'Iron Curtain Trail – Euro Velo 13' new Cultural Route of the Council of Europe (CoE) won the 1st Prize in the 2019 Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism Awards, in the category 'Transnational Thematic Tourism Products, including Cultural Routes'. The award entry was by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia - Tourism department, which implements Latvia's national tourism development policy. The agency is supervised by the Ministry of Economics. One of the main roles is to implement marketing activities in Latvia and abroad for the promotion of Latvia as a tourism destination. EuroVelo 13 in Latvia goes along the Baltic Sea Shoreline 561km long way, giving travelers the opportunity to experience Latvia’s coastal nature and Soviet legacy in the territory of Latvia.
The application for Council of Europe certification of the 'Iron Curtain Trail - Euro Velo 13' is one of the actions in the Vidzeme Tourism Association's (VTA) action plan within the Cult-RInG Interreg Europe project. The Awards Jury comprised representatives of ECTN, Europa Nostra, European Travel Commission, NECSTouR and European Commission DG Education and Culture.
EuroVelo 13 retraces the ‘Iron Curtain’ that divided Europe into East and West for almost 50 years. The route has something to offer every type of cycle tourist: the vineyards in southern Czechia and northern Austria, mountainous border of Bulgaria and Greece; bustling ports of the Baltic States, the stark beauty of Lapland. It includes many national parks with interesting flora and fauna and connects numerous unique landscapes which – because they formed part of the border areas – were hardly touched by man for many decades. The path also connects many buildings, monuments, museums and attractions which remind us of the history of the division of Europe and it’s ending via a peaceful revolution in Eastern Europe.
The Iron Curtain Trail enables visitors to experience an important part of recent European history by tracing the former border, which is no longer a dividing line but a symbol of a shared, pan-European experience in a reunified Europe. In autumn 2005, the project was first mentioned in the European Parliament’s report on ‘new prospects and new challenges for sustainable European tourism’ and has been supported by the European Parliament and the European Commission ever since.
In year 2018 European Cyclists’ Federation in cooperation with Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences worked on the application to certify the Euro Velo 13 – Iron Curtain trail as the official Cultural Route of the Council of Europe. This is the first time that an entire EuroVelo route has been recognized in this way!
The Iron Curtain Trail starts in the very far north of Europe, beyond the Arctic Circle, near the Norwegian town of Kirkenes and finishes at the Bulgaria and Turkey border next to the Black Sea. This route for more than 10,400 km is a living history lesson but also provides a welcome reminder of the peace and reconciliation that have followed the fall of the ‘Curtain’. The Iron Curtain Trail covers 20 European countries connecting many historic buildings, monuments, museums and landmarks which remind us of the history of a divided Europe. National parks with varied flora and fauna and unique landscapes, left almost untouched as they formed part of the border areas, characterize the route all along its course. The Iron Curtain Trail is first and foremost a Route that brings together European history, culture and landscape. Following the borders between neighboring countries and regions, visitors experience the values of the Council of Europe first-hand in a reunited Europe. The Route is a symbol of a newly shared pan-European experience, focusing on Europe's democratic values and permanent intercultural dialogue across European borders. Numerous conferences have taken place on the topic of the Iron Curtain going back several years. Most recently EUROM met in the European House of History and in May 2018 a multidisciplinary conference took place in the German Bundestag in Berlin. Also in 2018 the Iron Curtain Trail featured as part of the Biennale in Venice, under the motto "Unbuilding Walls". But the scope of research goesmuch further.
The Iron Curtain route is highly important for Latvia as the route goes 561km long via the Shoreline and gives the opportunity to cross the country and visit not just the capital city but also the smaller coastal towns. Recognition of the route will give the necessary support for the investments and infrastructure development on the route.
The application and the work related to the CoE certification were possible in a frame of the Interreg Europe Project “Cult- RInG”. The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe (EPA) decided to certify the Iron Curtain Trail on 30th April 2019. The certification gives the international recognition and gives the awareness about the route and is a guarantee of excellence.