Monthly Archives: November 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #162: Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau

Posted by on November 29, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #162: Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau

UNESCO World Heritage Site #162: Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Bauhaus is an outstanding example of the Modern Movement, which revolutionized artistic and architectural thinking and practice in the 20th century, and in particular of the progressive architectural concepts of the Jugendstil.

In 1919 the Schools of Art and of Applied Arts of the Grand Duchy of Saxony were combined to form the State Bauhaus of Weimar. The building of the former had been constructed in two phases, in 1904 and 1911, to the designs of Henry van de Velde (1863-1957), replacing the original structure of 1860.

The new building is representative of the progressive architectural concepts of the Jugendstil, in the transitional phase between Historicism and Modernism. The building was decorated with murals painted by Herbert Beyer in 1923 following the internationally famous Bauhaus exhibition. Van de Velde was responsible for the design of the former School of Applied Arts (1905-6), also in the Jugendstil tradition. Oskar Schlemmer added wall sculptures in 1923, which had disappeared, but have been replaced by copies.

Was the Bauhaus movement important? Yes.

In fact, I dare say I like most of the things with a Bauhaus design.

That, however, does not mean it was easy to take photos of this site. The locations for the UNESCO sites are divided between Weimar and Dessau. I visited them in Weimar.

While the Bauhaus movement was started in Weimar, and Bauhaus University is currently in Weimar, that doesn’t mean there is a lot to see. There is a Bauhaus museum in the city center, but that isn’t technically part of the UNESCO site. The university building itself isn’t that special. If you pop your head inside however, you can see some great design work inside.

The photo above is from the main stairwell in the main building at the University.

This was the seventh stop on my November 2011 Eurail trip to European UNESCO sites.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #161: Classical Weimar

Posted by on November 28, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #161: Classical Weimar

UNESCO World Heritage Site #161: Classical Weimar


From the World Heritage inscription:

The high artistic quality of the public and private buildings and parks in and around the town testify to the remarkable cultural flowering of the Weimar classical period. Enlightened ducal patronage attracted many of the leading writers and thinkers in Germany, such as Goethe, Schiller and Herder, to Weimar in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, making it the cultural centre of the Europe of the day.

Weimar became the capital of the Duchy of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach in 1572. For many years the painter Lucas Cranach the Elder worked in Weimar, where he died in 1553. This marked the start of a long period of growing cultural importance in which many painters, writers, poets, and philosopher lived in the city – Johann Sebastian Bach, Christoph Martin Wieland, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller, Franz Liszt, Henry van de Velde, and Walter Gropius.

You have probably heard of Weimar from the “Weimar Republic”, the name given to the German government between WWI and WWII. What you probably didn’t know is how this small city of 44,000 people played such an important part in German culture.

Weimar was the home to three of Germany’s greatest authors: Goethe, Schiller and Herder. Composers JS Bach and Franz List lived in Weimar for a time as did architect Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School. Martin Luther preached here and reformation artist Lucas Cranach died here.

The above photo is of Goethe’s home in Weimar.

It is an amazingly remarkable city considering its size.

This was the sixth stop on my November 2011 Eurail trip of UNESCO sites in Europe

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #160: Wartburg Castle

Posted by on November 27, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #160: Wartburg Castle

UNESCO World Heritage Site #160: Wartburg Castle

From the World heritage inscription:

The Castle of Wartburg is an outstanding monument of the feudal period in central Europe. It is rich in cultural associations, most notably its role as the place of exile of Martin Luther, who composed his German translation of the New Testament there. It is also a powerful symbol of German integration and unity.

The legendary creation of the castle is attributed to Count Ludwig der Springer. The first steps in its construction were taken in 1067, and it became one of the key points in the early years of Ludovician sovereignty. This sovereignty grew more firmly established during the first half of the 12th century. Raised to the dignity of Landgraves, the Ludovicians supported the policies of the Stauffen emperors. The building of the palace in the second half of the 12th century illustrates their status as Princes of the Empire. In 1227 Heinrich Raspe IV, the brother of Ludwig IV, succeeded him and, espousing the pope’s cause, was appointed King of Germany on the initiative of Innocent IV. His death in 1247 ended the Ludovician dynasty.

