When I first started traveling, I had a theory about sightseeing: you don’t know something sucks until you’ve seen it suck for yourself. That is, you don’t know it’s a waste of time until you’ve wasted the time. Which means, pretty much, that I tried to see everything there was to see, especially the stuff that you were supposed to see.
The last thing I wanted to do was tell somebody I went someplace, and then have them ask me if I saw such-and-such famous thing, and then have to reply that I hadn’t seen it, and then have them act like I shouldn’t have even bothered going. So I would run around and see everything I possibly could see, acting as if I was never going to get there again, forcing myself to check out stuff that I could not have cared less about.
That’s the way I did things, until the Manneken Pis.
It was on the Brussels must-see list, so I tried to find it. I walked around near the Grand Place for close to an hour, wandering through the same narrow streets several times, passing up a dozen places to stop and sit and drink a beer and eat some mussels, unable to find it.
Finally, I just kind of stumbled on it — or, that is, stumbled on a knot of people all looking at something. I figured that was it, so I approached the group and kind of shouldered my way into the pack and got up on my toes and there it was:
A small-to-tiny statue, hanging on a wall, of a naked little boy taking a piss into a fountain.
It was a moment of revelation, amid the pathetic absurdity. Chasing a lot of the guidebook stuff just isn’t what I’m interested in doing. Of course, you’re going to see the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben or the Brandenburg Gate. But there is other stuff that just isn’t worth it, not if you’re really being honest with yourself (and especially if your time is limited).
With that, a confession. I went to Copenhagen recently and was confronted with this choice with about an hour to kill before something planned one afternoon: either sit outside in the sun and drink a well-earned beer after a morning of walking around town, or go see the statue, The Little Mermaid.
I drank the beer. Two, actually. Then I took a pis, but not into a fountain, if I can presume to share. And I know I made the right choice.