A few weeks ago, I became aware of a TV series which topic is the Chernobyl disaster. However, it was not a trailer, no poster and no word of mouth, which made me aware of it. It was the advertising of travel companies that offer trips to this place and some Instagram influencers who have ventured a trip to Pripyat. I thought they must be crazy. For me, there was no reason why someone should travel to such a place. Then I heard about the so-called dark tourism and found out that even I somehow belong to the dark tourists.
What is dark tourism?
It sounds like something wrong, maybe even forbidden, but that's not the point of it. Dark tourism describes visiting places that have been part of a catastrophe, where horror has happened and many people have died or suffered. Examples of such places besides Chernobyl are also the catacombs of Paris, Japan's suicide forest, Auschwitz or Culloden Moor. There are countless of these places and many of us have certainly visited one of these. Whether on a school trip, during a vacation or even by incidence while walking. Dark tourism is all about seeing these places instead of lying at the beach while the sun is shining bright.
Why dark tourism?
The newspapers write headlines such as "vacationers like to visit places where catastrophes have happened!" And at first create a lack of understanding among their readers. So what is it about dark tourism, because it often sounds like these holidaymakers are all sensation seekers. Dark tourists, however, are anything but that. Anyone who imagines that they get off the bus with the selfie stick in their hand and film a vlog from the very first second, is far off. Because those tourists are not about self-staging, they want to learn something, ask themselves how they would have acted in this situation, rather seek silence and respectfully deal with the places.
What is not dark tourism!
Places where people have experienced a lot of suffering must be handled sensitively. Unfortunately some people forget that again and again. So it came to a huge scandal when Logan Paul visited the Aokigahara and behaved in no respectful way. Especially through the Internet, places of dark tourism are easier and faster to find. Anyone who forgets to behave and does not come to learn something and to think about the history behind the place or situation can not be called a black tourist. It is exactly these people because of which the scene probably gets more and more often in disrepute.
My experiences with dark tourism
I have not been to many such places yet, especially because I find it hard to distinguish from when an event was a disaster or not. That's why I'm not sure if this really counts for the forest where the Varus Battle took place. At places like Bergen-Belsen or Culloden Moor, though, I can be pretty sure. For the first I have little memories, because that took place in my school time.
However, the Culloden moor was only known to me from Outlander so far and as ist was the most important battlefield in Scotland, of course it was on the To-See list when I was over there. If you see something like that in a documentary or in TV series, that is something completely different than when you're really in that place. If you are there, what happened is much more tangible and it grabs you. It was not necessarily a depressing feeling, but it made me think. I found it astouding to what people are capable of if they believe in something, are convinced of something or are just afraid. The Scots have had firmly believed in their king and were probably afraid that the English men would take away their freedom. Something that happens again and again in the history of humanity in various places. To walk across this meadow in bright sunshine, where the most important Scottish battle took place and the outcome of which was the downfall of Highland culture, should give every traveler a thought-provoking impulse.
I would travel to such a place again. During my schooldays, I learned so much about human history but there was so little I really understood. I think the dark tourism helps us to understand how people acted and how they may have felt in a way that no book or movie can imitate. That's why there are historically important locations that interest me.
Do you have experiences with dark tourism yourself or do you want to get some? Which places are particularly attractive to you and which ones are not, or do you completely reject this form of travel. Let me know, I'm curious!