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What are the world’s most disappointing tourist attractions?

by Staff
  • Is there a question to which you want to know the answer? Or do you know the answer to a question here? 
  • Write to: Charles Legge, Answers To Correspondents, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email [email protected] 



QUESTION What are the world’s most disappointing tourist attractions?

The Mona Lisa is routinely named the world’s most disappointing tourist attraction. It’s not the work itself, which is widely considered the pinnacle of Renaissance art.

The problem is its size and situation. The picture measures just 30in by 21in, yet around nine million people view it in the Louvre each year.

Consequently, the room is horribly overcrowded. Hundreds of people mill around snapping selfies, taking videos and rapidly changing position, encouraging others to do the same. It’s a soul-destroying experience.

The tiny statues of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen and the Manneken-Pis in Brussels offer a similar experience.

Another contender is The Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is in a dodgy part of LA featuring strip clubs and tattoo parlours. It offers little more than aggressive tour guides and a series of names of famous people on the pavement.

Giles Thompson, Brackley, Northants.

The Mona Lisa is routinely named the world’s most disappointing tourist attraction. It’s not the work itself, which is widely considered the pinnacle of Renaissance art

QUESTION What are some of the most famous riddles in literature?

Oedipus Rex, an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles written in 429 BC, contains the most famous literary riddle of them all.

In this tragic story, Oedipus — who fulfils his destiny (killing his father and marrying his mother) even as he’s trying to avoid it — solves the riddle of the Sphinx, a mythical creature with the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle that stood guard at the gates of the city of Thebes, waiting to devour those who failed the test.

She asks: ‘What goes on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?’

Oedipus solves the riddle by answering: ‘Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs; and in old age, he uses a walking stick.’

In Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, the title character asks Mr Elton to compose a riddle for herself and Harriet. He returns with: ‘My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings, / Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease. / Another view of man, my second brings, / Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!’

Emma gets the answer, ‘courtship’, immediately. The first part, which ‘displays the wealth and pomp of kings’ represents the ‘court’, and the ‘monarch of the seas’ is the ‘ship’.

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and Gollum play a riddle game. If Bilbo wins, then Gollum has to show him the way out of a tunnel; if Bilbo loses, he becomes Gollum’s dinner. Gollum offers a series of five riddles:

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and Gollum play a riddle game. If Bilbo wins, then Gollum has to show him the way out of a tunnel; if Bilbo loses, he becomes Gollum’s dinner

Riddle 1: What has roots as nobody sees, is taller than trees, up, up it goes, and yet never grows?

Riddle 2: Voiceless it cries, wingless flutters, toothless bites, mouthless mutters.

Riddle 3: It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills. And empty holes it fills. It comes first and follows after, ends life, kills laughter.

Riddle 4: Alive without breath, as cold as death; never thirsty, ever drinking, all in mail never clinking.

Riddle 5: This thing all things devours; birds, beasts, trees, flowers; gnaws iron, bites steel; grinds hard stones to meal; slays king, ruins town, and beats high mountain down.

The answers are: 1) mountain, 2) wind, 3) dark, 4) fish, 5) time.

Bilbo gets lucky with the last one; he blurts out ‘Time!’ because he needs more time in which to work out the answer.

Coming full circle, in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, the young wizard takes part in the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous magical competition. For the final task, he has to make his way through an obstacle-filled maze in which he encounters a Sphinx and must solve her riddle.

‘First think of the person who lives in disguise, who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.

‘Next, tell me what’s always the last thing to mend, the middle of middle and end of the end?

‘And finally give me the sound often heard during the search for a hard-to-find word. Now string them together, and answer me this, which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?’

The answer here is ‘spider’. The person in disguise is a ‘spy’. The last thing in the word ‘mend’ and in the middle of ‘middle’ is the letter D. And finally, ‘er’ is the puzzled sound referenced in the third part of the clue.

Sharon Hewson, Worcester.

Coming full circle, in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, the young wizard takes part in the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous magical competition

QUESTION Why did the Nazis declare Charlemagne an enemy of German culture?

In the early years of National Socialism, Charlemagne, or Charles The Great, was regarded as a foundational figure and a forerunner to Hitler himself. However, his persecution of the Saxons and devout Catholicism made him anathema to many Nazis.

In 768, Charlemagne inherited a Frankish kingdom covering modern France, Belgium and Luxembourg. By the time of his death in 814, he had extended it to include the Netherlands, much of Italy and most of modern Germany.

A key event reported in the Royal Frankish Annals was that following a pagan revolt in the summer of 782: ‘4,500 Saxon prisoners were beheaded on a single day at Verden on the River Aller in northern Saxony, on the orders of Charlemagne, King of the Franks.’

Charlemagne’s reputation survived for centuries because the Saxon victims were thought to have been pagans, their fate necessary to his Christianisation of Saxony. By the 18th century, this came under scrutiny and Voltaire dubbed Charlemagne ‘a thousandfold murderer’.

Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, architect of the Holocaust and a fervent occultist, loathed the memory of Charlemagne and called him Sachsenschlachter (‘slaughterer of the Saxons’).

Sam Powers, Leamington Spa, Warks.

Is there a question to which you want to know the answer? Or do you know the answer to a question here? Write to: Charles Legge, Answers To Correspondents, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY; or email [email protected]. A selection is published, but we’re unable to enter into individual correspondence 

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