UNESCO World Heritage Site #230: Muskauer Park / Park Muzakowski

UNESCO World Heritage Site #230: Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski
UNESCO World Heritage Site #230: Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski

From the World Heritage inscription:

Muskauer Park was the forerunner for new approaches to landscape design in cities, and influenced the development of landscape architecture as a discipline.

The site is the core zone of an extensive landscape park laid out by a leading European personality of the mid-19th century, Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, around the New Castle of Muskauer on either side of the River Neisse, the border between Poland and Germany. The entire park extended around the town of Muskau and out into the surrounding farmed landscape. The area covers a total of 559.90 ha. Of this, 348 ha are within Poland and 211.90 ha within Germany. The park forms the starting point for an entirely different approach to the relationship between man and landscape. The design does not evoke classical landscapes or paradise, or provide enlightenment to some lost perfection, instead it is ‘painting with plants’, enhancing the inherent qualities of the existing landscape through embellishing its structures with trees, meadow and watercourses, to allow the landscape to merge with nature.

Pückler created an integrated landscape framework, extending into the town of Muskau. Green passages formed urban parks framing the areas for development, and the town becoming a design component in a utopian landscape. The structure of the Muskauer Park is focused on the New Castle, reconstructed by Pückler in the 1860s, according to the designs of the Prussian architect, Schinkel. A network of paths radiates out from the castle. Along them are ‘culminating points’ in the topography which create ideal viewpoints, each part of an intricately constructed network of wider interrelated views. The elements Pückler used were a combination of built and natural: bridges, watercourses, paths, ornamental buildings, woods, arboreta, scattered trees and the inherent geology of terraces, crags and the valley of the River Neisse. He wove all these into a visual picture of the highest aesthetic quality and one characterised by extraordinary simplicity and expansiveness. The landscape thus has a structure that can be appreciated for its aesthetic qualities. It also has strong intangible values – for the place it holds in the evolution of landscape design, and for its influence on what followed.

Muskauer Park is a site which straddles the German and Polish border. Most visitors will probably be coming to the German side where the palace and interpretative center is, however, the largest part of the park by area is actually in Poland.

Like many other world heritage sites in Germany, it was gutted during WWII and reconstructed in 1990’s. The middle of the park was an active border crossing zone with checkpoints until Poland entered the Schengen Area in 2007.

The palace is now a museum and interpretative center covering the life of Pückler and his thoughts on gardening.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #229: Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

UNESCO World Heritage Site #229: Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz
UNESCO World Heritage Site #229: Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is an outstanding example of the application of the philosophical principles of the Age of the Enlightenment to the design of a landscape that integrates art, education and economy in a harmonious whole.

The first essays in landscape design began with the foundation of Oranienbaum, with its unified layout of town, palace, and park from 1683 onwards. The resulting complete Baroque ensemble, with obvious Dutch connections deriving from its designer, Cornelis Ryckwaert, has survived to the present day. Further developments on these lines took place around 1700 with the reclamation of marshy areas along the Elbe and the creation of planned villages and farmsteads. During the reign of Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817), an extensive landscape design project was begun around 1765 over the entire principality. This ambitious programme was launched in close collaboration with the architect and art theorist Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff (1736-1800). Landscape design, public education, and encouragement of the arts were closely integrated in this scheme. Wörlitz became the point of departure for wide-ranging improvements based on English landscape gardens and neoclassical architecture.

This unified scheme of buildings, gardens, and works of art, with a pervasive educational theme became the outward expression of the Enlightenment. Schloss Wörlitz was built in 1769-73 and it was the first neoclassical building in Germany. The Gothic House (1774) established a vogue for Gothic Revival buildings all across Europe. A number of other landscape projects in the principality date from this period. One of the most innovatory was the Chinese garden at Oranienbaum (1790), based on the theories of the English architect Sir William Chambers.

The roads and dykes that were essential for infrastructural development were planted with avenues of fruit trees, giving them an ornamental aspect. By the time Prince Franz died in 1817 virtually the entire principality had become a unified garden. Despite industrialization and the consequent expansion of Dessau since 1900, the characteristic features of the landscape have been preserved.

There are two major things to see if you visit Wörlitz: the palace and the park.

The palace is one of the better preserved buildings you will see in Germany. Not only was it (relatively) recently built in the 18th century, but it was untouched by WWII. It is also considered to be one of the first neoclassical buildings in Europe.

The park surrounding the palace is one of the best and earliest examples of an English garden in continental Europe.

