10 Years European Route of Megalithic Culture
Prehistoric buildings made of unusually large stones have exerted a special fascination for centuries. Especially where they have been preserved away from urban centers in unspoiled nature, they are generally regarded as symbols of a part of our history that still lies in the dark. There have been countless attempts to uncover the “secrets” of these archaic monuments, both by ambitious local researchers and by recognized scientists. But at the core, most visitors seem to be interested in the mystical side of our past. Where it has been possible to preserve this fascination at selected sites of megalithic culture, numerous small-scale tourist offers have been created in the past decades. At the beginning of 2006, various tourism institutions in Northwest Germany jointly attempted to link the multitude of these offers and to design a large-scale tourist route. The Route of Megalithic Culture was created, consisting of 33 individual stations with a total of 78 megalithic monuments on a total route of 330 km. Already at that time the idea was in the foreground that the route concept should be transferred also into the European area and therefore the name of this route should be suitable also for the international linguistic usage.
When the Route of Megalithic Culture was ceremoniously opened on May 14, 2009, numerous individual measures had been completed at the same time:
– Signposting of the entire route in both directions including a small-scale system of special signposts to the individual sites and parking areas
– Improvement of the quality of stay at the individual stations by setting up benches and picnic areas.
– Establishment of a multi-part information system, consisting of large-format information boards, a travel guidebook, a tourist car map and a website suitable for different purposes including navigation.
– scientific studies accompanying the project in the fields of tourism, archaeology, astronomy, ethnology as well as marketing and mediation
– Continuation of the basic concept through the preparation of a professionally based tourism master plan including proposals for an expansion of the offers on site.
Shortly before, the first push towards the expansion of the Route of Megalithic Culture to a European megalithic route took place. Main initiator was Klaus de Laak, an important documentalist and local historian from Northwest-Germany, today honorary member of Megalithic Routes. He mediated the contact to the European Institute of Cultural Routes (EICR), which invited to a first personal information meeting on February 19, 2009 in Luxembourg. Bodo Zehm, then head of the City and District Archaeology of Osnabrück, and Günter Droste, managing director of the Tourism Association Osnabrücker Land e.V., already played a significant role in the establishment of an international route project. For the further working steps, which should lead to a certification of the Route of Megalithic Culture as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, Art Historian and Archaeologist Stefanie Hauf joined them. Together they organized a first meeting of interested public institutions from the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Germany on February 18, 2011 in Copenhagen. The meeting was hosted by the Danish National Institute for Monument Conservation. This meeting was followed by further intensive consultations, concerning the establishment of a Europe-wide interdisciplinary megalithic network, questions about tourism infrastructure, and museum outreach opportunities around megalithic monuments. It was a stormy build-up phase, in which the foundation of an international association for the coordination and implementation of the measures proposed or decided by the participants was of particular urgency. On August 23, 2012, the time had come: on the basis of an association statute according to German law with a scope of application for international associations, representatives of cultural and tourism institutions from 4 different European countries founded the international association Megalithic Routes in Falköping/Sweden. The founding members were: Danish Agency for Culture and Heritage (DK), Museerne Vordingborg (DK), Hunebedcenter Borger (NL), Geopark de Hondsrug (NL), Falbygdens Museum (S), Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein Osnabrück e.V. (D), Archäologischer Arbeitskreis Osnabrück e.V. (D), Stadt- und Kreisarchäologie Osnabrück (D), Naturpark TERRA.vita e.V. Osnabrück (D). For the management of the association the following board was formed:
– 1st chairman: Bodo Zehm, City and District Archaeology Osnabrück (D).
– 2nd chairman: Kristoffer Buck Petersen, Museerne Vordingborg (DK)
– Treasurer: Hein Klompmaker, Hunebedcenter Borger (NL)
– Secretary: Peter Jankavs, Falbygdens Museum (S)
The association´s business affairs was transferred into the hands of Daniela Stefanie Hauf, Stadt- und Kreisarchäologie Osnabrück (D).
An intensive preparation of the application to the Enlarged Partial Agreement (EPA) of the Council of Europe, which was responsible for the certification of Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, followed. The main components of the application were a detailed project description and documentation, a corporate design with an official route logo, an image brochure and a website. In addition, a prominent public figure had to be recruited to assume patronage of the route project. Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, former President of the European Parliament, gladly agreed to take on this representative office.
Before the end of 2012, all the documents required for the application were submitted to the EICR in Luxembourg for review. The final presentation to the EPA delegates also took place there on April 14, 2013, with the result that, in the EPA’s view, the project fully meets the requirements for recognition as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe. To officially hand over the certificate of recognition, the Danish National Institute for the Preservation of Historical Monuments hosted a ceremony on the island of Møn on August 27, 2013, against the impressive backdrop of the Klekkendehøj megalithic tomb. Here, the then director of the EICR, Penelope Denu, handed over the document to the 1st chairman of Megalithic Routes Bodo Zehm. Also present was the Danish Minister of Culture, Marianne Jelved, who took the presentation of the certificate as an opportunity to symbolically open the European Route of Megalithic Culture at this location.
A few weeks later, on September 21, 2013, one of the first decisions of Megalithic Routes was already implemented. On this day, the Day of Megalithic Culture, all member institutions were to bring individual aspects from the wide range of European megalithic cultures closer to a broad audience at selected locations. As a sign of the common approach, all events should have the same motto. In 2013, the motto was Myths and Legends. From 2014 on, according to further planning, this event should take place annually on the last Sunday in April and thus get a fixed place in the calendar of events of all member institutions.
The intensive contacts that developed between the Megalithic Routes office in Osnabrück and the EICR during the recognition process continued to have an impact in 2014. For example, the European Route of Megalithic Culture was selected for the first official journalists’ trip in the footsteps of a European cultural route. A photographer from Spain, a video blogger from Italy, a text blogger from Norway and an EICR staff member from Russia visited various member institutions and events from April 26-28, including the Day of Megalithic Culture in the Oldenburg region, when the official Cycle Route of Megalithic Culture was opened there. In the course of their work, impressive, partly artistically designed image, text and sound documents were created, which made clear the high bandwidth of the monuments of the megalithic culture as mediators between the highlights oft he European cultural history, its special varieties and the efforts of the local actors for public presentation and mediation.