UNESCO World Heritage Site #164: Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg

UNESCO World Heritage Site #164: Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg
UNESCO World Heritage Site #164: Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg

From the World Heritage inscription:

These memorials are of outstanding universal value as bearing unique testimony to the Protestant Reformation, which was one of the most significant events in the religious and political history of the world, and as outstanding examples of 19th-century historicism. They are all associated with the lives of Martin Luther and his fellow-reformer Melanchthon.

In the 15th and 16th centuries Eisleben owed its great prosperity to copper and silver mining, Martin Luther was born there on 10 November 1483 at lodgings in a house in a street then known as Lange Gasse. The family moved in the following year to Mansfeld, some 10 km distant from Eisleben. After studying philosophy at Erfurt University, Martin Luther joined the Augustinian Order in 1505. He stayed there until 1510, when he transferred to the newly built Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg, where he also held the chair of Bible studies at the University. Two years later, on 31 October 1517, he launched the Reformation by nailing his 95 Propositions to the north door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

Wittenberg is a small community in Germany which was the starting point for one of the most significant changes in European in the last 1,000 years: the Protestant Reformation.

Given the size of Wittenberg, it is difficult to escape the presence of Martin Luther. You will see Martin Luther streets, statues, festivals and historical markers all over.

The most significant buildings in Wittenberg pertaining to Martin Luther are the Castle Church where he nailed the 95 Theses to the door, the town church where he preached and the Martin Luther house. You could easily explore the main Luther historic sites in half a day.

UNESCO locations in Wittenberg are a 10-15 minute walk from the Wittenberg train station. Wittenberg can be easily reached by train from Leipzig or Berlin and Wittenberg could be visited on a day trip from either city.

This was the ninth stop on my Eurail trip of UNESCO sites in Europe.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #163: Dresden Elbe Valley

UNESCO World Heritage Site #163: Dresden Elbe Valley
UNESCO World Heritage Site #163: Dresden Elbe Valley

From the World Heritage inscription:

The 18th- and 19th-century cultural landscape of Dresden Elbe Valley extends some 18 km along the river from Übigau Palace and Ostragehege fields in the north-west to the Pillnitz Palace and the Elbe River Island in the south-east. It features low meadows, and is crowned by the Pillnitz Palace and the centre of Dresden with its numerous monuments and parks from the 16th to 20th centuries. The landscape also features 19th- and 20th-century suburban villas and gardens and valuable natural features. Some terraced slopes along the river are still used for viticulture and some old villages have retained their historic structure and elements from the industrial revolution, notably the 147-m Blue Wonder steel bridge (1891–93), the single-rail suspension cable railway (1898–1901), and the funicular (1894–95). The passenger steamships (the oldest from 1879) and shipyard (c. 1900) are still in use.

This site is going to require more explanation than most World Heritage sites that I have visited…

Technically speaking, the Dresden Elbe Valley is no longer a World Heritage site. It was removed from the list by UNESCO in 2009 after being put on the list 2004.

The entire episode is an example of the downside to having world heritage status and something which I’ve heard from different cities around the world.

As I make it a point to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, I paid attention to the Dresden incident when it happened back in 2009. It all had to do with a bridge which was being built across the Elbe river. As I had never been to Dresden at the time, I reserved judgment about what was happening. When I had the opportunity to visit Dresden as part of my Eurail trip through Germany, I jumped at the chance to see it for myself.

The entire controversy surrounds a bridge. The people of Dresden decided in 2005 in a referendum to build a bridge across the Elbe. A bridge in that location had actually been discussed as far back as 1876, but it was never built. There is even an avenue which was built on one side of the river in the 1920’s which leads up to where the bridge would have been built. Plans for the bridge were in the works before the vote by UNESCO to put Dresden on the list in 2004 and UNESCO was told that one more bridge would be built before they had the vote.

Local opponents of the bridge used UNESCO as their tool to stop construction after they lost the 2005 referendum. They claimed that the bridge would destroy the river valley, block views and ruin the aesthetic of the region.

They were wrong.

Having seen the bridge (which was mostly completed at the time of my visit in November 2011) I can state the following:

1) The bridge is not visible from the historic center of Dresden. If you go to the edge of the area, you might be able to see it. You can however, see an ugly communist era bridge that was built in the 1960s.

2) The bridge is barely visible from some of the historic palaces further up the river from Dresden. Here is a photo where you can see the bridge, as seen from the Albrechtsberg Palace.

3) It only blocks the view of the city center if you happen to put yourself in a position where it will block your view. By that logic, anything can block your view.

4) Nothing historic was destroyed to build the bridge. It wasn’t as if they tore something down to create this. It was built where there never was a bridge.

There was one other UNESCO site which has been delisted, and that was the The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman. That was delisted at the request of Oman because 90% of the sanctuary was destroyed after oil was found there. A totally different set of circumstances than what was in Dresden.

UNESCO was trying to strong arm Dresden to get them to do what they wanted. I’ve heard similar stories in Cologne, Liverpool and other cities. Preservation of history isn’t enough, they also want to block development, even if that development is done in such a way as to fit in with the history of a place.

Having visited Dresden and seen the bridge with my own eyes, I don’t agree with their decision to delist Dresden.

For that reason, I’d decided to keep it on my personal list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Paris Syndrome and Setting Travel Expectations

Recently on This Week In Travel, we came across a story about Japanese tourists who visit France and come down with something called “Paris Syndrome“. Paris Syndrome is a condition that strikes tourists who visit a place and find that it doesn’t live up to how they imagined it.

Some Japanese have a vision of Paris which comes from fashion magazines, television and movies. They assume everyone is thin and wears designer clothing all the time. When they arrive, they are shocked to see normal looking people wearing normal looking clothes. The added problems of cultural shocks, language differences and jet lag can result in some people becoming dizzy, depressed and having breakdowns.

This effects an average of one Japanese tourist to Paris each month. Continue reading “Paris Syndrome and Setting Travel Expectations”

The Business of running a Popular Travel Blog

I don’t like talking about business on my blog.

Honestly, the business part of what I do isn’t really that interesting compared to the traveling. I don’t travel to have a business, I have a business so I can travel. Nonetheless, about once a year I allow myself the indulgence to write about the business side of what I do. It is a frequent question I get from people who I meet on the road and from people who discover my site.

Earning a living online is so different from what people are used to, they often don’t know what to make of it. So, if you are curious, here is a peek behind the scenes at how I deal with the non-traveling side of things… Continue reading “The Business of running a Popular Travel Blog”

8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About the Isle of Man

Hello from the city of Douglas, capital of the Isle of Man!

I arrived here today on a short flight from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’ll be here through the weekend exploring the island and taking photos.

Given the unique nature of the island, I thought it would be a good time for another installment of 8 Facts You Might Not Know…… Continue reading “8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About the Isle of Man”