In news that may come as a shock to few, but not to anyone who has given the matter any serious thought, the Blarney Stone in County Cork has been named the world’s germiest tourist attraction.
Tripadvisor.com bestowed this dubious honor on one of Ireland’s top attractions by polling 4,600 travelers, 34 percent of whom are more germ conscious since the swine flu outbreak.
In this world of air-carrying diseases and germ-filled hysteria, kissing the Blarney stone could be akin to smooching a petri dish full of unfanciful delights. According to tripadvisor, some 400,000 kiss the stone every year.
I had the pleasure of kissing the very same rocky piece of Irish history myself last July, and though I can report that I did not grow a third ear or suddenly start jumping around the field like a mad human, the thought crossed my mind, before I contorted myself upside down at the mercy of a strong Clare man - who I prayed would not get sweaty palms - that this stone has seen a lot of action.
The thought also crossed my mind that I had just lined up for hours, and climbed up spiraling staircases uncomfortably close to middle-aged posteriors that had no business wrapping themselves around the winding (and narrow) steps of Blarney Castle. I would not (and could not – it’s all one way) turn back without getting some lip locking in with that stone.
So I got flipped over, closed my eyes, thought of mother Ireland and kissed it. It was cold, but not entirely unpleasant. I was pulled up, dizzy and red-faced, and stumbled back down the stairs to enjoy a light-headed walk around the gardens in the Castle grounds.
It might have been dirty, but I didn’t feel cheap after kissing the stone. In fact, I had a pretty good time, no strings attached. I hope the other 399,999 visitors from last year can say the same!
Other germy gems on tripadvisor’s dirty little list include the Wall of Gum in Seattle, Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris (two Irish connections in the top five!), St. Mark’s Square in Venice and the Forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater (Handprints and Footprints), Hollywood, California.