Dark Tourism: poor taste or interesting AF? 

I think with today’s blog I more so want to ask a question rather than state my opinion.

Dark tourism is defined as tourism involving places that evoke emotions of grief or despair due to previous actions in the location, and you only have to take a look at the rise in click-bait/Facebook articles to realise that this has somehow become a popular topic as of late. I’ve noticed from researching stuff for my own trips that there’s a rise in tourism companies that are specifically catering to dark tourism now as well. I have my own thoughts on this, but I’m interested to know – what do you think? Is visiting these places important to preserve the memories of those who suffered, or does it glorify them? Basically – do you find this interesting or is it in bad taste? After reading A LOT of information regarding this throughout a bunch of forums and other blogs, I’ve compiled the 5 below that I found to be the most commonly mentioned or advertised.

1. Chernobyl – Ukraine

What happened?

On 26 April 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the town of Pripyat had what has been described as an operator error. Basically, radioactive material was released/became airborne. It was the No. 4 Light Water graphite moderated reactor specifically, and the nuclear accident that occurred resulted in the town of Pripyat being evacuated. Even with the evacuation – acute radiation sickness was experience by a reported 237 people. Out of that – 31 of them died from it in the following 3 months. The amount of radioactivity that was released into the atmosphere at the time was expected to cause around 4000 premature deaths in that area. Even now, as of 2017, the area is still deemed to be too dangerous for people to live and the homes still remain intact as they were back in 1986, expect for the ransacking that has occurred.

2. Hiroshima – Japan

What happened?

On 6 August 1945, the US dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 3 days later (9 August 1945), it dropped another bomb on the city of Nagasaki which – as terrible as it sounds – doesn’t get as much attention as Hiroshima throughout history. As of now, these bombings are the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history. With the two combined, it is usually stated that 129,000 people died, however the after effects of the bombs haven’t been completely documented so that number is an estimate. There’s no way of really telling how high that number got to, as the radiation had the ability to affect birth and cancer rates as well. The cities were essentially flattened though, and these bombings eventually led to the surrender of the Japanese in World War II.

3. The Killing Fields – Cambodia

What happened?

The Killing Fields are a collection of sites around Cambodia, that were the locations for mass killings and burials carried out by the tyrannical Pol Pot’s followers under his Communist Khmer Rouge regime during their rule from 1975 to 1979. There have been 20,000 mass grave sites analysed so far, and it’s been reported that they found as many as 1,386,734 corpses, all victims of execution style killing. If you add in the deaths from disease and starvation, which was rampant at the time due to the conditions, it’s been said that roughly 2.2 million people out of the Cambodian population at the time (8 million) died under Khmer Rouge’s rule. To break it down further they basically executed everyone who was suspected of connections with former or foreign governments, and they particularly targeted those with connections to other ethnicities such as Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese.

4. Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall – China

What happened?

The massacre was something that happened back in December of 1937, during the Sino-Japanese War. Specifically, it was 13 December 1937 that it began, and what followed was 6 weeks of the Imperial Japanese Army holding the people of Nanjing captive. During that time, it’s estimated that anywhere between 40,000 to 300,000 people were killed. Historians have not been able to accurately confirm the figure because the Japanese military records were destroyed shortly after Japan finally surrendered in 1945. The victims were made up of mostly Chinese civilians, however there were a few armed folk who tried to hold their own against the Japanese. There were also high numbers of rapes and looting, however the official numbers with that were never documented.

5. Poenari Castle – Romania

What happened?

The fascination with this castle has more to do with its previous owner, the infamous Vlad the Impaler. The castle itself, which is also known as the Poenari Citadel, is now considered a ruin but it was once the home of the Impaler. It’s located in Romania, but back in the 1400’s the area was known as Wallachia. Vlad served as the prince of Wallachia on three separate occasions (each occasion interrupted by wars) and he was known for his absolute brutality throughout his battles. In a show of power, he would impale the corpses of his victims for all to see. Some historians have even said that Sultan Mehmed II, who was a member of the Ottoman Empire who opposed Vlad, fled from the area with his own army after riding through Wallachia and personally witnessing over 20,000 corpses impaled throughout the cities. He was reported to be deeply disturbed by the smell of the rotting corpses, and horrified that Vlad drew power from it. Recording keeping was not quite what it is today, but it’s estimated he had a hand in the deaths of over 100,000 throughout his reigns and battles.

So now that you know the back stories, would you visit them? And why (or why not)? I have to admit – there is something that has always fascinated me about Chernobyl or Poenari Castle but I would be a little more hesitant to explore the other 3 places. As much as it’s fascinating to learn about history, there’s something inside me that gets a little hesitant about places like these being turned into a tourist trap. I think they really need to be handled with respect as much as possible, and it annoys me to see pictures of people traipsing through these places who genuinely know nothing about what happened in that place. There I go with my opinion though 😂 considering I started this saying I wouldn’t give it!

Thank you for reading though 🙂 if you like any of this – please subscribe, I generally post something new every Friday.

Photos courtesy of @PixaBay.

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