Category Archives: UNESCO World Heritage

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part III

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

More places. More wildlife. More connection with the noble battle against Apartheid. More experiences to tuck into my memory bank. And more images to post here, starting with Kruger National Park that by itself is the reason that many international  travelers visit South Africa. Scroll back for previous days’ thumbnail reports, and watch for more to come until I post about my final day.

Day 8 – Kruger National Park

One of the nine gates into humongous Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, covers an area of 7,523 square miles. It was first protected by the government in 1898, becoming South Africa’s first national park in 1926. To the north is Zimbabwe and to the east Mozambique. It is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an international peace park and also part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

And below are some uncaptioned images from the too-short time in his enormous park. We visited for less than a day. Sigh.

The visitor center’s “sightings board” indicates what was seen where. Rhinos are not listed because of the ongoing poaching problem.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part III

Beijing’s Summer Palace Revisited

Crowds, crowds and did I mention crowds?

We are en route from the U.S. to Tibet with a day in Beijing — my third visit to China’s capital. The first was in 1999, and even superficial changes since then are stunning. Built into the Road Scholar itinerary were a couple of hours in the stunning Summer Palace, a grandiose and  elaborate treasure from the old Chinese Empire. It was crowded when I first visited, but now, there are more people, more photo and video stops,  plus selfie sticks that did not exist then.

The standard route through the palace remains unchanged — a walk through the gates, across a courtyard or two, a scenic walk with an artificial lake on one side and a lovely arcade on the other, a look at the famous stone boat and a ride across the lake to a landing near the exit. Here are some pictures from my visit. As you can see, taking any without a lot of people was a challenge, but taking them with a crowd was as simple as pointing the camera anywhere along the standard route.

Located 9 miles from downtown, this is the largest and best-preserved royal park in China.  Construction began in 1750 as a setting for royal families to rest and entertain, and many of its features of combining natural and enhanced landsscapes have served as a model for Chinese gardens. Heavily damaged, it was twice rebuilt and In 1924, it was opened to the public. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a leading attraction for foreign and domestic visitors.

The basic walk-through tour at lake level and boat ride are standard on most city tours,  but it is possible to reach the Summer Palace by public transportation and visit are leisure. Click here and scroll down for details.

Staying at a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Family-owned estate awash with history.

P1080361More than 3,000 sites remain in Australia from their 19th-century use as places where British convicts were kept for offenses as mild as stealing some chickens to as serious as murder. Eleven of these sites were chosen as UNESCO World Heritage Sites as the best examples in the country. Two of them, the Brickendon and Woolmers Estates, are large farms that are along the same rural road near Longford in Tasmania. Both were holdings of the Archer family. Woolmers is no longer in family lands, but Brickendon Estate,  settled in 1824 by William Archer has been continuously operated and lived on by his direct descendants.

We stayed in the quaint Gardener’s Cottage on the glorious Brickendon property. We were welcomed by Louise Archer, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guardian of seven generations of her husband’s family heritage.  Brickendon comprises the beautiful Georgian manor house that remains family home, magnificent heritage gardens, a farm village with heritage structures from the convict era and a working country estate. Volumes have been written about Australia’s convict era, so I’ll just add some images and a recommendation to visit, should you ever have the opportunity.

Brickendon Estate’s farm village is open for group tours and independent visits. We didn’t have a chance to do it, but it seems that the Brickendon and Woolmers Convict Farm walk would be a great way the open spaces and beautiful English landscape translated on Australian soil. From photos I’ve seen, the gardens are a sensational wedding venue.

Brickendon Estate's qaint Gardener's Cottage.
Brickendon Estate’s quaint Gardener’s Cottage.
The cozy living room in the cottage.
The cozy living room in the cottage.
Quaintness continues in the bathroom.
Quaintness continues in the bathroom.
View over fields and meadows.
View over fields and meadows.
The Georgian main house remains the Archer family's home.
The Georgian main house remains the Archer family’s home.

Continue reading Staying at a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The ‘Isle’ of Mont St.-Michel

Supertide phenomenon covers causeway to French coastal community.

