Monthly Archives: March 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #204: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

Posted by on March 11, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #204: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

UNESCO World Heritage Site #204: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany are a serial property comprising fifteen components. They represent an outstanding example of undisturbed, complex temperate forests and exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions. They contain an invaluable genetic reservoir of beech and many species associated and dependent on these forest habitats.

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany are indispensable to understanding the history and evolution of the genus Fagus, which, given its wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere and its ecological importance, is globally significant. These undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions and represent all altitudinal zones from seashore up to the forest line in the mountains. Beech is one of the most important elements of forests in the Temperate Broad-leaf Forest Biome and represents an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities after the last ice age, a process which is still ongoing. They represent key aspects of processes essential for the long term conservation of natural beech forests and illustrate how one single tree species came to absolute dominance across a variety of environmental parameters.

This world heritage site is serial site comprised of 15 locations spread across three different countries (Germany, Ukraine and Slovakia).

The site I visited was Jasmund National Park in Germany.

Jasmund is the smallest national park in Germany and is only a 45 minute drive from the city of Stralsund. Oddly enough, although Jasmund is on the world heritage list because of its beech forests, its main attraction is its chalk cliffs which overlook the Baltic Sea.

Even though the park is small, there is enough to do to make for an interesting visit. There are many kilomters of hiking trails and the visitor center is located at the chalk cliffs. There are also local municipal buses which run regularly from the nearby city of Sassnitz. Jasmund also has one of the best interpretative centers I have ever seen. A significant amount of time, money and effort went into it. Audio tours of the center are available in German and English.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Gary’s Big German World Heritage Adventure

Posted by on March 7, 2013

The route of my road trip

Starting Monday, March 11 I will spend 2-weeks driving around Germany with the goal of exploring 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 27 of which I have not previously visited.*

I am excited to be doing this trip for several reasons. I love road trips because there is a freedom you have when driving that doesn’t exist when you are traveling by train or plane. I love visiting UNESCO sites and Germany has the 5th highest number of them in the world (37). My ancestors also came from Germany in the 19th Century. Outside of a great aunt who spoke German, I didn’t experience much in the way of German culture growing up. (Being German became highly unfashionable in the United States with its entry into WWI.)

The sites are a mix of 19th century industrial sites, forests, cathedrals, monasteries, Roman ruins, paleontology digs and gardens.
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #203: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

Posted by on March 5, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #203: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #203: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is an exceptional cultural monument in which the natural landscape was used as the setting for a symbolic representation in the form of chapels and avenues of the events of the Passion of Christ. The result is a cultural landscape of great beauty and spiritual quality in which natural and man-made elements combine in a harmonious manner. The Counter Reformation in the late 16th century led to a flowering in the creation of Calvaries in Europe. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is an outstanding example of this type of large-scale landscape design, which incorporates natural beauty with spiritual objectives and the principles of Baroque park design.

The official name of this site is: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park. I think that just might be the longest name of any World Heritage site on Earth.

That aside, is the one of the more questionable world heritage sites I’ve visited. I don’t really think that the architecture is that much different than you will see in hundreds of other churches around Europe. I’m also not sure that a glorified stations of the cross is really worth of world heritage status.

Nonetheless, this is a popular pilgrimage site for Polish people and there is quite a bit both inside and outside the main cathedral devoted to the visits of Pope John Paul II, both as a boy, a bishop and pope. You can see a statue of him in the photo above.

I went in early March, but I got the strong impression that the site is much busier in the summer. There were very few people there when I visited, yet there parking spaces for large coach buses, a restaurant and large bookstore. Almost nothing here was in English, which indicates that the site is primarily of interest to Poles.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #202: Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

Posted by on March 4, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #202: Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

UNESCO World Heritage Site #202: Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

From the World Heritage inscription:

The wooden churches of southern Little Poland bear exceptional testimony to the tradition of church building from the Middle Ages. They have also been preserved in the context of the vernacular village and landscape setting, and related to the liturgical and cult functions of the Roman Catholic Church in a relatively closed region in central Europe. They are exceptionally well-preserved and representative examples of the medieval Gothic church, built using the horizontal log technique, particularly impressive in their artistic and technical execution, and sponsored by noble families and rulers as symbols of prestige.

The history of Poland goes back to the unification of the Christian lands and the constitution of the kingdom in the 10th and 11th centuries. Churches have been of particular significance in the development of Polish wooden architecture, and an essential element of settlement structures, both as landmarks and as ideological symbols. They were an outward sign of the cultural identity of communities, reflecting the artistic and social aspirations of their patrons and creators. The nine sites in southern Little Poland represent different aspects of these developments.

This is a serial site of churches in nine different villages which compromise the world heritage site. They are:

  1. Archangel Michael (Binarowa)
  2. All Saints (Blizne)
  3. Archangel Michael (Debno)
  4. Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael (Haczow)
  5. St. Peter and St. Paul (Lachowice)
  6. St. Leonard (Lipnica Murowana)
  7. St. John the Baptist (Orawka)
  8. St. Philip and St. James the Apostles (Sekowa)
  9. Archangel Michael (Szalowa)

I visited St. Leonard’s in the village of Lipnica Murowana, which is the closest church in the world heritage site to Krakow.

These churches are only for hard core world heritage site enthusiasts. They are very small. St. Leonard’s was small enough that you could easily walk around the entire building in under a minute. Lipnica Murowana was about an hour’s drive from Krakow and the church wasn’t even open. It wasn’t hard to find, but it did take some effort. Once you get to the village, just look for the big white church and park near there. The smaller, darker church is very close by and walking distance.

This might just hold the record for the most obscure world heritage site that I have visited.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.