Sometimes truth in travel can be a scarce commodity. Travel brochures feature pretty pictures of hotel rooms that are look nothing like the real thing. And when it comes to attractions, you may not get what you paid admission for.
Then there are the urban legends repeated enough times in front of information hungry tourists that slowly morph into God-given truth. Tourists tend to accept that what's in front of them -- say at museums or galleries -- as the real deal. But be warned: phonies and reproductions are abundant with an estimated 40 per cent of the art hung on the walls of museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, expected to be fake.
Then there are some well-known tourist sites have been carefully concocted out of thin air just to satisfy the demand of camera-toting travellers. They come; they ogle, post photos to their Facebook pages, and leave without ever knowing that what they witnessed wasn't genuine.
Let’s blow the lid off these phonies and the fictional yarns that populate the land of travel. You may never look at these tourist lures the same way again.
The Greatest Travel Lies Ever Told. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers below.
Juliet’s Balcony, Verona, Italy
Throngs of romance-minded tourists flock to this tourist trap each year, believing that Casa di Giulietta was home to Juliet, the fictional star-crossed lover featured in Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo & Juliet. The truth is that there is little historical proof to link the house to Shakespeare's tragic love tale. Truth be damned.
Tourists wanted the balcony and in1936, it was built so the love-struck could stick notes on the wall and earn bragging rights for having been there and done that, according to Frommer's Guide to Italy.
Al Capone In The Tunnels of Moose Jaw
Why let facts ruin a spicy story? It is often repeated that Al Capone used a network of underground tunnels to transport illegal hooch during Prohibition. There’s never been any physical evidence placing the gangster in Moose Jaw during the 1920s, but anecdotal evidence, from someone’s fifth cousin’s mechanic, or some such thing, keeps popping up.
Tales handed down decade after decade from family to family say Capone was in the hood and generations are sticking to those stories despite any independent corroboration.
Masai Villages, Masai Mara, Kenya.
They make great photo ops. Masai families, beautifully adorned in colourful cloth and accessorized with beaded jewelry, pose in front of mud huts. There are dozens of these villages dotted across the Masai Mara, a popular tourist hangout for safaris. But they may not be the real deal.
Instead, what tourists are probably looking at are "enkangs" -- villages of 10 to 20 huts that have been commercialized over the years. Those who work at "enkangs" do dress up in traditional Masai clothing but are also likely to push souvenirs as you make your way out. As Frommer's Guide to Kenya and Tanzania puts it, "the experience is unpleasant, at best."
Travellers fortunate enough to visit legitimate Masai Villages or a manyatta, the location where Masai warriors train as part of a rite of adulthood, will probably need a Masai camp guide and translator at the very least.
Globe Theatre, London, UK
In the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams", a voice in the cornfield told Kevin Costner: “If you build it, he will come.” It was in reference to a baseball field, but it applies elsewhere too. The Globe Theatre was where Shakespeare’s plays entertained the masses until 1644 when the Puritans (notorious haters of good times) tore it down.
Fast forward to 1997. A modern reconstruction was built, kind of like the old one, even though the original dimensions remained unknown, on a site 750 metres away from where the theatre stood -- close enough for modern-day crowds flock to the theatre once again.
Fake Dinosaurs At A Museum Near You
Many museums around the world have dinosaur exhibits, featuring life-size skeletons of these prehistoric beasts. They’re impressive, no doubt. But many are fake, not made of bone at all, but of plaster to satisfy the need for public education.
The real thing is tough to find. The bones are super heavy and very fragile. Often there are bits missing so new parts are cast. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie found a complete, real fossil for his Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. He was so proud of it that he made several copies and sent them off for public viewing in cities such as Paris, London, Berlin, and St. Petersburg.
China’s Terracotta Warriors
They are like the Justin Beiber of the museum world. Everyone wants to see the famed 2,000-year-old terracotta warriors from Xian, China; but demand outstrips the supply. Too few warriors, too many anxious museums ready to showcase them.
The solution? Make lots and lots of copies and send those to unsuspecting museums. But someone at the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg, Germany, did the math and realized what they were loaned from China were fakes. Visitors to the museum were offered refunds to compensate for being duped.
The Stanley Cup
When sports fans watched a guy like Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup over his head in victory, they probably didn’t realize that it was a copy. There are three versions of the cup. The original 1892 Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup is kept in the vault room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. It was awarded to champs up until 1970.
A presentation cup of the original was made in secret in 1963. These days, it’s the one winning team receives. There’s another one – a replica cup – made in 1993. It serves as a stand-in at the Hockey Hall of Fame when the 1963 version on the road. Which are you looking at? Check the listing for 1984’s Edmonton Oilers. The name Basil Pocklington does not appear at all on the replica.
Green Gables Farm, Cavendish, P.E.I.
Truth is an inconvenient for those who come to worship Canada’s most famous ginger, Anne of Green Gables. Green Gables is the 19th century farmhouse that was home to cousins of author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Though it features “Anne’s Room,” Anne never lived there. She didn’t live anywhere in fact. Anne of Green Gables is a fictional character, but tourists don’t seem to care. They see Anne’s footsteps everywhere.
Hollywood Walk Of Fame
If you’ve made it in Hollywood, chances are you’ve got a star on the Walk of Fame – bought and paid for. The process of being immortalized on a sidewalk is hardly unilateral. You or your management team can nominate yourself if you have a minimum of five years experience in the category you’re nominated in (film, TV, radio, music, or theatre) and pay a $30,000 fee. A committee meets on June 20 to choose who gets a star. Some aren’t willing to play the game. That’s why folks like Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood and George Clooney don’t have stars. You’ve got to pay to play.
Faux Tiger Sighting, Shaanxi, China
To boost tourism in the poor province of Shaaniz, sightings of a rare tiger was seen as a godsend. A local farmer produced digital photos of the beast surrounded by a thick curtain of trees. Word spread, sparking the interest of tourists curious to come
see the elusive tiger for themselves. Turns out, it was all a ruse. The farmer received the equivalent of about $145,000 (a huge fortune in rural China) for his photos, which had been doctored. He set up a glossy poster of a tiger in the woods and snapped the pictures. When they hit the Internet, questions popped up and local officials had to admit to the fakery.