Monday, February 8, 2016

The End

In my last entry, I would like to make a summary of the theories I included in my previous entries, and, overall experience, I have acquired from the series of these trips.

During my frist entries I mentioned early theories of tourism. Namely, Boorstin's Spectacle and MacCanell's Quest for Authenticity. The reason I included them was that I wanted to provide my personal motivation for the visits. I wanted to avoid getting inauthentic experineces and ending up in the Spectacle.
Additionally, I reflected on the Hosts and Guests theory while discussing the commercialisation of the houses of worship.

Having covered basic theories and explanations, I defined what does the term "religious tourist" mean exactly, while referring to Rinschede (1992),  and concluded that people without clear religious motivation can also be considered as religious tourists. After that, I covered the theories of motivation - content and process theories, according to Blackwell (2007).
Regarding the experience I got from these trips around the city and province, I would say that it is definately something that I will remember for the entire life (taking into account I have been to places without seeing anything similar before). I also liked to record all the feelings I got from my trips in blog form, mainly because I have never done this before. I am only disappointed by the fact that I could not travel more due to my laziness studies. There are still hundreds of places worth seeing regardless of whether you are a religious tourist or not. I would say that I did not even cover a tenth of the houses of worship in the province, let alone the city.  

Blackwell, R. (2007). Motivations for Religious Tourism, Pilgrimage, Festivals and Events (R. Raj & N. D. Morpeth, Eds.). Wallingford, UK: CABI Pub. 

Rinschede, G. (1992). Forms of religious tourism. Annals of Tourism Research19(1), 51-67


Of course, the city is full of very old houses of worship each storing long and interesting history in their walls. However, this time I decided to visit the church that is considered to be somewhat "young" compared to my previous choices. The church of Sint-Franciscuskerk was built in 1930s  and is considered to be a municipal monument of the city (gemeentelijke monument).

Despite not being as grand as Aa-kerk, Martinikerk or the Synagogue, the style of the exterior and the interior is what makes this church distinguishable. The relative "youth" of this building contributed to its design which is entirely different than that of grand cathedrals like St.Jozefkathedraal and even reformed Nieuwe Kerk. The square bell tower with copper covered roof  is one of the distinctive features in the design, and for me personally, it is a sign of a 20th century church. Also, there is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi  attached to the tower which is the only statue in this complex.

However, it is the interior which makes this church famous. This church is claimed to be one of the first to have coloured bricks used in its construction along with the use of masonry ornaments. The innovative approach, in my opinion, proved to be quite fitting. The yellowish colour of the interior enhanced the light coming from the altar which draws your attention to it over and over again.

Honestly, I was a little bit sceptic about visiting this church but now, I am certain that I should have visited it earlier.


Greetings Reader,

This time I am sharing my experience from the visit of Groningen's famous Synagoge. The largest synagogue in the northern Netherlands.
As soon as I entered the Synagoge, I was offered a tour around it with an English-speaking (!) guide. which I eagerly accepted (because it was the first time I was offered a tour around a house of worship).
View from upper level
The tour guide spoke fluent English. He started by telling us the history of the Synagoge and explaining the purpose of several elements used in praying while at the same time describing the Jewish community in Groningen at that time. As a rule, we were obliged to wear kippah, but I was wearing a knit cap which was an acceptable substitute. During the tour the guide also showed us the relics of the Synagoge, as well as telling us about traditional celebrations in Jewish calendar.  
Souvenirs on the way out
Images of Jews living in Groningen before war
I would like to say that was slightly amazed by the opportunity of taking a tour in a place of worship. The guide told us that current Jewish community is small in the city and, therefore, it is feasible to organise tours with tickets, souvenirs, literature etc. In my opinion the commercialisation might also be due to the interactions between international visitors of the city (which are in abundance) and the local Jewish community which is referred as 'Hosts and Guests' theory (Edensor, 2009). The commercialisation can literally be seen when entering the Synagoge where the front hall with books, souvenirs and a ticket seller is separated from the 'official part' (praying places, relics etc.) by the fence.

