Monthly Archives: November 2011

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.

Monday Travel Update – Berlin

Posted by on November 21, 2011

The last week has been amazingly hectic for me. I had an 9 day stretch where I slept in a different city every night. London, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Cologne, Eisenach, Dresden, Leipzig, Wittenberg and Berlin. The hours I’ve been keeping, the weather, the travel schedule have all been bearing down on me to the point where I was starting to get sick.

I normally don’t move this fast, but I wanted to get the most out of my 2-week Eurail pass. I only wish I could have done it in the summer, as the sun sets so early now that there isn’t as much time for photography. Also, it is much easier to walk around town in warm weather. (more…)