My heart skipped a beat every time I arrived to an unknown airport or station. It calmed while I followed arrows on street corners or blue lines in Google Maps. Eyes scanned architectural monuments, flower compositions in parks and faces on the metro. I memorised city’s shapes, in case I would get lost and find my way back easily. Truth is, I was never lost for longer than five minutes, and because of the smartphones, I forgot what it means not knowing something.

After getting used to the systems of streets, underground tunnels, parks and bridges it was possible to curate city’s background for such mundane ceremonies as drinking coffee or eating sandwiches: next to the fountain with three sculptures in the middle of some square, inside the restaurant on that MainFreedomPark street… Then take the most boring picture of that curated image as a million other tourists.

How important is it to find that special place, rated five stars on TripAdvisor, recommended by a hundred strangers? And if you decide to go elsewhere, does that mean you will lose some of the universal human experiences? How brave do you need to be to turn off the GPS or notifications from 10 most popular travelling apps, that keeps informing you of tastiest croissants and burgers in the city wherever you go?

You know everything before you even leave your home, so maybe it’s not worth the trouble at all? Fabricate few holiday pictures to show to your coworkers, and spend a week watching TV series, because airports doesn’t excite you anymore, and coffee tastes the same wherever you go…

The most memorable adventures happen when there’s no plan. The phone’s battery is dead and you forget to stand next to the most famous painting. Metro is flooded and you don’t go to that park with deers and a castle. Instead of mindlessly floating downstream in tourist river, you mix North with South and turn to another left. Then there’s a small chance that it never happened before to anyone else.

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