Hacking up the germiest attractions in the world

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According to a recent site poll of more than 4,600 travelers, 34 percent of travelers reported being more “germaphobic” by washing and disinfecting their hands more frequently when tra

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According to a recent site poll of more than 4,600 travelers, 34 percent of travelers reported being more “germaphobic” by washing and disinfecting their hands more frequently when traveling since the swine flu outbreak. Additionally, TripAdvisor forums indicate that travelers have got germs on the brain, with use of the words “germs,” “sanitizer,” and “disease” up 97 percent, 182 percent, and 112 percent, respectively, between March and May of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. Here, TripAdvisor editors and travelers cough up the top 5 germiest attractions.

Kiss Me, I’m Filthy: Blarney Stone, Blarney, Ireland
Legend says that those who kiss the Blarney Stone, a block of stone built into Ireland’s Blarney Castle, are rewarded with eloquent speech. But given that up to 400,000 mouths from all over the world touch the stone each year, putting your own to the grimy attraction (no easy task in itself) may be too high a price for the promised “gift of gab.” One traveler commented, “[You] have to bend over backwards, and kiss the stone upside down (imagine the germs on the stone from everyone doing that!),”

Sticky Situation: Wall of Gum, Seattle, Washington
A bizarre tradition at Seattle’s Market Theatre in Post Alley has turned into a fascinating yet very germy attraction: a giant wall of gum. In the 1990s, visitors began sticking their gum to the wall while waiting in line, resulting in a colorful and somewhat stomach-turning sight after more than a decade of gum gathering. Some intrepid visitors have even molded shapes and faces out of their masticated gum. One traveler reminds us, “Don’t forget to contribute to the gum wall!”

Lip Reading: Oscar Wilde’s Tomb, Paris, France
It is a testament to the love and respect felt by book-lovers and admirers the world over – Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris’ Pere-Lachaise cemetery is famously covered in lipstick prints. But with a rainbow of hundreds of visible kiss marks adorning the grave, and countless more planted every year, one can’t help but wonder… isn’t there a cleaner way to show your literary appreciation? One traveler said, “The tombstone of Oscar Wilde is… well, wild, excuse the pun.”

Foul Fowl: St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy
A place of immeasurable beauty, Venice’s famed St. Mark’s Square has a dirty side – its thousands of hungry pigeons. While vendors no longer sell food to tourists to give to the birds, they still flock in countless numbers, with many visitors choosing to touch and even hold the pigeons. Be careful – these dirty fowl have been known to leave foul unexpected gifts on tourists. One traveler recalls, “I know it does seem a little bit disgusting, but it’s so totally hilarious to see your friend/partner/dad being attacked by birds!”

Grubby Mitts: Forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (Handprints and Footprints), Hollywood, California
The forecourt to this historical Hollywood landmark features the hand and footprints of some of the biggest stars in history. But this intimate look at Hollywood’s hands can get a bit grimy given that millions of fans place their fingers in the molds of their favorites. You may think about bringing some gloves or hand sanitizer before comparing your own paws to those of the greats. One traveler said, “You couldn’t help comparing your feet and hands, too [with those of the stars].”

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About the author


Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.