ArticleHop On Hop Off
Wonderful ideas are as mortal as wonderful objects - and a revolutionary concept that has almost singlehandedly defined what tourism in the 21st century looks like, has proven to be no exception.
Tourism as we used to know it, was all about certified guides using motor coaches or boats to bring big groups of people to prominent locations featuring famous museums, renowned cathedrals, historic buildings or other landmarks. Sometimes, these groups would climb the tallest building in the city to get a panoramic view. Wealthier or simply more adventurous tourists would even use helicopters for the same purpose. In other words, every city could quite literally be seen, as Winston Churchill would put it, from "the land, the sea and the air" (of course, Churchill in his remarkable speech rather insisted on using the three to fight the Nazis, while tourism is a much more peaceful and educational activity). A stock example is Paris where every self-respecting tourist would "conquer" the Eiffel Tower, cruise on the Seine and take a night tour in the City of Lights - to see essentially the same things from a number of different angles (which is the whole point of such an itinerary). The question is, how much will such a tourist remember next day, let alone in a week or a month. After all, even the keenest observer with an excellent memory would have no chance to stop and contemplate any given object of interest, no time to grok it or even develop any real affinity with it.
A stroke of genius, almost ridiculous in its simplicity, had changed all that once and for all. A one, two or three-day pass that allows its owner to board any tourist bus, serving a particular route or several routes, any number of times for any period of time on the given date(s) - and that provides all the time and all the opportunities one might need to really familiarize hirself with any particular area. Of course, at times, such buses are almost completely empty - and no tour guide would work for just one or two people for 8-10 hours a day. No human guide that is - that's why hop-buses use audio guides operating in 7-8 languages. And "Voila"! Now almost anybody can board such a bus, stay for 55-60 minutes to get an overview - in their native language - leave the bus at any stop along the route (usually, there 10 to 12 such stops for each of the 3-4 city routes) to spend some time around a particular attraction that caught that tourist's imagination, then re-board the same or another bus (they return every 15 minutes or so), to repeat the procedure "ad infinitum" or, at least, until the end of the day.
It goes without saying that the recorded texts are also nothing like "to your right...to your left" followed by a string of numbers, names and such. Instead, they are full of so-called "information hooks" - touching personal stories (like that of the Christian X statue in Copenhagen), amusing details ("this is the headquarters of the biggest shipping company in Scandinavia. The seven-pointed star decorating the building is supposed to symbolize the seven seas the company's ships are navigating. However, the company's employees believe that what the star really symbolizes is the seven-days business week!"), or even seemingly trivial facts concerning famous people ("right in front of the municipality building is a statue of our famous writer, Hans-Christian Andersen. As you can see, his eyes are riveted on the Tivoli Gardens where Andersen loved to spend time when living in or visiting the capital"... Now try really hard to forget all that, and you'll immediately understand how wonderfully efficient the hop-approach is. Just think of it not being a wonder anymore...