Wartburg Castle seems to be a crossroad for much of German history. It was important in medieval German history as a fortification of the Ludovicians, it was where Martin Luther hid and translated the Bible into German, it was important in the 19th Century unification of Germany, and Wagner used it as the backdrop for his opera: Tannhäuser.

If you arrive in Eisenach by train, you will probably need to take a taxi to get to Wartburg Castle. It is less than a 10 minute trip, but it is located on the top of a small mountain and is a fair walk from the train station.

This was the fifth stop on my November 2011 Eurail trip of European UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #159: Cologne Cathedral

Posted by on November 26, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #159: Cologne Cathedral

UNESCO World Heritage Site #159: Cologne Cathedral

From the World Heritage inscription:

Cologne Cathedral, constructed over more than six centuries, has an exceptional intrinsic value and contains artistic masterpieces. It is a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe.

Christians met for worship in a private house in Roman Cologne near the city wall. Following the Edict of Milan in 313, when Constantine proclaimed religious freedom, this building was enlarged as a church. Alongside it were an atrium, a baptistry and a dwelling-house, possibly for the bishop. This modest ensemble was extended and enlarged in the following centuries. This immense building, known by the 13th century as ‘the mother and master of all churches in Germany’, was consecrated in September 70.

Post-Second World War excavations, as well as contemporary documents, provide evidence of its form and decoration – a basilica, with a central nave flanked by two aisles and a large atrium in front of its western facade. A two-storeyed Chapel of the Palatinate, in the style of Charlemagne’s chapel in Aachen, was added to the south transept at the beginning of the 11th century, and later that century it was connected by two lofty arcades at the east end with the Collegiate Church of St Mary ad Gradus.

The Cologne Cathedral is one of the most iconic symbols in all of Germany and certainly the most well known important religious building in the country. It towers above the city of Cologne as one of the largest and most important gothic cathedrals ever built.

The moment you walk out of the Cologne Central Train Station you are immediately struck by the enormity of the cathedral staring at you. The fact that it is on a hill and the train station is situated below it only adds to the effect.

Thankfully, the cathedral escaped any serious damage in WWII. It has been in a state of almost constant renovation ever since.

The cathedral was originally built as a resting place for the remains of the three wise men who were stolen from the cathedral in Milan. Today, the city flag of Cologne has three crowns on it, representing the three wise men. The reliquary of their bones in the the back of the church behind the altar.

This was the fourth stop in my November 2011 Eurail trip of UNESCO sites in Europe.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Sour Toe Cocktail Club

Posted by on November 26, 2011


Drink it fast or drink it slow, your lips must touch the toe – Recited before entry into the club

I carry only a few things in my wallet: a credit card, my drivers license and some of my frequent flyer cards. There is one other thing I carry with me. Something that I’m extremely proud of and which puts me in an elite group of people, so small that less than 0.0005% of the world’s population can claim membership. (more…)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #158: Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust

Posted by on November 25, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #158: Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust

UNESCO World Heritage Site #158: Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust

From the World Heritage inscription:

Augustusburg and Falkenlust present the first important creations of the Rococo style in Germany. For more than a century, they served as models for most of the princely courts. Like the Residence of Würzburg, the castles and gardens are outstanding examples of the large princely residence of the 18th century.

Set in an idyllic garden landscape, Augustusburg Castle, the sumptuous residence of the prince-archbishops of Cologne, and the Falkenlust hunting lodge, a small rural folly, are among the earliest examples of Rococo architecture in 18th-century Germany.

A Rococo masterpiece, the castle of Augustusburg is directly linked to the great European architecture of the first half of the 18th century. In 1715, Josef-Clemens of Bavaria, Prince-Elector of Cologne, planned to construct a large residence at Brühl, on the foundations of a medieval castle. He consulted a French architect, Robert de Cotte, who sent the plans. However, this project was not immediately followed up and Prince-Elector Clemens-August, who was less francophile than his father, rejected de Cotte’s proposals and in 1725 called on a Westphalian architect, Johann Conrad Schlaun, to build the castle that was to carry his name.

