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Dark Tourism in the CR

photo: Terezín (czechtourism.com)

“Dark Tourism” is a special kind of tourism that takes tourists to destinations connected with a tragedy, usually death or torture. This kind of travelling is based especially on the authenticity of the environment and strong emotional experience.

There are such places in the Czech Republic, too.

The Terezín Memorial (mapa) was established in 1947 to commemorate the victims of the Nazi genocide during the Second World War. The whole Terezín complex, surrounded by walls, served as a ghetto for mostly Czech Jews at that time. Those who did not die there were later transported to extermination camps, mainly to Auschwitz. The building of the former Terezín School now serves as the Ghetto Museum. The small fortress from the 18th century used to be a prison of the Gestapo during the war.

The purpose of the memorial is to preserve the memory of victims of racial and political persecution during the Nazi occupation, to develop museum, research and educational activities and to maintain places connected with human suffering and death of tens of thousands victims of the rule of violence.

Lidice (mapa) and Ležáky (mapa) were two villages that were exterminated by the Nazis during the Second World War. They paid the price for direct or presumed connection with the assassination of the German Protector Reinhardt Heydrich. The fate of Lidice was sealed on 10 June 1942, when all present men were shot, women transported to concentration camps and most children murdered (only a few of them were placed into German families to be “re-educated”). Lidice was then burnt to ground by the Gestapo, and Ležáky in eastern Bohemia was struck by the same disaster 14 days later. Today, there are memorials and museums dedicated to these massacres on the places where the villages used to be.

The Cairn of Peace Memorial (mapa) is situated near the city Slavkov (Austerlitz) in the south of Moravia. It was built in honour of victims of the legendary Battle of Austerlitz in the south of Moravia on 2 December 1805, when Napoleon’s army crushed the allied army of the so-called Third Coalition. The battlefield at Austerlitz buried soldiers of several different nationalities. A memorial act in honour of the dead is the closing ceremony of the series of events commemorating the battle that take place on the turn of November and December.

The Church of St Cyril and Methodius (mapa) in Prague became a sanctuary for the Czech parachutists, who carried out the Anthropoid operation and assassinated Reinhardt Heydrich.

The educational trail Jáchymov Hell (mapa) offers people to visit the camps and mines in which prisoners of the communist regime had to live and mine uranic ore in the 1950s.

The Vyšehrad Slavín Cemetery (mapa) is the most significant cemetery in Prague. More than 600 Czech personalities of great importance including writers, scientists, poets, artists, composers, actors, doctors, politicians and many others are buried at the cemetery. Slavín is a burial chamber where the most thankworthy Czech personalities rest.

The Battlefield of the Battle of Hradec Králové (memorial of the Battle of Königgrätz) (mapa) commemorates one of the bloodiest battles of the Austro-Prussian war, which took place on 3 July 1866, when the Prussian and Austrian armies clashed there. The battle is today commemorated at a number of places – there are more than four hundred memorials, collective burial sites and symbolic memorials northwest of Hradec Králové on the hill Chlum.

The Velké Losiny Chateau (mapa) is infamous for witchcraft trials. At the end of the 17th century, the inquisitor Jindřich Boblig from Šumperk organised trials with witches that led to 56 people being burnt to death.

The Špilberk Castle in Brno (mapa), also called the “Jail of nations”, served as a prison for the most serious criminals from all over the Habsburg Monarchy.

The Museum of Torture in Český Krumlov (mapa) is situated in the newly reconstructed medieval cellar of the historical town hall and presents exhibits connected with the right of torture. Visitors are drawn into the cruelty of the Middle Ages, the era of the greatest development of torturing and the most brutal methods, machines and tools.

Medieval ossuaries are usually underground spaces of sacral buildings, where human bones are arranged to form geometrical objects, such as mounds, vaults and ornaments. Ossuaries were usually established in times of massive dying of population including plague and other epidemics, famines or battles. You will find several ossuaries accessible to public in the Czech Republic, e.g. in Sedlec near Kutná Hora (mapa), in Brno (mapa) and in Mělník (mapa).

Other Czech destinations with dark history include e.g. the underground of the Broumov Monastery with the Vamberk Mummies, the Capuchin Crypt in Brno, the Macocha Abyss and many other locations. Old castles and chateaus emblazoned with scary stories, it would be another, also very interesting chapter...

Author: Ivana Jenerálová
Added: 05.02.2012

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