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Tall Things!

My Travel Crew member Robert takes you around the world to explore the essence of all things TALL!


02.07.2012 / 9:45 AM

I’ve done some traveling in my life. If you’re on this website, you no doubt have done some traveling, too.


Well, dear reader, if you travel any way like me, every new destination brings a sense of longing. A very specific sense of longing. A longing that’s easy to visualize. The longing soars above the horizon, beckoning you to scale its ancient rock-face or climb its medieval stairs or ride its futuristic elevator. I am talking, of course, about Tall Things.

Tall Things are easy to recognize.  They are those things—either natural or man made—that go really high up in the sky.  And in a city driven by tourism, you’re bound to hear about them.  Additionally, if you’re in a city driven by tourism, you’re bound to pay for them.  The admission price never stops me from going, though.  I will pay what they ask as long as I will get to be on top of the Tall Thing.  I need to see that bird’s eye view, because it’s going to be the only place I’ll get to see it.  I’m sure not chartering a helicopter.  Looking over the expanse of skyscrapers or quaint rooftops or vast farmland (depending on where the Tall Thing is) is a great way to literally get a survey of the city I’m going to explore.  Ten Euros?  Sure, Belgian lady.  I’ll pay that.

Continuing on the topic of Belgium, the city of Bruges has two Tall Thing options.  This is when it gets tricky, dear reader.  You only have so much time in a place, so how can you devote time to more than one Tall Thing?  How are you to choose?  The easy way is to visit the Thing that is taller.  In Bruges’ case, it’s the Belfry.

Bruges Belfrey 

But really, height is only one factor to consider.  Because the Belfry, aside from the higher views of Bruges, is pretty lame.  In fact, even the view is lame because suicide-prevention wire mesh makes it nearly impossible to take mesh-free pictures.  That’s why, when deciding on a Tall Thing, you need to consider all factors.  The Bruges Half Moon Brewery, though it doesn’t even advertise itself as a Tall Thing, is the better Tall Thing option.  The gorgeous view of medieval Bruges comes after an informative tour of a working brewery and before they hand out free beers.  Yes, you read that right.

Bruges Half Moon Brewery 

So do a little research on the Tall Thing amenities.  Like, the Willis Tower is taller than the Hancock Building in Chicago, but the Hancock has the lovely Signature Room restaurant where you can stare out over the city while sitting down and eating brunch.  Brunch and uninterrupted sitting always trumps the height of a building.  This brings me to one of the more annoying aspects of a Tall Thing:  how long are you supposed to be up there?  If you’re eating a luxurious meal, then it’s easy.  You leave when you’re done with your meal.  But what if you’re just going to the observation deck?  Do you stay for ten minutes?  Twenty minutes?  An hour?  You have to be up there long enough to make the cost and trip up worthwhile.  And the older Tall Things only have stairs, so you should stay up there at least long enough to catch your breath for the climb down.  But really, how long can you look at the same skyline, even if it’s from a fantastic vantage point?  

I constructed a very complicated algorithm to solve this question and concluded you should stay longer than it took to get up there.  So, if it takes twenty minutes to climb the Duomo in Florence, you should stay up there for at least twenty one minutes.  Don’t include the walk down the Tall Thing in your math, since you’ll have cool stuff to think about, having just been on a Tall Thing. Of course, not all Tall Things are man made.  Some are natural, like the Grand Tetons.  Luckily for your legs, it has a ski lift.

Grand Tetons


There are full-on natural Tall Things with no ski lifts, too, like Half Dome at Yosemite National Park, but I am not the guy to talk about any form of hiking.  I’ll climb some stairs, sure, but I have my limits.  Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles is more my style, where you’re surrounded by nature but get to park in a lot on top of the mountain range.


Griffith Observatory

Tall Things started in nature, and humans have been trying to compete ever since.  I’m not the first to think this, but humans want to feel like they’ve conquered the world.  We first conquered nature by scaling the mountains; now we have the technology to dwarf those mighty mountains with our own metal peaks.  Few of us will ever experience the exhilaration of designing one of the world’s tallest buildings, but for twenty bucks, at least we can stand on top of it.

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