Over the past few weeks, I've spent a fair amount of time on travel sites, both researching and leaving reviews. My go-to's are Expedia, TripAdvisor, and the ever handy Google.
Most of the time, I find useful guidance but sometimes it's because of someone else's negative review. This was the case with the Strahov Library in Prague. Someone had given a one-star review because they didn't do their research. This TripAdvisor user had rocked up to the front door expecting to get a tour. Yet on the library website it states clearly that all tours must be arranged prior to arrival and that they have limited availability, therefore cannot accommodate everyone's request. Now, that's not to say that the TripAdvisor user didn't have a bad experience, but I don't think it's fair to put all the blame on the library, or any similar tourist attraction.
As tourists, world travelers, curious minds - it's on us to do some research and not expect tourism workers to hold our hands and spoon feed us while we visit their countries.
That being said, I think it's also on us to read reviews and conduct research with a grain of salt. As I've gone back to leave my own reviews, I've read some of the new ones posted at the attractions we visited. Many are like the one mentioned above. Travelers that do no research and therefore have created their own mythical expectations and are outraged when a place does not meet the false realities they've conjured up in their minds.
While those are funny enough to me, the ones that make me chuckle even more are posted by users that have done their research and expect things to be carved in stone. I read a couple reviews for different restaurants where the people seemingly had a nice enough time, but they had looked at the menu ahead of time and when they arrived, the menu had changed. They could no longer order the food they had been looking forward to. Part of me gets it - half of the fun of travel is in the anticipation. Looking forward to all of the new experiences you'll have on your trip. But the other part of me wants people to manage their expectations. When we stayed at the Lokal Inn, their hotel restaurant had a daily menu. They posted an example menu online but every day their options were a bit different depending on what kind of food was fresh and available. Use these opportunities to ask your server for a recommendation and try something new. More than once something similar happened to us and we were always delighted with what was recommended.
Finally - the most amusing reviews to me are those from users that want to seem worldly but come off as pretentious and ignorant. In Amsterdam, we visited the Rijksmuseum. A gorgeous museum in the heart of the city housing spectacular paintings by Rembrandt and Caravaggio and Monet and even one or two from Van Gogh (the Van Gogh museum is the neighboring building). Huge exhibits including relics from the houses of the outrageously wealthy. But then you have reviews like the ones below.
My favorite is the first. I just want to send them a dictionary definition of the word museum, which according to Merriam Webster is "an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value." But please, John P, continue to tell the world more about how you define museums.
All of this is to say, when you're planning your next trip do some research with the context of what interests you and some reasonable expectations. I'd hate to think that people decide not to go visit the Rijksmuseum or Strahov Library because someone else had a bad experience due to their poor planning. There's so much history and art to be experienced in the world. What a shame it would be to travel all that way and miss it.