MontStMichelle

Once every 18 years, a supertide turns France’s famed Mont St.-Michel into an island — a visitor attraction that never gets old.  Very high tides are part of the reality along France’s entire northern  coast, the periodic supertide is especially dramatic. One such tide occurred yesterday. Legend has it that the supertide comes in the pace of a horse’s gallop. It briefly turns into an island, while the day’s low tide allows people to walk on the expansive flat seabed off the coast of Normandy. Mont St.-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 30,000 people reportedly came to Mont St.-Michel to witness the first supertide of the 21st century.

Actually, the supertide effect is evident elsewhere as well, including the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic Coast between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Tierra del Fuego off the southern tip of South America, the northern coast of Australia and the Bristol Channel in Britain.

Spain in a Jar of Boulder-Made Sauce

Classic Spanish sauce reminds me of a long-ago visit to Spain

TarragonaMapA message from Peter Guarino caught my eye for two reasons. First, it is a new local food purveyor, and second, the food he currently purveys is Romesco sauce, an intriguing and complex sauce whose origins are in the seaside town of Tarragona in the Catalonian (or Catalunyan, as it is now spelled) region of eastern Spain. Tarragona is known for its Roman amphitheater by the sea, its remarkable double aqueduct and its beautiful cathedral.

A lifetime ago, my first husband and I went to Tarragona on what was to be a day trip from Barcelona, where in a café, we met another couple from the US with whom we had a lot in common. I worked at Swissair at the time; she was with Air India. My heritage is Austrian; she had been born there. Our husbands had both served in the US Navy. They were renting a house in Tarragona and invited us to spend a couple of nights. My strongest food memories are of the fig tree growing outside the kitchen door and of her gone-local cooking. I had my first, unforgettable tastes both of aïoli and of Romesco.

Tarragona's seaside amphitheater, as well as a splendid aqueduct, a beautiful cathedral and long (if crowded) beaches are the most famous attractions of this town.
Tarragona’s seaside amphitheater, as well as a splendid aqueduct, a beautiful cathedral and long (if crowded) beaches are the most famous attractions of this town.

Traditionally,  fishermen from that region would bring in their catch, sell off the best fish for maximum profit and then concoct a stew of what was left in Romesco sauce as a base. I’ve since tried my hand at both, and they turned out well. At heart, I am a from-scratch cook, but sometimes I am happy to be able to shortcut the process and serve a quality prepared product.

PeosRomescoPeo’s Romesco sauce is very Boulder, being a product made from organic tomatoes, organic spices, organic olive oil, organic vinegar and nuts that are free of chemical pasteurization. Also, It is vegan-friendly, and this version his also gluten-, dairy- and GMO-free. Sometimes I think I’m the only person in Boulder with no food allergies or sensitivities, but avoiding GMO foods is one of my hot buttons.

Guarino recommends his complex sauce both for dipping and cooking.  He calls it “the Queen of Spanish Sauces.” If you are intrigued, click here for Colorado stores that currently carry it.

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

New Skywalk in Jasper National Park

Glacier Skywalk nearing completion

WorldOfStockPhoto.jpg
World Of Stock Photo

The quartet of adjacent national parks set along the backbone of the magnificent Canadian Rockies (Banff and Jasper in Alberta, and Yoho and Kootenay in British Columbia) include s handful of commercial islands: two real towns (Banff and Jasper) and three major ski areas (Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Banff National Park and Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park). Jasper and Banff National Parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and this United Nations cultural agency sees no disconnect between natural and careful man-made wonders.

A prime example of an attraction that most likely would never be approved in a US national park but works so well in Canada is Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park.  It was developed years ago with walkways to enable winter visitors to safely view the magical landscape of frozen waterfalls, surreal ice formations and frosted limestone walls. Several Jasper tour companies lead guided walks down into the canyon. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I loved it.

