We invite Inger Harlevi, Route manager of the Hansa (Cultural Route of the Council of Europe since 1991), to tell us the last developments of the ExploreHansa project, her views on the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme, and her expectations on the Routes4U project.
Inger HARLEVI is Route manager of the Hansa Cultural Route, Vice-President of DIE HANSE association, and Project Manager of the Interreg Central Baltic Project “Explore Hansa”
The Hansa, Cultural Route of the Council of Europe since 1991
In the mid-thirteenth century, German seafaring merchants joined together to lay the basis of what became the Hanseatic League. Along the coasts of Northern Europe, mainly around the Baltic Sea, up to 225 cities joined the League, which had an important influence on the economy, politics and trade until the 17th century. Today, 190 Hanseatic cities in 16 countries are members of “the Hansa” network. They share the same democratic rights and the same core European values: free trade, free movement and protection of citizens. With the tensions within Europe today, this network represents an important means of peaceful and respectful co-existence.
You are currently working on the ExploreHansa project, funded by the EU - Interreg Central Baltic. Could you tell us more about the project and its last developments?
The project involves 11 partners in three countries (Estonia, Latvia and Sweden) and aims to enhance the values of the historical Hanseatic League. All the partners of ExploreHansa are Hanseatic cities: that means that they come to the Hanseatic day every year and are very active. Lately, after an important work of research, we focused on the development of new products such as walking and biking packages. We focused also on culinary aspects, with the organization of local culinary festivals in cities. A page will be dedicated in our website to promote tourism and culinary aspect of the project. For example, we will highlight three local specialties selected by every city but we will also promote the “Hansa Culinary” label, award to the best restaurants in the partner cities.
In ITB (7-11 March, Berlin), we will launch a brochure about our nine cities. For all of them, a “Five reasons why” to go in each city as well as a map with 9 places to visit will be presented. The brochure was produced in the native languages and also in German and English for ITB
As a final product, a magazine will be presented during the Hanseatic day in Rostock, Germany (21-24 June). In cooperation with a leading German travel journalist, we are writing a storytelling by city, with subject such as a recipe or a place to visit, like the fantastic Limbazi Silver museum in Latvia. In addition to the cities partners of the project, we will add the two capitals, Tallinn and Riga, which are Hanseatic cities, and Lübeck as the “capital” of the Hansa. The final part of the project will be dedicated to four FAM trips on active holidays and culinary trips. Two will be for tour operators and two for medias, raising awareness on the Hanseatic heritage and cultural tourism products that we can offer. And we are already thinking about our next magazine edition after the project! The 2019 Hanseatic day will take place in Pskov, so we wish to focus on the fourteen Russian cities members of the network.
The Hansa was certified Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe more than 25 years ago. How do you witness the evolution of the programme, and what do you think are its strength nowadays?
If I look back when it started for the Hansa, we didn't know much about the Cultural Route programme. With the entry in force of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes (2010), new demands came regarding our network and how it fitted with the certification criteria (note: as stated in the Committee of Minister Resolution CM/Res(2013)67). And that is when the real development for the Hansa begins. We have always been a very active network, with activities such as the Youth Hansa, since 20 years now, and the HANSEartWORKS. But the Resolution criteria helped us to deepen our activities in the field of European heritage enhancement and sustainable cultural tourism for instance. It prompted us to establish a legal body for our network, an association under German law. The triennial evaluation of the Cultural Routes networks is also a way to ensure the quality of the certification. It is a tough thing to go through, but it will keep you at your best!
The last years, through its headquarters in Luxembourg, the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme open up possibilities for us. It is up to the networks certified by the Council of Europe, as the Hansa, to say “yes, we want to join!” to the different activities and call for proposals. The programme built up cooperation with many other cultural bodies and European Institutions, that definitely benefit to all the certified networks. I am sure that the certification “Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe” will be one of the strongest concepts for cultural tourism in Europe within few years.
Among your 190 cities members, most of them belong to the Baltic Sea Region, which is also one of the EU macro-region involved in the Routes4U project. Could you tell me what your expectations about the project are and how you would like to contribute to its success?
We want to contribute and develop tools very concrete for the Routes4U project through our website. With ExploreHansa, we focused a lot on teaching citizens in the Baltic Sea region about the Hansa and develop tourism products. It has had impact on everything in those cities. In some on them, they barely knew they were Hanseatic cities because their heritage was destroyed over the centuries. But through research, seminars, presentations about the Hanseatic heritage, we raised awareness not only on their history but also their belonging to this European cultural heritage. Now, there is a pride among the citizens in the participating cities. And that is the next step for us: to involve them further and keep their interest alive, and one of the way is to improve the access to information though our website and social media. I have the expectation with the Routes4U that we can select a very concrete feature to develop on our website, to make the Hansa better known not only among the citizens in the Hanseatic cities but in a broad international perspective