Fence dividing the Synagoge into two parts
Edensor, T. (2009). Tourism. Elsevier

Short Visit to the World of Museums

As a part of my Passions of Tourism course I was offered the opportunity to visit the Groninger Museum with my group and attend the lecture of its curator about the role tourism plays in the life of the museum and history of museums in general. Since I have never been to the museum of Groningen (studies do not leave free time for anything including such small museum trips), I decided to seize this opportunity. Although it does not fit to my subject of the religious tourism, I still find it worth writing about my experience of the museum and, what’s more important, knowledge I acquired from the curator’s lecture.
To begin with, before entering the museum I found its exterior rather unusual (in spite of the fact that it is an art museum), possibly because of my conventional image of a museum being an old-looking building with traditional architecture.
Groninger Museum. Source: Wikipedia
Interior Design. Pay attention to side lamps.
However, my opinion immediately changed as soon as I entered. As we were waiting for the curator, I had some little time to look around. The style of the interior was amazing, completely new and a bit odd for me (my thoughts were later confirmed by the curator: ‘Groninger Museum is one those places that are better from the inside’, ‘…Our main aim was to make the interior thought-provoking, so that it would encourage discussions among visitors’).
From his lecture I understood that museums always struggle not only increase the number of their visitors but also increase the number of visits by the same visitors regardless whether they are tourists or locals. He also mentioned at least three most important factors that greatly affect the attractiveness of the museum:
·         Location. As curator said, both for tourists and locals location matters a lot which is confirmed by the case of Groninger Museum. Prior to construction there was an appealing alternative to build the museum in picturesque outskirts of the city. Fortunately, municipality decided to build it near train station which proved to be extremely successful later.
·         Relevancy. Relevancy of events, exhibitions, etc. Timing is essential. Museum’s actions must align to current events of the world of art and culture. Recent ‘David Bowie’ programme of the Museum made a great impact considering current events revolving around the singer's death.

·         Pricing. Museums never charge a uniform entry fee. To attract youth discounts are introduced while maintaining higher fees for older visitors to break-even.

Our discussion after curator's lecture.
Guess who is pretending to be a part of the discussion

Green Island of Nieuwe Kerk

Today, I am writing about my trip to the Nieuwe Kerk. This "New Church" may not be the main tourist attraction in the city but it sure is unique, let alone beautiful. Besides, from the historical value perspective, this is the first church dedicated to Protestant worship (so far, all the churches I have visited are (were) of Catholic faith). One can easily say that my visit to the Nieuwe Kerk was just a matter of time.

Located almost in the heart of the city, the Reformed church of Nieuwe Kerk , perhaps, stands out of all city churches with its peculiar architecture style. For me, personally, the building gave the impression of the isolated island (despite its central location), mostly becuase of the lawn (used as a cemetry centuries ago) with old trees surrounding the church.  This particular area serves as a safe 'harbour' for locals to relax and get away from usual chores while gazing upon the large building standing tall in the centre of this green island.
Apart from having relatively modern design (compared to Martinikerk and Der Aa-kerk), the interior of the church also has distinctive features. Unlike Martinikerk and Der Aa-kerk, the Nieuwe Kerk is actively used for religious purposes. Indeed, it would not be a lie if I say that almost everyday the church is used for hosting events, most of which are religiously motivated. As a result, it is reflected on the interior design with pews placed everywhere and the altar being nicely decorated.

In the previous post, I have already started to discuss one of the two Blackwell's thoeries of motivation for religious tourism - content theory of motivation. Here I will reflect on the second theory - process theory of motivation. Under this theory an individual asserts the reward of the journey and, gets motivated, if it justifies the efforts put into action. In case of religious tourism, the reward is a spiritual enrichment (self-actualisation). If an individual believes that the journey (pilgrimage) will definately result in a spiritual enrichment, he may perform religious tourism. Unlike, content theory where enrichment is a need identical for every individual, enrichment in process theory is a reward which is valued differently, according to how differently individuals perceive it. 