Artist rendering designed by RJC Engineering & Sturgess Architecture
Artist rendering designed by RJC Engineering & Sturgess Architecture

Now comes the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park scheduled to open to the public in May.  The immense powers of glaciology are on breathtaking display from a fully accessible, cliff-edge walkway that leads to a glass-floored observation platform suspended 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. With the new awareness of climate change, more people are interested in glaciers and their impact on the land, and this Skywalk provides an easy and again safe way to gain some insights. Brewster Travel,  the concessionaire that, among many other services, operates park transport as well as the Ice Explorer vehicles that travel over the surface of the astounding Athabasca Glacier. This popular summer excursion directly off the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff also includes information about the glacier’s history and surrounding area.

In the US, the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened several years ago, providing a comparable experience but over a deep desert canyon. A major operational difference is that unlike the Glacier Skywalk in a national park, the older Arizona version is on Hualapai Nation land.

Germany Showcases Its UNESCO Sites

UNESCO listings honor nature, culture and history UNESCO-heritage-logo

Every year, Destination Germany, the marketing and promotional arm of the German National Tourist Board, comes up with themes that showcase a particular aspect of this varied and vibrant country. The key theme for 2014 will be Germany’s world heritage sites and world natural heritage sites. Of the 962 UNESCO sites around the globe, just under half are in Europe, and 38 of those are in Germany. They include churches, abbeys and palaces, parks, historic towns, industrial monuments and natural landscapes. These range in time from the pre-historic Messel Pit Fossil Site to the early 20th century Bauhaus centers of Dessel and Weimar. Germany will position all 38 sites under the banner “UNESCO World Heritage – sustainable cultural and natural tourism.”

I never would underestimate the importance of validation by UNESCO in international tourism. It not only attracts foreign visitors, but it also adds a layer of protection, since countries are disincentivized from messing with heritage sites. Not that Germany is likely to do anything other than maintain, restore and protect. After all, this is a country that rebuilt after World War II with one eye on restoring the best of the past and the other on the future.

Petra Hedorfer, GNTB’s chief executive said that “For 34 percent of cultural tourists visiting Germany, the UNESCO designation represents an incentive to travel.”

Visions of Venice

 “La Serenissima” never fails to captivate

VeniceCoatofArmsThis was my fourth visit to Venice — the first in too many years. It is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, and as such, attracts unbelievable crowds. Unless you go out very early, stay out very late or get off the well-traveled paths, the hordes are unbelievable. At one point, I tried to count the number of guides’ flags and furled umbrellas within my line of sight, but I couldn’t.

Fortunately and serendipitously, my husband and I arrived for a short stay in the wee hours of the morning, long before our small hotel was unlocked. We hung around the Rialto, watching a woman sell beer to teenagers through the security gate of a café. When we were able to leave our stuff at the hotel and stroll to St. Mark’s Square at daybreak. We visited some of the main attractions, including hyper-touristy Murano and Burano, but I tried hard to focus on the details — the close-up charmers that make Venice so captivating, crowds or not. Here’s a random selection of very personal images of people, places and things that caught my eye:

Streetlight near the Doges' Palace at daybreak.
Streetlight near the Doges’ Palace at daybreak.
Painter capturing the Bridge of Sighs before the touristic hordes arrive.
Painter capturing the Bridge of Sighs before the touristic hordes arrive.
Misty morning view of San Giorgio Maggiore.from across the Guidecca Canal from St/.Mark's.
Misty morning view of San Giorgio Maggiore, designed in the 16th century by Augusto Palladio. It sits on a small island across the Guidecca Canal from St. Mark’s.

 

The beautiful clock face on the well-name Torre dell'Orlogio. It shows the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon in addition to the time.
The beautiful clock face on the well-name Torre dell’Orlogio on the north side of the Piazza San Marco shows the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon in addition to the time.
Typical group scene on Piazza San Marco, which I keep referring to as St. Mark's.
Typical group scene on Piazza San Marco (aka, St. Mark’s Square). The crowds are overwhelming and the line to enter the Basilica daunting — but worth the wait.

