Europe as landscape of memory

With the European Union a transnational system has developed that challenges the development of a collective “European identity”. But because a common currency and a political agreement cannot provide an integrative creation of identity the question arises on historical experiences, traditions and achievements that for the European citizens can endow awareness of a fate that has commonly been suffered and can be created jointly. In this context Europe is a “community of memory and experiences”. Common frame of the "old" and the "new" Europe is the collective memory.

This collective memory is entitative cultural. It develops based on well-grounded histories that make the “European present” experienceable for the citizens through the experience of a common past they can identify with. Thereby the spatialization plays an important role. Memory clings to places. For this reason chosen places are charged with symbolic meaning and have been defined as places of memory in order to provide indications for identity shaping. Europe that covers a whole net of such places of memory can be understood as “landscape of memory” in this context.

The draftsmen of the Council of Europe and the EU found the identity-shaping meaning of places of memory, the more so the pilgrimage in medieval times and travelling in modern times already contributed to this “European identity shaping”. That is why they developed structures and systems for cultural-touristical programmes, not only to make meetings at places of memory possible for travellers, but also to come in contact with the common cultural heritage in these places. So through making special places and routes accesible for touristical interests the awareness for common European culture should be raised.

1987 the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostela has been acknowledged as first European Cultural Route on suggestion of the Council of Europe. Meanwhile there are several like the Via Francigena, the Mo-zart Route, the Route of Martin of Tours and – since 2005 – the VIA REGIA also. These Routes evoke the memory on European culture, people and mental movements that revive in tourism.

The Cultural Routes have a special significance in the Council of Europe. It does not only proclaim the affinity between place and memory but also realises it through the official acknowledgement of Cultural Routes.