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Dark Tourism Site in Europe [by] PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joachim Willms [Managing Director]   

Dark Tourism [by]

Dark tourism is tourism travelling to places associated with suffering, disaster, depravity and death. 

In Europe Dark Tourists can visit:

  • concentration camps at Auschwitz in Poland are visited by more than half a million each year
  • American cemetery in Normandy, France
  • London Dungeon
  • Colditz Castle, Germany's most famous prisoner-of-war camp.
  • Gulag in Grutas Park, Luthuania
  • Collosseum Rome where 9,000 gladiators and 10,000 animals fought against each other in one 117-day killing spree by Roman Emperor Trajan
  • Pow camp at Colditz in Germany
  • Vilnius KGB Prison in Lithuania
  • Jack the Ripper Tours in the streets of Victorian London where you follow a trail of bloody murders
  • The site of St. Peter’s death in Rome
  • Culloden battlefield near Inverness, Scotland 
  • Beaumaris Prison in Anglesey, Wales
  • Jim Morrison’s grave at Pere La Chaise cemetery in Paris

New term, but ancient pasttime
The term “Dark tourism” is from 1996, yet dark tourism has always existed. Tourism sites of tragedy may be a travel area with a huge potential growth, but it is not a new phenomenon.  Romans watched gladiatorial games, in the middle ages pilgrims traveled hundreds of kilometers to tombs and sites of religious martyrdom, battles were observed by nobelity from a safe distance and a favorite pasttimes for centuries was watching royalty and the powerful being beheaded or witches being burnt alive. 

Why Dark Tourism is popular?
One may ponder why Dark Tourism sites are so popular.  There are probably many motives to visit Dark Tourist places and it can be difficult to interpret the reasons acurately.  It’s probably a combination of reverence, voyeurism and coming close to torment and death in a society where we often are overly protected or far removen from human mortality.  Experts warn that it’s important to ensure that the picture isn’t distorted by being one-sided, historical events are often complex and shouldn’t be trivialized.  Before going off on your own as a dark tourist its recommended you follow the ethics guide and follow the Darkometer.

Testaments of humanities failures
Co-author of Black Tourism Professor John Lennon (apparently no relation to the Beatle) at Glasgow Caledonian University says in an interview in the Observer: "'Dark tourism' sites are important testaments to the consistent failure of humanity to temper our worst excesses and, managed well, they can help us to learn from the darkest elements of our past. But we have to guard against the voyeuristic and exploitative streak that is evident at so many of them."

Reference: Lonely Planet Blue List, The best in travel 2007

Related articles
Book review Lonely Planet Blue List, Feature on Dark Tourism
Dark Tourism in Vilnius, Vilnius and holocaust 
Dark Tourism darkometer, How dark are you?
Dark Tourism ethics guide, Too dark tourism, don't try this
Dark Tourism in Europe, an introduction

Birgit O'Sullivan - - 23. januar 2007


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