 

Three gondoliers, waiting on a small wooden bridge for their first customers to show up.
Three gondoliers, waiting on a small wooden bridge for their first customers to show up.
One of the many small canals that lace is islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
One of the many small canals that lace is islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
A flower-bedecked arch at one of a couple of universities in the city.
A flower-bedecked arch at one of a couple of universities in the city.
Souvenir stands all over the city sell knock-offs of the Carnivale masks that make this pre-Lenten festival one of the world's most dramatic.
Souvenir stands all over the city sell knock-offs of the Carnivale masks that make this pre-Lenten festival one of the world’s most dramatic.
As the glass-maker's island in the Lagoon, Murano is dotted with glass street art. this fanciful sculpture is not far from Il Faro, the island's landmark lighthouse.
As the glass-maker’s island in the Lagoon, Murano is dotted with glass street art. This fanciful flower sculpture is not far from Il Faro, the island’s landmark lighthouse. There resemblances to the work of American art glass meister Dale Chihuly, who in fact created a “Venetian Series” to honor the commonality.

 

Murano's ancient (started in the 12th century) Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato is known for its elegant colonnade and beautiful mosaic floor.
Murano’s Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato, begun in the 12th century, is known for its elegant colonnade and beautiful mosaic floor.

 

The island of Burano is know for lace -making and for brightly painted buildings.
The island of Burano is know for lace -making and for brightly painted buildings.
Lovely architectural details like this Moorish-influenced window are all over Venice.
Lovely architectural details like this Moorish-influenced window are all over Venice.
One of many palazzo along the Grand Canal.
One of many palazzi along the Grand Canal.
Venice clings to its past but is also very much engaged in present events. This palazzo hosts cultural exhibitions.
Venice clings to its past but is also very much engaged in present events. This palazzo hosts cultural exhibitions.

 

The Rialto in the wee hours of the morning. This iconic stone bridge was completed in 1591, replacing earlier wooden bridges. It was the only bridge across the Grand Canal until 1854. Centuries of gondolier job security, when these craft were true transportation -- not a tourist attraction.
The Rialto in the wee hours of the morning. This iconic stone bridge was completed in 1591, replacing earlier wooden bridges. It was the only bridge across the Grand Canal until 1854. Centuries of gondolier job security, when these craft were true transportation — not a tourist attraction.
Late autumn and early winter rains and high tides cause flooding in the Lagoon almost every year. Add to that rising sea levels and cruise ships sailing right up to Venice's doorstep, and you have a highly threatened city. In addition to world water engineers trying to keep the Lagoon waters at bay, New York-based Save Venice Inc. supports stabilization and restoration projects.
Late autumn and early winter rains and high tides cause flooding in the Lagoon almost every year. Add to that rising sea levels and cruise ships sailing right up to Venice’s doorstep, and you have a highly threatened city. In addition to world water engineers trying to keep the Lagoon waters at bay, New York-based Save Venice Inc. supports stabilization and restoration projects in this magnificent city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

New UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany

Fantastic 17th-century site gains additional international recognition

Wilhelmshof near Kassel, Germany, joins the prestigious list of USESCO World Heritage sites.
Wilhelmshof near Kassel, Germany, joins the prestigious list of USESCO World Heritage sites.

Germany’s Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe has been added to the prestigious UNESCO list of global cultural sites considered internationally significant. I’ve never been to the hillside park near Kassel, but I hope to see it one day. It is known for its arresting, intricate water features and the Hercules statue atop the hill as an expression of the ideals and power in the era of European Absolutism, along with the park’s successful blend of landscape design from both the Baroque and Romantic periods.

Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Kassel started the construction of the park in 1689. Unlike the flat Baroque gardens of the day, he decided to have it coming down a hill, overlooking the city of Kassel. This is another feather in Kassel’s cultural cap. The city is best known today for  dOCUMENTA, its international exhibition of contemporary art that takes place every five years. But its traditional renown was as a place of work at the Prince Elector’s court for the Brothers Grimm, where they collected many fairytales.

Water displays were all the rage at Europe’s 17th-century courts, the more spectacular and intricate the better. Landgrave Karl bested them all, starting his with a spectacular waterfall cascading over the edge of the 1,640-foot-high park ridge with no apparent source, captured in a succession of intricately designed basins that descend toward the castle at the bottom, to be caught in front of it in a lake featuring a geyser spewing to heights never seen before.

