February 14, 2011

Struth! Crossing the line at Greenwich


IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that from next month visitors to London's Royal Observatory will have to pay to put their feet on a line that doesn't exist.

The Greenwich Meridian Line is an imaginary line running from the North Pole to the South Pole, and from which all points of longitude are measured and world time determined.

For years a narrow metal strip in the courtyard of the Royal Observatory has indicated where the Meridian Line runs, and some 1.6 million people annually stand astride this to have their photographs taken, try walking along it to keep balance between two time zones and check to see if their city is one of those whose longitudes are shown on either side of the Line.

Now the Observatory is going to charge ten pounds (about A$16) for these opportunities, saying the money will be used to pay for "wear and tear" of the Line… and seemingly taking a page from the books of local government, "to undertake upgrades to comply with occupational health and safety laws." Tickets will be valid for a year, with children free.

And already one crafty Greenwich publican has let it be known that he'll be buying a bunch of tickets and "lending them free" to tourists who buy a pint and a meal at his pub before visiting the Observatory.

Doubtless, officials will find a way to put a quick stop to that. Purely for occupational health and safety reasons only, of course.

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