What about bat viewing to feel history?

    What about going “bat viewing” at night? Sitting quietly in Luznava manor, experiencing the speed, the flying skills, the whizzing of the wings enhanced by the silence, and the waves produced by these very special nightly creatures…

    Welcome to the new “Sense Tour” developed by Latvian and Russian partners within the “630 Versts Full of Feelingsproject. The initiative – funded under the Latvia-Russia ENI CBC Programme – is meant to grant a customized tourist experience in discovering magnificent landscapes, manor parks and castles in the cross-border area between the two countries.  The new tourist route will stretch from Kraslava to Aluksne (Latvia) and will continue to Pavlovsk in St. Petersburg (Russia).  But why such a name for a project? “A ‘verst’ is an obsolete Russian unit of length that was used also in the territory of Latvia till 1924,” – explains Santa Supe, the project manager from Aluksne Municipality. “The route length from Krāslava till Pavlovsk is almost 630 versts. We aim at creating a new cultural route that will allow visitors to taste the beauty of heritage and nature in a less conventional way”.

    The project is the continuation of a previous cooperation experience, which has allowed to establish very good relations between the Alūksne Municipality and the Pavlovsk State museum. Several historically significant sites were restored, among which the Alexander’s Pavilion in Alūksne manor park, and the Grand Cascade in Pavlovsk park. Such activities have laid the foundation and encouraged new renovation projects, while seminars with restorers from St. Petersburg have increased the interest of the local population in Aluksne, paving the ground for the restoration of Alūksne New Palace interior.   But the project aims at more than that.

    Tourists are no longer satisfied to go somewhere to simply say they have been there, – continues the project manager – “they want to say they have done something meaningful. Which will help to remember”. In general, the tourism sector is under a constant transformation to provide holidaymaker’s with “experiences” full of authenticity. The more senses are engaged, the more effective and unforgettable experiences can be. Visitors need to feel they are taking part in activities, they are ‘immersed’ in contexts. “That is why we say it is possible to make use of senses to feel history or art”, – continue Santa Supe. “Eyes can be used first, of course, but then history can be “touched”, for example, by taking part in masterclasses or educational programmes. Or even going to see bats flying at night, an hour before sunset, near the walls of Luznava Manor”.

    The use of modern technologies is also quite helpful to this purpose.  Local heritage and augmented reality can really go hand in hand when it comes to ensure information while creating emotions. The project is proposing a digital map and a mobile app to help people experience the new “Tour of Feelings”: a virtual 3D character – a storyteller – will also be developed to introduce visitors to the legends of the 9 main objects or sites along the route. Many other activities are envisaged during the project life, among which the restoration of the original wall paintings in the forte-piano and organ rooms in Aluksne New Palace, and the building of a zip line on the Aluksne lake.

    Overall, the programme co-financing of 720.000 € will strengthen historical and cultural capacity of the cross-border areas, contributing to socio-economic development of the Vidzeme and Latgale Regions in Latvia, the Pskov Region and St. Petersburg in Russia.

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