Tips & Tricks

Scaffolding Spoilers: When Travel Isn’t Picture Perfect

Travelling in Europe is an incredible experience. Before you start your journey you marvel at pictures of all the famous landmarks you are going to see. You imagine yourself taking the perfect postcard shot. Or perhaps you are banking on taking the world’s greatest selfie. So you pack your go-pros and tripods and drones. You throw on your carefully selected outfit. With great expectations you set off. But as you are approaching you slowly realize that something is wrong. Surely by now you should be treated to a beautiful panorama? Or are you in the wrong spot? No. You are just in the right spot. But the landmark of your dreams is covered in every traveller’s nightmare: scaffolding.


Necessary evil

I think we can all agree that we would love to see our favourite landmarks for many centuries to come. I mean really, who could imagine Egypt without its pyramids or London without Big Ben? Losing these from our collective memory due to age-related decay would be painful. After all, we still speak of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world, although only one remains today. If we don’t want the Eiffel Tower to suffer a similar fate as the Lighthouse of Alexandria or the Colossus of Rhodes, we need to accept scaffolding as a necessary evil. After all they represent the important conservational efforts taken by the people, for the people.


On being bummed

It certainly is a bummer to find a famous landmark covered in scaffolding or the view of which obstructed by construction efforts. What adds insult to injury is that most renovation tasks are undertaken during high season. It is understandable that a facade can hardly be restored in the thick of winter, but to find it completely covered in July is a pity. Yes, the Colosseum was completed nearly 2000 years ago and we would still love to marvel at it in 2000 years from now on, but why can’t we have an unobstructed view of it RIGHT NOW? I think we’ve all been there and we’ve all had to adjust our expectations. Travel isn’t always perfect, but that’s what makes it real.

Below we want to share stories from fellow travel bloggers who know this issue all too well. We asked them to tell us about why they had been looking forward to seeing that particular site and how they felt once they found it. You’ll see you’re not alone with this travel bummer 😉


A beautiful church in the district of Södermalm, Stockholm.


Cris being bummed in Rome

Ah, nothing beats a visit to the Eternal City, right? After visiting Rome during a two-days stop-over on the way to Greece in 2012, we had decided to come back in 2014 to check out Fontana di Trevi, the Spanish Steps, and some other nearby sites (which we hadn’t gotten a chance to visit the previous time). September in Rome still means hot weather and crowds of tourists. Apparently, it also means…reconstruction work!

The two sites I really, really, really wanted to see…were nicely tucked away under scaffolding. Fontana di Trevi was not even something you’d recognize (buh-bye, selfie), while The Church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti was covered in…painted canvas. Score. See my face for how…delighted I was.
Confession time: I hadn’t managed to fall in love with Rome the first time we visited and the second time was supposed to give it another chance. It failed to do so. So badly that I even pay a bit more on a plane ticket only to avoid going through Rome. And just to prove how “lucky” we are: in 2014 we also visited Pompeii and some good parts of it were close due to…yes, exactly! Reconstruction.


Cris’ impressions from travels to Italy.

You can read more about Cris’ adventures over at Looknwalk, e.g. 11 Reasons to (still) love Italy. Make sure to also follow her on Facebook and Twitter!


Sarah being bummed in Venice

I was extremely excited to finally visit Venice in 2010. I’d been travelling through Italy and was looking forward to experiencing the sites, food and culture of the floating city for myself. I’d heard about the beautiful limestone Bridge of Sighs from my uncle who was living in Rome at the time and he had shown me his photos. Knowing it was named so as it was from here that convicts saw their last views of Venice before imprisonment I expected beauty everywhere. However I arrived to find it not only surrounded and undergoing maintenance, but also covered in modern advertising. Not only did this completely mess with the 1600’s architecture around it. It actually made me slightly angry to see advertisers taking advantage of eyeballs in such a beautiful old city with no thought of how they were ruining this bridge for visitors. I now remember it for all the wrong reasons!


Sarah’s impressions from travels to Italy.


You can read more about Sarah’s adventures over at Sarah Sees the World. Make sure to also follow her on Facebook and Twitter!


Mihir and I being bummed.. everywhere (but mostly in Jyväskylä)

2016 was a bad year to visit Finland. However, for some reason Mihir and I spent quite a lot of time exploring even the last corners of this beautiful country that year. It was a bit disheartening to show guests around Helsinki as some of the main sights were undergoing major conservation and reconstruction efforts. The Finnish Parliament building for one was completely covered in a huge printed canvas. At least you could get an idea of what this masterpiece of Nordic Classicism was actually supposed to look like. We had a similar experience at Sergels Torg in Stockholm just last week.


The iconic Crystal at Sergels Torg in Stockholm, Sweden.


However, I will never forget the day Mihir and I visited Jyväskylä. Jyväskylä is a small town in Central Finland, relatively void of any historic significance. Apart from its proximity to nature reserves it has little to offer in terms of touristic value. One thing we did want to see, though, was the masterpiece of Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto – the university campus. We walked forever (or at least so it felt) to reach the main campus and probably circled it about 3 times. We just couldn’t find the main building.

I mean.. it was an iconic piece of modern Nordic architecture. Surely it should stand out? Well, we finally turned around ready to leave when something caught my eye. It was the top half of the building we had so desperately been looking for – covered in scaffolding and the view obstructed by fences. I took a rather inappropriate photo of one of my fingers together with the construction site.. Unfortunately I deleted it once my initial anger had subsided 😉


The main building of the Jyväskylä university campus.


How to deal with obstructed views

Alright, you didn’t get your postcard shot. But so what? Try to make the best out of the situation. After all, don’t you think the head-on, full-frame shot has been done to death? If part of a landmark is covered in scaffolding or your view is otherwise obstructed, why not look at it from a new angle? Maybe get really low and shoot only the uncovered top-half. Or zoom in on one of the many intricate details. Find a unique angle. Have fun with it! Believe me.. if you have as much experience as me, you’ll become quite skilled at making scaffolding (nearly) disappear in your pictures 😉


Trying to find new angles at the Helsinki Cathedral, Finland.


Now, what do you think? Have you had a similar experience before? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts and pictures with us. Let’s stay in touch!


5 thoughts on “Scaffolding Spoilers: When Travel Isn’t Picture Perfect

  1. Really interesting post! I, like Cris, was super stoked to see the Trevi Fountain only to find it covered in scaffolding. It was a bummer for sure, but I know I’ll go back to Rome one day and see it in all its glory!

  2. What a great post! It’s so true the disappointment that comes due to construction of landmarks you’ve waited you’re whole life to see. Thanks for sharing and the reminder to always research if a building is being scaffolded before visiting! ?

  3. This is an absolutely great article and something that follows me on my trips since I started traveling about 13 years ago. I remember, in 2006, in Siena (Italy), the Cathedral was under reconstruction works, but wrapped up in the picture of the facade. It was so fun to me, but I saw similar examples on most of the following trips. I did not have an opportunity to see Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (only a small portion of the collection, on display in a small wing of the building) because it was closed for renovation during 7 years, I think. This is also about responsible traveling, and understanding difficulties that are unavoidable. ?

  4. What a bummer that you have encountered so many restorations along your travels. During the last few years many landsmarks of Helsinki, e.g. the Parliament, Helsinki Cathedral, Olympic Stadium and National Museum etc have all been covered by scaffolding.

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