Lovers of northern landscapes may have seen pictures of the Trolltunga in Norway. It’s a literal “tongue” of rock that overlooks stark cliffs and shining water. Many pictures of the Trolltunga feature an individual hiker solemnly gazing upon the scenery.
As a hiker and nature-lover, I have dreamed of visiting Norway. I want to see the fjords and experience endless summer nights. After learning about Trolltunga, I thought it might be the perfect hiking destination.
Then I did some more research. A quick search online reveals dozens of the cutesy photo-op people have invented for Trolltunga. There are yoga poses, group jumps, newspaper readers. A rock band staged a rehearsal there.
I started to wonder how many people actually visit this place. It turns out that only a few honest photographers show what the scene really looks like. The landmark is too famous for only one hiker to be present at a time. In reality, a large crowd waits at the base of the tongue while each individual gets their chance at an epic photo.
I experienced a similar phenomenon while traveling to Western Brook Pond in Newfoundland. It’s an inland fjord that is featured in all the Newfoundland tourism photographs. The scenery is stunning–or at least it should be.
In reality, it’s the most crowded place in all of Gros Morne National Park–probably because of all very same tourism photos. Not only is it crowded, there is a cafe built right at the end of the fjord, as well as a noisy tour boat that blasts its commentary on loudspeakers as it motors through the water.
A few signs near the cafe helpfully inform you that the rare, fragile ecosystem of the inland fjord is now threatened due to boat traffic.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t expect crowds. I have no more right to enjoy a place in solitude than anyone else who scheduled their vacation on the same day. Everyone wants to see beautiful places. As the population of the world increases, it’s a simple fact that there will be more people everywhere, even in scenic, isolated spots.
And yet it still feels like there’s a disconnect between our photographs and our reality, one more insidious than a few prettified tourist brochures.