Paper Short Abstract:
Presenting the case study of German roots tourists in Lithuania, I will focus on the question of what exactly draws "roots tourists" to their "places of origin".
Paper long abstract:
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, German "homesick tourists" have begun travelling "to the East" to revisit the birthplaces they had fled at the end of World War II. Some of these places, such as Nida on the Baltic Sea in contemporary Lithuania, have become huge attractions and meeting points for roots tourists originating from all over former German East Prussia and beyond. Focusing on the case of Nida, the aim of the paper is to analyse the making, performing and consuming of places in the context of roots tourism. I will first of all reveal the practices, expectations and imaginations of the German tourists involved.
Secondly, I will show how "roots" have become a significant albeit highly contested political and economic resource in the making of a post-Soviet tourist destination.
I argue that the key to understanding what draws roots tourists to this place lies in the conjuncture of a longing to return to family places and the satisfaction of common tourist desires. Roots tourists are provided here with a comfortable tourist infrastructure enabling them to undertake individual and organised "trips of remembrance". The built-up areas and natural surroundings, the beaches and dunes, and the churches and cemeteries all provide a sensual environment with the power to trigger memories and images as well as emotions and secrets, which can be (re-)experienced and shared with the family or other roots tourists. Thus the present-day Lithuanian place is temporarily remembered, performed and embodied through the narratives and practices of German roots tourists in relation to the past. This leads me to analyse the various intersecting temporalities and spatialities at stake in this tourist place.