A big part of experiencing a new place can be sensory, and tactile interaction can give an unfamiliar city a sense of personal context.
When you’re visiting an internationally famous city for the first time, you can get a little drunk with power—you get the urge to swan-dive into the canals of Venice or adjust the Mona Lisa’s frame with your own hands. But some tourist sites ask for a bit more audience participation, and you can find yourself appreciating through physical contact—or winding up with a taste of local flavor. Here are the germiest, nastiest sites of the bunch.
The Blarney Stone
WHERE: Blarney, Ireland
There’s a reason it’s a classic. The Blarney Stone, which is said to give the gift of gab to all who kiss it, has all the greatest hits—Irish mysticism, uncomfortable contortions necessary to reach it, and naturally, mashing your lips up against a rock that millions of other people have already made out with. Just think about it: Everybody’s lips have rubbed up against this thing, making it a Petri dish of tourist mouth funk. What good is the gift of eloquence and flattery if your mouth has been tainted by the lips of innumerable strangers?
Oscar Wilde’s Grave
WHERE: Paris, France
Oh, Oscar. How fitting that we would show our appreciation for your outrageous wit by mashing our faces up against your tomb and creating a mural of smeared lipstick prints. But let me ask you something—do you think Oscar Wilde would ever do this? Absolutely not. Oscar would stand a comfortable distance away while making a trenchant bon mot instead of mashing his striking face against the ghoulish lacquer of old lipstick. As Oscar once said, “A kiss may ruin a human life.” Listen to your buddy Oscar.
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Karni Mata Temple
WHERE: Rajasthan, India
The Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India, is home to thousands and thousands of rats. Depending on your temperament, this could be considered a bonus, but think about it—do you know how gross it would probably be in real life? The smell of thousands of rats living in an enclosed space? You could just stand a hundred meters away, and tell passers-by, “Yep, that’s where they keep the thousands of rats.” One more thing: You have to enter the temple barefoot, and it’s considered good luck if a rat scuttles across your exposed foot.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
This obnoxiously iconic fixture of Hollywood is famous for the sidewalk in front of it, which tells you something about how fun it is to actually go to Grauman’s. Over the years, many celebrities and people of note have mashed their hands and feet into wet cement on the sidewalk, causing tourists to find out the answer to burning questions like “Are my hands bigger than Myrna Loy’s?” If you want to catch a movie on one of Grauman’s gigantic IMAX screens, skip the part where you inadvertently shake hands with millions of other filthy souls who had the same idea as you. That guy at the concession stand with the sweaty palms? That’s who mashed his mitts into an outline of Will Smith’s hands. There are less disgusting ways to rub up against celebrities in Hollywood, scout’s honor.
The Statue of Ferdinand Magellan
WHERE: Punta Arenas, Chile
If you’re ever thought to yourself “I’d love to go sailing near Chile, but I get seasick anytime I look at any body of water,” you’re in luck: Kissing the foot of this statue of Ferdinand Magellan is reputed to cure seasickness through, presumably, Foot Magic. Because feet are … on the ends of legs, and you need to get your … sea legs? It doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense. Of all the parts of a statue to rub a part of your body against, why Magellan’s foot? The statue has been worn away by the buffing force of millions of mouths. And it’s a foot. Just take some Bonine and try not to look at the waves. Don’t go kissing strange feet.
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The Tomb of Victor Noir
WHERE: Paris, France
I take it back. A statue’s foot is not the worst part you could interact with. This life-sized statue of Victor Noir, who was some kind of sexy French journalist who got shot while tangling with Napoleon’s nephew, is reputed to be “the sexiest tomb in Père-Lachaise,” which immediately makes one wonder about the relative sexiness of the other tombs. I’m not gonna be coy with you: You’re supposed to rub this statue’s very prominent crotch. Local lore has it that if you give Victor a fine howdy-do and then drop a flower in his hat, it’ll encourage fertility and sexual contentment in your life. There’s even a sign begging tourists not to rub Victor’s bulge, but people just can’t seem to get enough of statue-fondling. For God’s sake.
Statue of St. Peter
WHERE: Vatican City
The feet. Again with the feet. This statue of St. Peter is routinely rubbed and kissed by tourists and pilgrims in addition to praying for St. Peter to be particularly merciful to you when you show up at the pearly gates. If you just pass by the statue and nod politely, St. Peter presumably pulls a cartoonish lever that sends you dropping through a trap door in the clouds, and the last thing you hear before descending into the abyss is, “What, my feet weren’t good enough for yoooouuu?”
Statue of Juliet
WHERE: Verona, Italy
They had to move this statue of Juliet (of Romeo And fame) to Museum Castelvecchio to keep her away from the grabby hands of tourists, which have worn away the statue’s right breast over the years. It’s not even for luck or virility or better family relations—people are just straight-up groping the statue’s boob because it’s there. Think of the kind of dude who gets handsy with statues. You really wanna shake hands with that guy’s vile germs? Juliet’s been through enough.
Statue of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
WHERE: Lviv, Ukraine
The dude responsible for the root word in “masochism” has a statue, and not only does it have a creepy glowering expression and disembodied hands creeping out of its coat, it has a looking glass installed in his chest through which visitors can view “erotic pictures.” Tourists are encouraged to stick their hand in the statue’s pocket to experience … whatever it is that’s going on in there. If you need a travel site to encourage you not to stick your hands in the pockets of famous lecher statues, I don’t know what to tell you. Call your mom.
Barbary Macaques of Gibraltar
I know you’ve wanted to hang out with monkeys since you were a small child, because you’re not a monster, but I urge you to reconsider going to Gibraltar in order to hang out with the anomalously high ape population. Sure, it sounds like fun to run up to a monkey and touch them with your hands, but you’ll probably be pulling back an arm covered with ape bites. Just say the phrase “ape bites” out loud and imagine that being a thing that’s happened to you. If you must go to Gibraltar, watch the macaques from a distance. No, farther—they throw poop like grotesque nerf balls, and they’re all crack shots.