Blackwell, R. (2007). Motivations for Religious Tourism, Pilgrimage, Festivals and Events (R. Raj & N. D. Morpeth, Eds.). Wallingford, UK: CABI Pub. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

City Again: Sint-Jozefkerk

Carrying on my Quest for Authenticity, I visited the Sint-Jozefkerk. This cathedral may not be as grand as Martinikerk or Der Aa-kerk, but, considering that this house of worship is an official centre of the Groningen-Leeuwarden Diocese, it is surely promising if you are a religious tourist or an authenticity seeker.
Source: Wikipedia
One of the reasons I chose this place is that I was invited to attend the concert featuring a choir performing Mozart's Requiem there. Since I am into both the religions and classical music, I just could not miss such occasion.
Arches decorated with Dutch carvings. 
My expectations of Sint-Jozefkerk having similar interior design as Martinikerk or Der Aa-kerk immediately vanished, the moment I opened the door of the main building. The first thing that hits your eye is commandments carved on the pillars in Dutch and Latin. As your sight will venture through the pillars, it will come across the enormous crucifix above the altar. For some reason also, the overall lighting in the cathedral which filled the place with bright yellow colour made me feel relaxed and calm.
Since we have already established who do we mean by saying 'religious tourist' (see previous post), the following question emerges: 'Why one becomes a religious tourist?'. What motivates a person to travel far away from home and listen to the choir in a cathedral visit sacred places/ceremonies/events etc.? There are a lot of theories on that subject but here I will mention one of the two brought up by Blackwell (2007) - content theory of motivation.
Same carvings can be seen on pillars
Blackwell (2007) stated that a religious tourist (as every tourist) has needs both low-level and high-level kinds (think of Maslow's hierarchy). Religious tourism gives the opportunity of satisfying such types of needs as social (during pilgrimages people can feel themselves as a part of a group), self-actualisation ('spiritual enrichment  will make you better').
In my case, I am fulfilling self-actualisation needs by listening to classical music and being in a spiritual place.  

 Blackwell, R. (2007). Motivations for Religious Tourism, Pilgrimage, Festivals and Events (R. Raj & N. D. Morpeth, Eds.). Wallingford, UK: CABI Pub. 

Away from the City: Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed

In my Quest for Authenticity (see previous post) I decided to visit the hermitage of the village of Warfhuizen in the north of Groningen province. Situated in the extreme north of the Netherlands in seclusion, the hermitage became famous in Middle Ages as a site to venerate Mary because of a life-size statue, the “Sorrowful Mother of Warfhuizen”

As you may already have guessed, I am not a Christian nor a religious person. This fact invokes formal (from the standpoint of tourist studies) and rather relevant question: ‘If I visit pilgrimage sites without any religious intentions, can I still be called a religious tourist?’
Famous statue of Mary

According to Rinschede (1992): “Religious tourism includes the visit of religious ceremonies and centers”. Moreover, in terms of motivation, one can classify religious tourism as the tourism whose participants are motivated exclusively for religious reasons, and should be distinguished from cultural tourism which has solely educational reasons. However, Rinschede (1992) also claims that today cultural tourism and religious tourism are closely interconnected and one can be a subgroup of another (think of ‘Da Vinci Code’ example).
Therefore, I can be considered as a religious tourist despite not being motivated for religious reasons, which is pretty important in my Quest for Authenticity.

Scene depicting the birth of Christ with toy figures
Calling myself a religious tourist because of theory was not enough, so I decided to acquire at least a little portion of pilgrim travelling experience by traveling to the hermitage by bike instead of a bus or taxi. Although the trip was dangerous and deadly exhausting (21.2 km with my physique felt like 100 km, not mentioning the return trip), I can definitely say that I had the most authentic and rewarding experience. Apart from the feeling of tranquility while in the countryside, I felt unusual serenity the moment I stepped into the quiet atmosphere of the chapel. The famous statue and large crucifix made the inside of the small chapel look as if it was the hall of the grand cathedral while at the same time filling my mind with such Christian values as humbleness and acceptance. I was also lucky to visit the chapel during Christmas, as there were additional decorations depicting the Biblical episodes of the birth of Christ. Finally, the most thrilling part of the trip was also the fact that I, for the first time in my life, was given a chance to ask the hermit to say prayers later for my close ones which I gladly accepted.

Rinschede, G. (1992). Forms of religious tourism. Annals of Tourism Research19(1), 51-67.