Tacky Tours and Exasperated English

rynekPoles seem to be accustomed to the hordes of tourists visiting Krakow, and I feel nostalgic for my days of being the only tourist in town.  When I lived in Novi Sad, I drew attention as a foreigner and was constantly asked by taxi drivers or street venders where I come from-  “What is an American doing in Serbia?” they would ask me, and I would respond enthusiastically “Učim srpski jezik!”  My answer was followed by stares of disbelief and sometime bursts of laughter.  No Serb could believe that a young American woman moved to the country to study their culture.

Serbia is an isolated place.  Not many people think to visit even though it is a lovely country, and unfortunately Serbs are very limited in their ability to travel.  Sure, some foreigners live in Beograd working in the capital city for embassies or NGOs, but very few seem to venture north to Vojvodina.  Aside from the infamous EXIT festival in Novi Sad each July, the city is homogenous.  Even though I arrived months before EXIT, people asked if I were there for the concert because they couldn’t imagine any other reason.

Krakow is different.  No longer does my English spark a look of interest, but rather a look of annoyance.  I hear many languages spoken in the center by photo-snapping tourists.  Golf carts advertising Schindler’s List or Kazimierz tours circle around the square, ready to carry lazy visitors to nearby sections of the city.  Cities do prosper economically because of tourism, but I definitely long for the days when I had a more authentic experience.

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  1. May 26th, 2010

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