What is so great about Dark Tourism?

Trust me i’m here to tell you.

Dark Tourism is something that has fascinated me from the moment I started looking into it on my university course. That was it from the get go honestly. From the outset I wanted to know more about Dark Tourism and what it was.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what dark tourism is heres a little definition:

“Dark tourism, the act of visiting sites associated with death, suffering, disaster and the overall macabre” – (Tinson, Julie S; Saren, Michael A. J; Roth, Bridget E)

Sounds like something really chirpy to be interested in hey? But it is totally worth the interest. Dark Tourism isn’t something that is unfamiliar to us. It has been around for centuries, the example starting as early as the Romans going to watch live executions. Delightful right? So its not something that is new and unheard of.

Dark Tourism sites now are not quite to the extent of live executions, but definitely when being visited, bring an overall sense of sadness and realisation as to what happened during these horrible events and in some cases can help us to understand and gain more knowledge on the situation. An Example of this is Ground Zero in New York.

Ground Zero is the memorial for those who perished in the terrible 9/11 bombings. It was an act of terrorism that shook the world, but we did not and do not let those who suffered be forgotten. This has been done at Ground Zero in a brilliant and clever but harrowing and sorrowful way. The two squares are to mark where the two buildings known as The World Trade Centre / The Twin Towers used to stand. Around the edges of these large footprints where these towers used to stand are the names of those who were lost on the edges of the wall.

The concept of Ground Zero was to “remember absence”. Something that after speaking to someone (My stepmother) who recently visited Ground Zero, was very apparent, moving and emotional.

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There are incredible amounts of Dark Tourism sites all over the world, these sites are sites of respect, remembering and they all share the same theme.

Other examples of Dark Tourism sites are:

  • The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam.
  • Auschwitz.
  • The Killing Fields in Cambodia.
  • Prypiat, Chernobyl, Ukraine.
  • Hiroshima.
  • The My Lai massacre grounds in Vietnam.
  • Memorials dedicated to war veterans globally.
  • Prisons and Mental Institutions, abandoned and currently functioning.
  • Battlefields and previous war sites.
  • Robin Island, South Africa

I’m sure the list could definitely go on.

These Dark tourism sites are an incredible influence on our tourism industry as there is the offer of tours and guides to help understand these places more. Although there is the argument that whilst tourism for these venues is incredibly good for awareness and spreading the word of what happened in these horrible circumstances. There is also the argument that encouraging tourist to visit these places is wrong and can bring larger crowds and mass tourism. This can be seen as ruining the atmosphere and the entire meaning to the site. 

we should respect those still in mourning, which is a given of course. And respectful generally as a whole. Recently there have been issues in places like Auchwitz for example, with younger adults being disrespectful by being loud, littering on the sight and believe it or not, it’s been reported that some were even playing Pokemon Go on the death camp site. 

Some of the more positive aspects of these tourism sites is that we can learn, we can be fascinated by our tour guides who may have once been there during the tragedies. An example of this is at Robin Island, where you are taken on your tour around the prison & island by ex prisoners, a normal tour guide will never make the hairs stand up on your skin as much as these people will. 

We can learn about the past, these memories are ours for the taking and to make those around us and ourselves aware of the tragedies these people have suffered.

I feel that Dark Tourism sites make us appreciate life a little more too. 

I recently visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and I was thoroughly moved and emotional by what the Frank Family went through. Reading her diary extracts and walking around the house, it gave me chills. It was an experience I will never forget and was lucky enough to encounter. It widened my understanding Of their experience too, I knew a little bit not a lot, so to go and to learn about it in its entirety was a wonderful experience. 

So go to these sites, be fascinated, be interested, cry, smile, enjoy, discuss, and most importantly

be respectful.

Amsterdam – Travel & Other things to help you get around.

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I didn’t realise how far out of the centre our flat was until we jumped on Bus 22 and sat for 9 stops/20 minutes with our suitcases trying to figure out where we were going, this was after getting from the airport to the centre, getting all the tickets we needed and more. 

*****

  • The Travel:

Getting the train from the airport is really simple, after getting through baggage, security and all that we headed to the help desk and they sent us to the very obvious desk that said Train Tickets. note to self, actually open your eyes and look around as you are capable as a human being to do things the first go without help. 

