I actually felt sorry for the tower. It is so beautiful a place to visit and go into, with lovely views. However, the queues were crazy... I don't mind places being busy, especially in August, but the way the queues were handled was awful. A few days before I visited a place with a little tower and had a photo taken as a 'princess in a tower', but in belém I actually felt trapped in the tower. They have a timed system to go up and down the spiral staircase to get to the top and green and red (stop and go) lights to control the flow of people. In theory, this maybe should work, but it didn't, not the day I visited anyway. Something working in theory is fine, but it assumes the visitors, (actually humans :p) are
robots... That no one will be slower, or feel a little shaky/nervous in the narrow stairwell... Or God forbid fall (there'd be no time for that!!!) It also assumes that everyone will follow this system, which you'd hope would be the case, but remember humans...
Anyway, it was an absolute nightmare. There were people not following the system because they either got aggravated or panicked by being stuck in a room off the stairwell for longer than the timer said and missing their chance to go... Or because initially one lot took that little bit
longer to ascend/descend than the timer allowed...
On my ascent, through to the stairwell when it went green for go, when we were nearing the top a loud alarm started beeping at us... But we didn't know what this meant. When we got to the top, a man at the top of his queue to descend was shouting at us that we must stop coming up as it was their turn to come down, but there was nothing we could do at that stage... This was obviously what the alarm was about. This man was just another visitor who was aggravated by the system... There was nobody at each level to explain or facilitate this system which would definitely have helped, even if just for a sense of calm and knowing what the was going on.
On my descent, after queuing awhile for this, I quickly realised that I was behind an older lady who was a little slower on her feet, but who had, fair play to her, managed to get up to the top (and why shouldn't she, if she wanted to and was able?). This made our descent slower naturally and
we essentially ran out of time to all get down before the people downstairs were given the green light to ascend, which led to chaos and arguments and us being forced into a small room... This led further to people getting irrate and suggesting that we all just go anyway without the green light, having already miss one turn to go because there were still people going up and down the stairs... Obviously, I could understand this man's frustration but was also having visions of a terrible accident on the stairwell if we proceeded with his plan. Eventually someone who worked in the tower came up and sorted the situation but as a visitor, on my own, I was very near a panic attack and was never so relieved to be out of a place.
There has to be a better way of doing things to prevent this sort of situation developing again. Perhaps it was a one off and maybe it works very well most of the time but there needs to be allowances for the fact that people are people and don't always act predictability. Some people don't follow the system, probably more likely when this system is not explained or facilitated at all, or because people all move at different paces for a variety of legitimate reasons...
Newgrange in Ireland has only one way in and out and is quite tight, so they just also a certain amount of people in at a time at allocated times, with a guide. Perhaps something similar should be in place here, or at least clear instructions and explanations upon entering the tower, when your tickets
are validated, along with a person working there at each level to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Was extremely disappointed with my visit, as well as quite stressed and angry.
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