My first impression of the Augustusburg Palace was that it was a smaller version of Versailles or of Schönbrunn Palace. That is in fact what it is. The palace was built as the summer residence of Clemens-August. He was one of the seven prince-electors in the Holy Roman Empire and the archbishop of Cologne. He also had 3 other bishop positions as well as being the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. Needless to say he had a lot of money.

The high point of the palace is the grand staircase which was designed to give an amazing first impression to visitors of the palace.

Visiting the palace from Cologne is very simple. Just take any train to Brühl. It is about a 15 minute ride from the Cologne Central train station (Köln Hauptbahnhof or Hbf). When you walk out of the Brühl train station you will immediately see the palace. Its driveway ends at the train station.

This was the third stop on my November 2011 Eurail pass trip in Europe.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #157: Rietveld Schröder House

Posted by on November 24, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #157: Rietveld Schröder House

UNESCO World Heritage Site #157: Rietveld Schröder House

From the World Heritage inscription:

With its radical approach to design and the use of space, the Rietveld is an icon of the Modern Movement in architecture and an outstanding expression of human creative genius in its purity of ideas and concepts as developed by the De Stijl movement. It occupies a seminal position in the development of architecture in the modern age.

It was commissioned by Mrs Truus Schröder-Schräder, designed by the architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1965), and built in 1924. Mrs Schröder lived in the house for some 60 years, first with her children, then in the company of Rietveld, and finally alone. In the early years, until 1932, Rietveld kept a studio in the house; from 1958, after his wife died, he came to live there until his death. During this long period some changes were made in the interior, resulting partly from the needs of the inhabitants, partly from the experimental character of the building itself. The building is now a museum.

This is easily the smallest World Heritage site I have ever visited.

The Rietveld Schröder House is really just a small family home located in a neighborhood in Utrecht. Like many of the architectural World Heritage sites, it will probably be most interesting for students of architecture and design.

What makes the house interesting is how everything in the home seems to have dual usages or can be transformed into something else. Walls fold away, window coverings become wall furnishings, couches become beds and doors disappear.

The Rietveld Schröder House is not in the center of Utrecht. It requires a 15-20 minute walk from the center of town. A better option is to visit the Utrecht Centraal Museum (who operates the house) and rent a bike for the trip. They will provide you with maps to show you the route.

Entrance to the house is €12. Photography is not allowed inside and you can only enter on a guided tour.

This was the second stop in my November 2011 Eurail tour of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

7 Things This World Traveler is Thankful For

Posted by on November 24, 2011

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States today, and while you can take the boy out of America, you can’t take the American out of the boy. So in that spirit I thought I’d list the things I’m thankful for this year.

Air Travel – Given how much we complain about airlines and airports it might seem odd to be thankful for air travel, but I am. We often forget how easy it is to travel nowadays. In real terms, the cost of air travel is as cheap as it has ever been. The notion of a “jet set” which is a rich elite who can afford to fly is passe. Today, almost anyone who saves their money can fly to almost any corner of the world. If it wasn’t for the advances in air transportation, world travel would be much more difficult.
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #156: Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht

Posted by on November 23, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #156: Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht

UNESCO World Heritage Site #156: Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht

From the World Heritage inscription:

The historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new ‘port city’ built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city’s fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term programme that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.

Amsterdam was the first stop on my November 2011 Eurail trip of UNESCO sites in Europe.

I had actually been to Amsterdam before, but never bothered to take any photos of inner canal area. It was declared a UNESCO after my first visit, so I never put it on my list. My first stop in this trip was to rectify that issue.

I think in many ways, Amsterdam gets a bad rap. So many people associate Amsterdam as a European version of Las Vegas with its red light district and marijuana cafes. Yes, those things do exist and you will see them in spades when you walk out of the train station, but you don’t have to walk far to find a different city.

Amsterdam is one of the best museum cities in the world. It is easily the best city for bicycling on Earth.

The UNESCO part of Amsterdam is begins right when you exit the Amsterdam Central train station. It is impossible to miss.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.