Single Train tickets to Amsterdam centre from Schipol are €4.20, so nothing to strenuous at all and it takes you, obviously, right to the centre stress free.

Getting to the centre we wanted to find somewhere where we could get a tram pass. After speaking to a helpful woman she sent us in the right direction towards a white GVB building to the left of the station (it might even be the GBV buildings, its easy to spot regardless of which way the letters are).

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In here we asked for a tram pass and another helpful lady gave us a 4 day tram and bus pass for only €22.00, Easily the cheapest deal we’d ever seen & not expected. It gave us access to any bus or tram in Amsterdam, all we had to do was scan the pass as we got on and off every time, no extra charge!!!

We saved so much money, if we’d have bought tickets for every journey we took we would not have been able to spend the money we did.  With a Tram and Bus stop right outside out flat and a train station down the road if we needed it, it was so convenient.

The trams, trains and buses are immaculate. They’re so clean and so brilliantly on time, the buses aren’t so accurate on time but none the less, it was better than any shitting english public transport services. The trams were the best, my personal fave cause there were always on time and they’re just brilliant things to have.

*****

  • The Other things:

My step-mum told me the wisest words I’d ever heard before we left for Amsterdam;

“Download Citymapper onto your iPhone”

citymapper

So the first thing I did before I left was exactly that. And we depended on that App to travel around Amsterdam like it was a travel bible (So shout out to my step-mum). You can use this App for most cities globally to help you get around, just type in which city you’re in and you’re away!

The pros of this app were that it was a massive help as we were in the city, the cons are that if you are not anywhere near the centre the app is deemed pretty much useless (I tried using it for London, and because I wasn’t in London at the time it didn’t work out).

We used this app from the moment we got to the centre & from then on we were dependant on it when it came to getting back to the flat and getting to restaurants that were outside of the really busy areas of amsterdam. It gave us the Tram and Bus services that we need to get on from where we were, and if we needed to walk to any of the tram or bus stops it gave us the directions to walk to the stop! It used the GPS on my phone to show it knew which direction we were stood in too, It was SUCH a handy app to have.

SO helpful, 10/10 would totally use it again and I highly recommend it too.

*****

Another method of transport which wasn’t used by us, and to be honest we didn’t even think to use it to get around because we had more chance of dying than getting to our final destination, was the BIKES. The people of Amsterdam do not mess around with their bikes. They have specific red bike lanes as there are so many people who find it easier to use bikes rather than drive, and with those windy small roads I don’t blame them.

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If you stepped out into a bike lane without looking you’d have a lot of angry people speaking dutch, as if the language does sound angry enough when they speak generally, shaking their fists and heads. Make sure you cross somewhere you won’t get mowed down.

I’d almost definitely crash my car if I drove there, I’ve already bumped it twice in England, maybe Im just shit at driving.

(I definitely am).

Amsterdam – Good Coffee & Better Food

I’ll Start off with where we ate, but if you’re more interested in the coffee shops, scroll down! 

*****

Out for food!;

16002825_10207785444305919_6777500625390467971_nWheres good for grub? Okay, Although we didn’t really go mad with where we went for food & we tried not to go with standard chain restaurants, that did fail a few times but the food was lovely none the less, as was the experience in the small restaurants to fit the small Amsterdam streets.

  • Vapianos – There was nothing small about this place, it was 3 floors. I’d been to a Vapianos two years before when I went to Vienna and I hadn’t been back since, And I love Italian food. I love it even more when its cooked and made in front of you and then handed to you to go chill and eat, they have a pasta section and a pizza section, its pretty awesome. Good prices and banging food. Its not far out of the centre either and there are two.
  • Amsterdam Steakhouse & Pizzeria – We didn’t know where to go for food and we didn’t know what we fancied either so this was perfect as it did everything, Good price but super small, luckily we managed to get a seat and some more good food.
  • Teddy’s Corner – I highly recommend this place for breakfast. I had an English15977704_10207785445105939_5005694226462020895_nBreakfast and Brad an American Breakfast and it was glorious! It located literally just of the centre so an easy walk and really good prices, plenty of food to choose from too!
  • The Pancake Bakery – We came here for lunch, I had a pancake with chocolate, whipped cream and banana’s and it was AMAZING. Brad on the other hand ordered a savoury pancake and he didn’t like it, but then savoury pancakes with cheese and meat on aren’t for everyone! He ended getting a sweet one, luckily they didn’t charge us for the other pancake! It was difficult to find this place and its also quite expensive but really pretty inside.
  • A Burger Place (unsure of the name unfortunately) – We came here on the first night and the burgers were so nice, something easy after our flight and checking in malarky. Good prices, and the burgers were lovely too, nothing incredibly special though.

