There are spots like this in many cities, places where tourists are shuttled by tour buses to take silly photographs. Consider Pisa, where people use perspective to pretend they’re holding up the leaning tower. In this case, the city is Prague, the icon is the “Dancing House” by starchitect Frank Gehry, and the favorite pose is kicking the building. Alas, there are side effects to this kind of image-centric mass tourism.
Over the years, visitors have slowly trampled the grass in the park across from the structure (for the ‘Gram). But this erosion inspired a guerrilla intervention; during a period of reduced travel in early 2020, the creators of the Honest Guide YouTube channel (and Honest Prague Guide to Prague book) decided to take matters into their own hands.
With much of the world in lockdown, there wasn’t a constant stream of tourists to get in their way. So, together with some friends, the Honest Guide guerrillas secured a plow and began to till the soil. Then they bought grass seed and started planting. Finally, water was added and they waited. Within a few months, the park was a lush green again.
Addressing the question of legality, the host joked “nothing would be done if you would be asking these silly questions.” They neither requested nor got permission, but no one stopped them, either (and given the helpful nature of the project, why would anyone?).
These days, with tourists starting to trickle back in, it’s becoming clear which areas are being worn down the the fastest by foot traffic. The selfie tradition hasn’t gone away — it was just put on hold for a time.
But thanks to the replanting efforts of the Honest Guide crew, it’s now easier than ever see the desire paths that visitors take when walking toward a monument to lean against it, and where the photographers stand to take their pictures. The HG folks recommend the city step in at this point and pave this route — perhaps if there was a balance of walkway and greenery, people would know to stay off the grass.
Now would also be a good time to think about diversifying the ecology of this park, branching out into more productive and vertical plant life. Meanwhile, if you want to support HG’s work to date or help them on their mission to mend the park’s fountain, here’s their Patreon page.
Special thanks to 99pi fan and reddit user xichael for the story tip!