An archaic way of looking at traveling and vacationing is to think of it merely as a break from the routine of our everyday lives. Thus, relaxation and comfort may be two of the dominant motifs of this approach to tourism. But while, certainly, such a type of traveling remains relevant, it appears that today’s travelers want some meaning attached to their holidays: they value a story, a narrative, that grows organically with their travels and informs their journeys. History provides us already with such a narrative. Where tremendous events of history have happened, these places have informed all our lives: historical places of interest are tourist points invested with a built-in meaning. We are relating not only to the historical place of interest that we visit, we are also relating to ourselves and our place in the world because of the impact of such events.
One such place, which is somewhat outside of the normal tourist map, is the Isonzo river located in the tiny middle European country of Slovenia. Located to the east of Northern Italy, the Isonzo river is a waterway of amazing beauty, located in a pristine nature, but also the site of some of the most important historical battles of the First World War, when the Italian army confronted Austro-Hungarian forces for a period lasting from June 1915 to November 1917, a conflict comprising of twelve major battles. (Schindler, 2001)
Such a location is perfect for a historically themed tourism. The isolation of the area means that it has been preserved beautifully, a true reserve of a wild and attractive nature. The location is so beautiful and fantastical that parts of the epic fantasy film The Chronicles of Narnia were shot here. Moreover, the area offers many activities, such as whitewater rafting. But our focus here is on history, and the pivotal battles in this beautiful nature, battles whose bloodiness contrasts with the awe-inspiring aesthetics of this location.
Our expert tourist guides could take the history lover along these river basins, demonstrating the historical sites of these battles in the mountains and in nature. Many significant historical remnants of the battles remain. For example, fortifications are found sparsely and almost mysteriously in the wild nature, such as the fort Kluže. This fort, however, has historical interest that expands beyond the First World War, a point of protection that was built in 1472 as a bulwark against invading Turkish forces. (Steves & Hewitt)
Our travelers could then make their way along the Isonzo river towards the small town of Kobarid, which was the location of the crucial battle during this conflict. History buffs will be familiar with this small village, but so too will be lovers of literature, as Ernest Hemingway, in his remarkable A Farewell to Arms, was himself in Kobarid and reported in this great work on his experiences here and about the war. The small village also features a EU recognized World War I museum as well as an Italian mausoleum for the fallen. (Steves & Hewitt)
The traveler here, led by historians, here has access to a narrative, a story, a narrative that is explicit in artifacts and architecture, but also hidden in nature, in an idyllic location. These places are filled with stories, with meaning, and the traveler, by visiting these places of historical interest, merges his or her own life story with these narratives.
- Schindler, John R. Isonzo: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.
- Steves, Rick & Hewitt, Cameron. Rick Steves Eastern Europe. London, UK: Hachette, 2015.