*****

Coffee Houses!;

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So wheres good? Unfortunately I don’t have any photos due to the fact they’re not fan’s of people taking photographs in there, which is perfectly understandable. Coffee houses are great to just chill out after a busy day, whether its for a drink, some food or a smoke. Here are the places we visited:

  • The Bulldog Cafe & Energy Coffee Shop – This had been recommended by some of Brads friends so we had to check this place out, It’s also really popular in Amsterdam and one of the well known coffee shops. Its pretty small inside but its okay if you don’t get a seat, there are two more bulldog coffee shops literally 100 metres between each of them down the road!
  • Green House Cafe – This was near the Bulldog, just the other side of the river and a bit further down. I can now say I have chilled in the same cafe as Snoop Dog, Rihanna, Will Ferrell and a whole photograph wall full of other famous people that have been to this cafe. It’s a really funky place, a little more expensive, but thats understandable when you realise all the famous heads that have been there.
  • Original Dampkring – This one was my favourite because the cat they had in this coffee shop was 100% stoned. At one point she came and sat down on all of our things on the bar, she didn’t give a shit.
  • 1eHulp Cafe – You cant’t sit in here unless you’re over 21 so we couldn’t stick around, It was mad how busy it was because you can purchase the best weed in Amsterdam at the moment here, so it was a really busy place. Located kinda on the outskirts, but if you’re heading to the IAmsterdam sign its pretty close to that.15977215_10207785451826107_6170752421100053541_n
  • Abraxas – A good place to chill, A good atmosphere too, but SO hard to find with all the building work going on around it. Its down a small alleyway so ideally you’d need to have some sort of app to tell you where you’re going, or a map, Or just a really good sense of direction.
  • Smokey Coffee Shop – This was a great place, everyone’s friendly, it was busy an the music was really good, we came here after dinner at Vapianos and stayed here basically most of the night.
  • Red Light Coffee Shop – As you can tell, this one was in the red light district, Although it was very big it was a busy and easy to chill. We decided to have a break from the rain and accidentally walking down ‘Big Momma Alley’, I’ll leave that to you to think about.
  • Feel Good Coffee Shop – This was our last coffee shop of the holiday, we didn’t stay for long but it was big and had a nice atmosphere, and it wasn’t as busy as some so it was nice to get a seat!

The Coffee Shops are really great and you get talking to a lot of people, everyone is really nice and friendly there, just know your limits and be safe!

 

Amsterdam – Enough Sight-Seeing to drown a Fish

Obviously when in Amsterdam you must do the essentials, we did a fair few things but there was also a lot of things to go back and do as we ran out of time. For example we had no time to do any of the museums which was a shame. But either way, heres what we managed to get done over the course of 3 days!

*****

The streets of Amsterdam are really beautiful, I know its nothing special or anything specific, but its great because its free and everywhere is really different and nice. All the canals and little bridges, its a really photogenic place and the buildings are beautiful too, Just walking through the streets would have been enough to amuse me for a day. So if you do go to Amsterdam make sure you take in the scenery because its really unique and so pretty.

*****

The Anne Frank museum was a really moving experience. To be able to go around the house she and her family were basically trapped in for years and read extracts from her diary as you went, hearing about the journey and the story of it all. It was really eye opening. They had video’s of people who had helped the Frank family at that desperate time giving their account of the story. In the end its sad to think that Anne Frank and her sister died only 6 months before the concentration camps were liberated. Their father was the only one to survive, some of the video interviews of him talking about reading Anne’s diary are heartbreaking. It took us 45 minutes to get around and it was 45 minutes well spent. Its not too far away from the central station and it only €19.00 entry for two people, so €9.50 each, but its well worth the visit.

