Trail Notes
9/24/2009
The wonderful world of history: Why travel without herituge is like TV without color.

I'm old enough, alas, to remember the days of black-and-white television. What a thrill it was when we finally got our first color TV (its immediate successor, I believe, was still in the basement of my frugal parents' house until recently). Suddenly, the world on our small screen sprang to life, and Captain Kangaroo, the Lone Ranger and Lassie seemed to pop right out into our living room.

For travelers, I've come to think, history is a lot like getting color television. Sure, you can visit a place and see the sights, dine at the restaurants and buy your souvenirs. But without the history, it's like visiting a place in black and white. One destination is hard to tell from the next (much as on our old TV, the Lone Ranger, whom I later discovered was clad in powdery blue, looked an awful lot like the dun-costumed Rifleman with a mask). The place has no character because you don't know how it came to be that way. It's just a collection of buildings, as flat and dull as the Hollywood sets so many of my favorite shows were shot on.