The Landgrave also adorned the edge of the hill with an 26.9-foot tall Hercules statue mounted on a 97.1-foot pyramid-style obelisk, in turn standing on a 107.1-foot octagonal base pavilion. This monumental ensemble itself measures more than 236 feet. Adding the waterfall cascade below with its basins brings the total height of the Baroque spectacle to just under 590 feet. Some three hundred years later, the water displays still work as they did in the old days — manually operated to create choreographed optical effects to light and music on a schedule, or per occasion, on certain days of the week, depending on the season. Later rulers added to the hillside park, resulting in Romantic-period gardens and English-style landscape architecture descending a steep hill with more follies and more waterways now total 7.45 miles today.

Other attractions in Germany’s 38th UNESCO WHS Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe include the Prince Elector’s residential castle, with its mixture of grand building styles a stately site unto itself. It served as home to Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jérôme I, from 1807 to 1813, when Kassel was capital of Bonaparte’s Kingdom of Westphalia. Exploring the Löwenburg (Lion’s Castle) was built in the same period as the Elector’s residence, it is a replica of a medieval castle ruin. Click here for more information on Kassel and Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, and here for information on other German UNESCO World Heritage sites.

‘Eiger-Versary’ Coming Up

75th anniversary of the first climb of the Eiger North Face 

Eiger-logoMountains hold great allure for me. I like to look at them. I like to hike up them. I like to stand on summits and survey the world below me. But I’m not a climber, so the mountains I have “climbed” are those accessible step by step — no ropes, crampons of bivvy sack required. Still, I admire those with true climbing and mountaineering skills, none more than the men who made first ascents using boots, clothing and other gear that was long relegated to museums.

The last few weeks have seen anniversaries of other pioneering climbs — real climbs, not hikes like my ascents. I previously wrote about the centennial of the first climbs of Mt. McKinley and the 60th anniversary of  the Hillary-Norgay duo summiting Mt. Everest. There are claims that those were the second successful climbs of each, but previous ascents, while credible, are unsubstantiated because in one case (Everest) the purported first ascenders did not live to document the tale and in the other (McKinley), there were factual discrepancies.

The standard route up Eiger's formidable North Face as seen looming above Kleine Scheidegg near Grindelwald.
The standard route up Eiger’s formidable North Face as seen looming above Kleine Scheidegg near Grindelwald.

Not so of Switzerland‘s fabled and frightful Eiger North Face, one of the greatest north walls of the Alps, was successfully climbed for the first time 75 years ago. In the 1930s the Eiger North Face was considered to be the “last problem”’ of the Alps, and conquering it was the dream of many mountaineers from all over Europe. It was a not only a challenge, but it was a diversion from the storm clouds of war.  After numerous attempts that ended in tragedy costing 9 mountaineers their lives, a German-Austrian rope team made it. Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig Vörg, Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer reached the top on July 24, 1938 at 2.30, becoming the first men to successfully climb the North Face of the Eiger — and that climb really is a climb.

Everest and McKinley are remote and topographically complex. Not so with the Eiger, smack in the middle of Switzerland’s Jungfrau region, a landscape of soaring peaks, mountain valleys, rushing rivers and villages populated with people familiar with and knowledgeable about their mountains. The North Wall is a near-vertical face rising nearly straight up 5,900 feet — more than a mile — above the village of Grindelwald. No way to fabricate that success. While the “Eiger-versary” is one month from now, the village of Grindelwald will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the First Climb of the Eiger North Face from July 9 to 12 with mountaineers and journalists from all over the world will meeting at the foot of the wall to commemorate this monumental feat.

Modern climbers with highly technical gear on the Eiger's North Wall.
Modern climbers with highly technical gear on the Eiger’s North Wall. Shutterstock image.

The Eiger North Face was the backdrop for the most exciting climbing sequences in a commercial feature film — “The Eiger Sanction” starring Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy that was released back in 1975.

New Eiger Attraction in the Grindewald Museum

The Grindelwald Museum will exhibit five of the most important events in the history of the Eiger being on July 2. A newly designed exhibition enables visitors to relive the successes and tragedies of the Eiger through historic pictures, files and articles that document over 150 years of its history. Did I mention that also like mountaineering museums?