*****

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The Red Light District was really funky, something completely different to anything I’ve ever seen before. Men queuing up outside windows to go inside with a prostitute, and all the girls in the windows, the sex shows and plenty of flashing lights and snazzy neon signs. It was surreal, we wandered down both sides of the canal. There were multiple sex shops and shows like the Banana Bar, A peep show, strip clubs and Moulin Rouge, It was really fascinating and we had a good giggle at some of the the places along the strip because they were so different to what we were used too, its a completely different environment but really good fun. We also set up camp for an hour or so in the Red Light Coffee Shop along the canal in the district so if you wanna take a break from the lights and basically naked ladies you can.

*****

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We made the mistake of walking to the IAmsterdam, its a bloody long way from the central station so if you can get a tram to it, do. Although the walk is lovely it was long, and you can potentially go via the 1eHulp cafe on your way as well! Its located behind the Rijks Museum, a place I need to go back and visit as the museum building itself is beautiful. You walk under it too, through the arches in the middle to get to the road across the other side, Its really gorgeous so to go back and see the inside, the artwork and the famous “Night watch” portrait hung on the 18 foot wall on its own would be wonderful.

Anyway, Its your standard huge big I AM IN AMSTERDAM sign, its free of course as it sits outside and its pretty cool. Theres tourists everywhere and even an ice skating ring behind it. Im not sure if the ice skating ring is there all year round but it was early Jan so will probably stick around during the christmas and NY period if it isn’t there all the time. Its the perfect place to be your typical tourist and stand and pose in front of it, which was exactly what we did!

Overall the trip was wonderful, I can’t wait to go again and do everything I didn’t do and more!

For more on my trip to Amsterdam click this wonderful link HERE!

Amsterdam – Staying somewhere a little different.

Although there are Hostels and Hotels galore in Amsterdam, We tried something a little different. We tried this magical thing called AirBnB. Its something that seems to be getting bigger and more popular as time goes on, and for a student who can’t afford the world, it’s prices were also perfect, so why not? I didn’t want to look on Airbnb until the last minute, it wasn’t something that tickled my fancy and I wanted to try and see if I could find something else, it was really a last resort. But in future reference it will no longer be a last resort at all. It exceeded my expectations by a mile.

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I came across this ad on AirBnB with a room very well priced per night for the two of us that was close to the centre of dam but not too close and where there was plenty of transport, a place with wifi and a private bathroom/shower too. It was a brilliant overall price for 3 nights once I’d booked it, it was just hoping it lived up to my expectations.

*****

I don’t have a proper photograph of the room to show,  I have a few of the window, really helpful right? Sorry! It was a perfect room located just outside the centre in Molukkenstraat, a 20 minute bus or tram ride and a Lidl directly over the road for all our munchie needs, Although there was one downside;

We kept in contact with our host before we arrived and during. We were told her friend would be able to check us in at half past 3 as she was occupied and we were given her name and number. This was great, and super exciting, until it hit quarter past 4 and we’d been stood in the rain for 45 minutes with an unavailable phone number that didn’t work and no idea who to contact as we couldn’t reach our host online either. EVENTUALLY, the hosts friend showed up to let us in and give us our keys, the room wasn’t ready but It didn’t take them long to do the finishing touches so we didn’t mind.

It was a standard room with a double bed, a dresser & wardrobe, chair and a big-ass window which I enjoyed hanging my head out of a lot of the time. We had a bathroom down the hall which had everything we needed. It wasn’t immaculate but as my boyfriend and I are both students, it was cleaner than our bathrooms at uni and that was enough for us! The bed was beyond comfortable, and as I have trouble sleeping it was perfect.

Another benefit to this room is that the bus and tram stations are right outside the flat. This made travelling to and from the centre so easy, we could come and go as we pleased and not have to run to the station at any point, but thats another story (you can find it here:  Amsterdam – Travel & Other things to help you get around).

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A nice little perk was that one morning when we woke up it was snowing, and as the bed is next to the radiator and the window up against the wall it was nice to be able to sit on the bed with the window open, smoke and be cosy and warm whilst watching the snow outside, the perfect morning start to a busy day!

Overall, our AirBnB experience was great. It was something totally different and I say don’t be afraid to try it, It may be something out of your comfort zone but its totally worth it. The host was great, the room was great and the location, it wasn’t stupidly expensive if anything the perfect price and I had a wonderful trip to go along side it.

Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone can help you to discover new ways to travel!