Globalization and the fall of the myth
I don’t remember exactly when the myth started collapsing for me, but I guess it was early, during one of my first travels. And from this point on, it never stopped falling.
For me, travelling had always something romantic in it, something mythical; something that attracts you to take the role of the adventurous explorer and discover/witness the peculiarities of the earth, forgotten people, the lost and forgotten way of living in peace, living the right way. And the more you can not find any of these myths, the more you go further and further and further; always fooling yourself regarding the next destination: “Maybe, I will find it there” or “The further the better”. The crucial moment you find yourself in the same place twice, after travelling the furthest you possibly could, having found nothing yet, is the breaking point. And as earth is round, so is logic. The realization announces the fall of the myth.
The proceedings of the fall
The white mountain of the oracles (Pammukale, Turkey)
Imagine a whole slope of a mountain, dressed in white and the hot waters which run down the slope and concentrate in small white pools. Behind the white mountain, a whole ancient city emerges, remains of the Greek and Roman civilization. In the middle of the city, the temple of Apolo hides in its insides (in its basement) a green, muddy room where deadly gases, emerge from the deep depths of earth; the Plutonion, the kingdom of Pluto, ruler of the underworld. It’s been said that ancient priests were not affected by the deadly gases but actually were using them for divination.
Add to this scene the following:
A ticket office in the front part of the mountain slope with a ticket employee that always tries to rip-off tourists, dozen of group-tourist buses, coming and going, flooding the place with middle-aged Turkish and foreign tourists who came to dip their feet into the therapeutic waters of Pammukale, a guard with a whistle that gives instructions on where visitors can walk and where not, a restaurant-bar-club in front of the ancient city that serves expensive coffee and its main attraction is the swimming pool, in the middle of the dinning area, which contains some parts of the ruins of the city, a rotten iron cage in front of the muddy room of the temple that indicates: “Dangerous toxic gas. Do not inhale” …
and you can witness a free-falling myth crashing under the bear foot of a sunburned Scandinavian tourist.
The steaming grounds (Bayankhongor, Mongolia)
Imagine yourself walking in the void scenery of Mongolian steppe; left and right you have big parts of bare rocky mountains. Once in a while, in your way, you come across a nomad, riding a horse, who greets you. There is some snow in some parts of the ground; the remains of a dying winter. You go through a small valley and you encounter a small hill that is steaming. You walk in between the steam. Hot water is coming out from all over the ground. It is like a dreamy place.
Add to this scene the following:
A Russian-style hotel that looks like a cube, which overcharges non-local tourists, a little building that is named “КЛУБ” (pronounced KLOOB) which offers the therapeutic waters to middle-aged people with arthritis, red signs in Cyrillic-Mongolian in every hole that water comes out with the indication of the degrees of the heat of the water and the part of the body it can heal, e.g. 58°C NOSE, 45°C TOOTH, 38°C EYE etc., small kiosks loaded with Russian waffles and imported chocolate, lousy imitations of Mongolian yurts in front of the hill …
and the myth of the steaming grounds is steaming only in your mind.
The proud nomadic life of the people of Mongolia (Mongolia)
Imagine this: people living for centuries, isolated from the rest of the world, into the harsh steppes of Mongolia, breeding sheep, goats and deformed ox-like beasts called shartlak (yaks), riding hairy horses in their dels (colorful Mongolian traditional dress), living in round shaped gers (traditional Mongolian yurt which always faces south), moving according to the seasons, welcoming always the strangers and the travelers without even asking anything in return.
Add this to the scene:
Electricity goes to most of the villages in the countryside, where you can find TV sets and electric pans (instead of the traditional pan on the stove, in the middle of the ger), that makes the gers virtually unmovable, drunk old men in Kharkhorin (old capital of Mongolia) asking tourists a couple of dollars for one hour ride on their under-fed horse, young, middle-aged and old Mongolians getting wasted in half an hour drinking numerous bottles of vodka the “traditional” way (which is actually the Russian way), gers which charge 10$ to spend the night on their floor and 5$ for their greasy mutton meal, young people on the streets who shake in the rhythms of REP (Mongolian RAP) and dressed with the latest Chinese imitations of big western clothes brands like CUGGI, LAPOSTE and NICE …
and the myth of the proud Mongolian nomadic life is just another touristic trap.
I don’t remember when exactly it occurred to me, but I think it was during a TV commercial, advertising instant soup: “Soup Globes. Delicious. It’s not fantasy, it’s real”.