Historic Cafes Route presented their achievements and future plans at the Intergroup (association of MEPs) event that was held at the European Parliament (and partially online) on Tuesday 25 April 2023.
The event was organized by Mr. Francisco Millán Mon, Member of the European Parliament (EPP Group in the European Parliament).
The representative of the Ways of St. Jame’s Routes (Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes) -the first Cultural Route certified by the Council of Europe in 1987- presented also the initiatives and the future plan of the Route that became extremely successful during the years.
During the meeting Mr. Stefano Dominioni, secretary executive of the Cultural Routes, took the floor underlining the importance of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe for the cultural heritage as well as the economy. He also referred to the success of the Cultural Routes, which now number 48, noting that 37 countries have signed the Enlarged Partial Agreement (38 with the latest to join, Moldova).
The meeting was a very interesting initiative that aimed to highlight the role of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, not only promoting culture, but also tourism, local economies etc.
Historic Cafes Route was represented by Mrs. Angela Drakou, President and Mr. George Loverdos, Route Manager. The online event regarded the importance of the Cultural Routes.
At the event participated the following members of the European parliament:
Francisco Millán Mon, Dolors Montserrat, Javier Zarzalejos, Rosa Estarás, Leopoldo López, Pilar del Castillo, Željana Zovko, Jose Manuel Fernandes, Tomáš ZDECHOVSKÝ, György HÖLVÉNYI, Rosanna Conte, Eniko Gyori and Kinga Gal.
«Historic Cafes Route, although young, has achieved great success to date. Firstly, the term Historic Cafes has been official registered in the Hellenic national list of intangible cultural heritage of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. The registration took place before our certification by the Council of Europe, and we proceed to this step because we consider the intangible cultural heritage – the living heritage – knowledge, experiences, culture, which is transferred from generation to generation extremely important. The certification by the Council of Europe followed and already, since June 2022, we have tried and managed to take great steps in order to strengthen not only Historic Cafes Route, but also to bring into focus the importance of the Cultural Routes in general.
In a few days, at the beginning of May, we will travel to Coibra, Portugal for our second official certification ceremony, on the occasion of the 100 years anniversary of the iconic Santa Cruz Cafe. The Cafe is one of our most unique members, since it was for years the church of the poor in the area. Right next to the cathedral, in a central square, Santa Cruz works to not only maintain and preserve its rare cultural value, but also implements in its activities the young people of the area, and is a point of reference for the local population.
At Santa Cruz – where we will have the pleasure of meeting again Stefano Dominioni – we will officially announce our initiatives taken place the last four months.» Stated Mrs. Drakou at the event.
The HCR manager, George Loverdos stated: “Historic Cafes Route is one of the Routes that certainly go beyond the strict borders of the European territories. We are looking for common roots, traditions and culture at the Mediterranean basin and beyond the Atlantic. Today, as we speak, Historic Cafes Route has members in 15 countries in the European area and we try to expand beyond them.
Regarding the number of members and friends, Historic Cafes Route includes more than 100 members with the number and applications increasing recently.
HCR is trying to promote and protect the tangible and intangible, – the “living” as Mrs. Drakou very rightly mentioned, cultural heritage, so it could be transferred to the next generations. In the same context, we are working to create and promote alternative tourism and the local economy.
Each Route has a specific theme, for us this is Historic Cafes and their importance through the years. From there on, questions arise: one of them is “How can we help, promoting our common memory” but at the same time “how we can make the Route financially viable” following our principles.
And there is another series of questions:
How can Cultural Routes survive financially? How can they be sustainable; don’t forget that most Cultural Routes are Non-Profit Companies.
Do corresponding financial programs really exist, And if yes, then how to find them?
The funding issues become more intense when, as time passes, the Cultural Routes have more and more demands on specialized staff, on transportation, on scientific documentation that require lots of hours of working that – I guarantee you – cannot be covered by volunteering.
Other simple but “dangerous” questions we have faced are whether Cultural Routes are elite clubs or Routes that everyone is welcome.
For the latest question, the answer we always give is that the Routes concern everyone without any distinction, or discrimination and in our case, Historic Cafes Route, are open to the old Cafes of the villages on the Mountains or on the islands that played and play social and cultural role, as well as we are open to luxurious Cafes of central big cities.
To put it simply, a Historic Cafe can be simple, neoclassical or part of a Grand Palace. And it can be located in faraway places, or down town in big cities.
Most of the times, these small Cafes of the villages need more the protection from us, than the luxurious, sometimes impersonal and perhaps even touristic Cafes of the cities.
Historic Cafes Route includes members with fairly strict admission criteria, such as age, preservation of memory and others, but we also accept friends who may of course be private or public bodies, museums, Regions, municipalities etc.
Based on all the above, and based on the financing needs of the Routes, but also on the need to create a trade name, a brand name, based on the need for visibility and getting to know the Routes from the wide public, for some time now we have been creating, with the help of specialized experts in tourism, itineraries – cultural touristic trips that promote the important past of each Region based –of course- on Historic Cafes.
These alternative cultural tourism packages that we started to create in Romania are pilots for the moment. They include a three-day or an even seven-day “product” based on Culture, Arts, Letters. Our goal is to put into them the factor of Sustainability in a short time, which is also one of the priorities of the Training Academy of the Cultural Routes and of course of the Council of Europe. We will have more information to share regarding these cultural touristic products in Coimbra, where we will present the cultural touristic program. We believe that this program will quickly expand to other countries and that soon more Regions and municipalities will be included in these itineraries, thus unifying Regions and memories.
I believe that these “products” will soon be able to address also to young people, including other areas, schools, universities and –of course- youth training programs.
It is an ambitious plan and it certainly does not only concern the Historic Cafes Route. Besides, our policy is to promote the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe as a whole. For this reason we have already signed cooperation agreements with the Phoenicians Ways, the IterVitis, the Fairy Tales Route and the Women Writers Route.
Already, for a newly certified Route, we consider that we have taken many steps. But in order to do more, as I said at the beginning, we need your help. We need your support, for the visibility of the Cultural Routes in the Member States. Outreach and the promotion of the importance of the Routes must become a priority. As well as updating the Routes regarding funding. We absolutely need to have the right contacts to target for information in order to identify the appropriate financial programs and tools. I’m glad we had this conversation today. I hope next time there will be more of us and that we will meet in person. Besides, Culture should be high on the agenda of the European institutions because culture should always unite us.”