Today’s post is going to be different, because you will learn about a kind of tourism that is not advertised in almost any agency, so let’s get started.
While there is not a proper description, Dark Tourism, basically, is going to places which are somehow related to death and decay, but this has not a “negative” or “death-loving-psycho” purpose, is just a different way of knowing history apart from reading it in books or watching documentaries.
The best example is Auschwitz in Poland, a former Nazi concentration camp where thousands of human beings died, and now you say… why in earth will you ever want to go there? My answer: To see with my own eyes what humans are really capable of. Speaking about the last example, before my visit in 2012, I had watch many movies about this topic (Schindler’s list, The Boy in the Striped Pajama…) but it wasn’t until I went under the infamous train gate and saw the huge terrain that the camp used to occupy… when I realized the great crime against mankind that was performed there. Since then I have also visited another camp, Stutthof, in the north of Poland (close to Gdansk), and again the feelings where the same, for me traveling is not just joy and happiness, it can be also a time to think and meditate about mankind.
Obviously, I don’t recommend you to go from one of this dark sites to another, because getting an overdose of bad feelings is not good and your friends will start to think about you as a psycho, but from time to time it can be a powerful experience.
Another classical example is Pripyat, Ukraine the infamous city where Chernobyl power plant was located, it used to be one of Soviet Union’s most utopian cities, with one of the world’s highest rate of engineers and university graduated workers, until the disaster in 1986 which left 50.000 people homeless and almost a million of people affected by radiation. Today, you can visit the city with a guided tour through the exclusion zone, which will show you iconic places such as the ferries wheel or the swimming pool, evading the most irradiated sites (an average chest Roentgen X-Ray is the equivalent of doing this tour 10 times, so risk is kind of minimal). Here you can see a video example of the tour:
If you don’t dare to visit the exclusion zone, there are plenty of museums in Kiev speaking about it (like this one), but again, it won’t be the same as visiting the homes of the departed or realizing that there are people who decided to stay, seeming not to matter the radiation. BTW there are no mutants there, radiation doesn’t give you superpowers, gives you cancer, so the only mutations are tumors found in dead wolves, who now are crawling the area.
Also I need to mention my region, since we have a town where the time stopped in 1938, that’s the town of Belchite, located outside Zaragoza. During the Spanish Civil war (1936-39), this town suffered one of the fiercest battles, leaving the place to its actual state, the later government decided not to restore the town but to keep it as a symbol of horrors of war and in the recent years, it has been walled and protected offering now great visits (even at night) for a good price, preventing it from total destruction and keeping telling it’s history (more info here)
There is a similar place in France, called Oradour sur Glane, which is a exact remain of what was left after the German bombings during World War 2.
I think Poveglia worths also a mention, it’s an island in Venice, which served as hospital during the Plague, and about 150.000 people spend their last days there. Funny thing, it used to be abandoned, but there was a recent auction to sell the island.
If you want to learn more about dark tourism, there are tons of websites and blogs which speak about it, such as The Bohemian blog. Personally, it is not my thing, but I like visiting such locations every two years, but I love the “alternative hardcore tourism” such as going 500m underground in a working mine in the south of Poland, visiting Soviet Prisons, bungee jumping in Ukraine, or Urban Exploration, which will be the next post ;)
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