European Cultural Routes

The soul… and the strongly beating heart of the western world

Cultural tourism accounts for around 40% of all European tourism, and while culture here dates back many decades, the concept of Cultural Routes was officially spawned by the Council of Europe in 1987.

MANY ROUTES LEAD TO ROME

In addressing the spirit of a modern pilgrimage, the declaration invited Europeans – particularly the young – to “travel these routes to build a society founded on tolerance, liberty, solidarity and respect for others”. In this way, the routes leading to Rome, and from Rome to Jerusalem, the Michaelic pilgrimages and the pilgrimages dedicated to St Olav in northern Europe have progressively been added to the first route to create the most faithful and coherent image possible of the great land routes which have structured the towns and villages of Europe.

The Cultural Routes programme of the Council of Europe now comprises 29 certified Routes that cover 70 countries. France (10.4%) heads the list followed by Italy (9.7%), Spain (8.4%), Portugal (5.8%), Germany (5.2%) and Great Britain (5.2%). The rest of the countries each comprise 2.6% or smaller percentages.

THE MEANING OF MAN IN SOCIETY, IDEAS OF LIBERTY AND JUSTICE, AND TRUST IN PROGRESS

THE WAYS OF PILGRIMAGE

From its beginnings, the concept of hospitable networks (the Order of Cluny, the Knights of Malta or St John) has led to the development of a network of small businesses, initially religious, which federated agricultural and medical “clusters” to feed and care for pilgrims. Today, with the renaissance of pilgrimages, this spirit of hospitality and welcome has spawned resting points, hostels and semi-tourist accommodation facilities, which contribute to the local development of the villages and rural spaces traversed, creating an entire “social economy” linked to a social, supportive and ethical tourism.

MARITIME AND TRADE ROUTES

The Phoenicians’ routes, starting in the Mediterranean and stretching as far as the Isles of Scilly (United Kingdom), enable one to analyse the evolution of the concept of trading posts, and of the establishment of platforms for exchanges with local populations. It is equally clear that the towns of the Hansa are the first example of the creation of an economic network founded on mutual insurance and risk-sharing. The towns, particularly Bruges, also had links to the Medici Bank and the great central European markets. The Via Regia is also one of the oldest commercial exchange corridors in Europe. The Route enables one to interpret the geography and nature of these exchanges and the creation of small and medium businesses from the age of pedlars to transportation via articulated lorries on the new east-west motorways built since the last world war.

THE CULTURAL ROUTES OF INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE

The Iron Route in the Pyrenees, primarily designed to present and interpret a network of small historic crafts enterprises which employed a crossborder seasonal workforce, and the European Iron Trail in Central Europe, showcasing the great industries of the region, are at the heart of the concept of evolution in the economic forms of work in Europe; not forgetting that they are also examples of a recent form of economic innovation: the reconversion of an industrial activity into a heritage activity.

LANDSCAPES AND CIVILISATIONS

The Routes of the Olive Tree and the Iter Vitis Route are particularly relevant models for studying the economy and management of landscape as well as the economic structure of small agricultural businesses before the development of the food processing industries.

THE EUROPEAN ROUTE OF HISTORICAL THERMAL TOWNS

This Route is particularly suited to studying the evolution of the tourism economy, from spa treatments to the development of well-being tourism linked to the rediscovery of one of the great historic heritages of tourism.

More info: www.coe.int/routes

EUROPEAN CAPITALS OF CULTURE

Another excellent way to take in some culture in Europe is to enjoy the European Capitals of Culture.

This initiative by the European Commission is designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe, celebrate the cultural features Europeans share, increase European citizens’ sense of belonging to a common cultural area and foster the contribution of culture to the development of cities.

The initiative was developed in 1985 and has, to date, been awarded to more than 50 cities across the European Union. The 2015 European Capitals of Culture are Mons (Belgium) and Pizen (Czech Republic). European Capitals of Culture have already been designated until 2018:

2016 – Donostia-San Sebastián
(Spain) and Wrocław (Poland)

2017 – Aarhus (Denmark) and
Paphos (Cyprus)

2018 – Leeuwarden (Netherlands)
and Valetta (Malta)