Why are we attracted to death? This is a question that many researchers are still trying to establish. Whatever the reason, people travel all over the world to visit sites that have been touched by tragedy. Below are examples of some dark tourism sites that I have visited and my experiences there.
When visiting Krakow with a friend, I knew that I had to make the day trip to Auschwitz in Oswiecim. I was very anxious whilst I was on route as I knew it wasn’t going to be an enjoyable experience. The things you feel when you visit any dark tourism site are hard to explain, but Auschwitz is especially hard because of its scale. It really is a surreal experience to be standing where so many people were murdered, whilst tourists are taking pictures, or buying drinks from a refreshment stall.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the hardest hitting of the camps because the conditions were much, much worse. Seeing the living conditions that prisoners were forced to endure was horrendous. It is impossible to know how people felt whilst at Birkenau, but even just imagining it is horrible. Even worse than the living quarters, is the experience of stepping into the gas chambers. It is just so unnatural to go, voluntarily, where an unthinkable number of men, women and children were forced to go to be killed. Although visiting Auschwitz is not an easy experience, I think everyone should visit a concentration camp if they can, to get a better understanding of the tragic history.
Anne Frank Haus
I visited Anne Frank Haus earlier this year whilst on a weekend trip to Amsterdam. The queue is extremely long; we waited for around 3 hours. For me the experience is definitely worth the wait. From reading Anne Frank’s Diary you may feel that you understand her story and living situation, but stepping into this house makes it a lot more real and completely develops your understanding. I would recommend going early in the morning – and with a friend, so that you can take turns waiting in the queue.
I hadn’t thought about visiting Arlington Cemetery when I was in Washington DC, but my friend has relatives that are buried here and she wanted to pay her respects. Being a US Military Cemetery, many people visit the cemetery to pay their respects to historical figures such as John F. Kennedy and his family. Arlington Cemetery is a very well kept grave site and is a lovely place for families to remember their loved ones; there are amazing views over DC and benches where people can sit and think.
The 9/11 Memorial was opened in 2011 as a tribute to the 3,000 people who died during the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001. The memorial has been built in the same spot where the Twin Towers previously stood, and features 2 reflecting pools.
When I visited New York for the first time in 2013, I knew that I wanted to visit this memorial. I felt quite differently towards this site compared to other dark tourism sites; I think the main reason is because it happened in my lifetime. It is also different because many dark tourism sites are left in their original state, but memorial sites are turned into a place of remembrance. This means that when I visited the 9/11 Memorial I was met by a calm serenity that I haven’t experienced at any other dark tourism site. The 9/11 Memorial is a lovely spot for families and friends of 9/11 victims, fellow Americans and people from all over the world, to remember the thousands of individuals who died in this horrendous attack.