Despite the name being “Dessau-Wörlitz”, the site is located in the town of Wörlitz, not in the nearby city of Dessau. It is very close to the Dessau part of the Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau world heritage site. Both can easily be visited in the same day.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #228: Collegiate Church, Castle, and Old Town of Quedlinburg

UNESCO World Heritage Site #228: Collegiate Church, Castle, and Old Town of Quedlinburg
UNESCO World Heritage Site #228: Collegiate Church, Castle, and Old Town of Quedlinburg

From the World Heritage inscription:

The importance of Quedlinburg rests on three main elements: the preservation of the medieval street pattern; the wealth of urban vernacular buildings, especially timber-framed houses of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the important Romanesque collegiate church of St Servatius. The original urban layout is remarkably well preserved: it is a classic example of the growth of European medieval towns. The history of the medieval and early modern town is perfectly illustrated by the street pattern of the present-day town.

Situated in a hilly region to the north of the Harz Mountains, villa Quitilingaburg is first mentioned in 922 in an official document of Henry I (the Fowler), who was elected German King in 919. The town owes its wealth and importance during the Middle Ages to Henry I and his successors. On the death of Henry I in 936 his widow Mathilde remained in Quedlinburg at the collegiate church of St Servatius on the Castle Hill, founded by Henry’s son and successor Otto I as a collegial establishment for unmarried daughters of the nobility.

Westendorf, the area around the Burgberg, quickly attracted a settlement of merchants and craftsmen, which was granted market rights in 994. Several other settlements also developed in what was to become the early town centre, which was granted special privileges by the Emperors Henry III and Lothar IV in the 11th and 12th centuries. A Benedictine monastery was founded in 946 on the second hill, the Münzenberg. The Quedlinburg merchants were given the right to trade without restriction or payment of duties from the North Sea to the Alps. The resulting prosperity led to a rapid expansion of the town. A new town (Neustadt) was founded in the 12th century on the eastern bank of the river Bode, laid out on a regular plan.

The two towns were merged in 1330 and were surrounded by a common city wall. The new, enlarged town joined the Lower Saxon Town Alliance (Städtebund) in 1384, and in 1426 it became a member of the Hanseatic League. Quedlinburg retained an important economic role, as evidenced by the many elaborate timber-framed houses from the 16th and 17th centuries. The protectorate (Vogtei) of the town was sold by its hereditary owner, the Elector of Saxony, to the House of Brandenburg-Prussia in 1698, and in 1802 its special free status as an imperial foundation came to an end when it was formally incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia.

I really liked Quedlinburg. It is a very small town which few people, even in Germany, are aware of. There are several things which I found interesting about the town:

  • It is the burial site of Otto I, the first Holy Roman Emperor.
  • The town of Quedlinburg is one of the best preserved old towns in Germany as it was not bombed in WWII and there was little renovation done by the East German government after the war.
  • The cathedral was the site of a bizarre Nazi shine that venerated Otto I and his father King Henry I as the beginning of a golden age for Germany. They attempted to turn the church into the seat of a new Nazi religion that never quite caught on.
  • Millions of dollars in artifacts were stolen from Quedlinburg after the war by American soldier, Joe Meador from Texas. He mailed home a jewel covered bible belonging to Henry I that he found in a nearby cave. The bible sat in his house until his death when his brother took it to a flea market to sell it for $500. (It was worth several million). All of the stolen artifacts were return to Quedlinburg and are now on display.

Quedlinburg is probably the best kept secret in German world heritage sites and well worth a visit.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #227: Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System

UNESCO World Heritage Site #227: Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System
UNESCO World Heritage Site #227: Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System

From the World Heritage inscription:

Rammelsberg-Goslar is the largest and longest-lived mining and metallurgical complex in the central European metal-producing region whose role was paramount in the economy of Europe for many centuries. It is a very characteristic form of urban-industrial ensemble which has its most complete and best preserved expression in Europe at Rammelsberg-Goslar.

Rammelsberg lies 1 km south-east of Goslar, in the Harz Mountains. It has been the site of mining for metalliferous ores and metal production (silver, copper, lead, zinc and gold) since as early as the 3rd century BC. The first documentary mention of Rammelsberg is from the beginning of the 11th century. The rich deposits of silver ore there were one of the main reasons for siting an imperial residence at the foot of the Rammelsberg mountain by Emperor Henry II; he held his first Imperial Assembly there in 1009. The town of Goslar grew up around the imperial residence. The town was to play an important role in the economic operations of the Hanseatic League and achieved great prosperity, which reached a peak around 1450. The revenues from mining, metal production, and trade financed the creation of the late medieval townscape of fortifications, churches, public buildings, and richly decorated mine-owners’ residences which distinguish the present-day town.

In 1552 Rammelsberg was taken from the town of Goslar by the Duchy of Brandenburg, which managed it until 1866, when the mining area was seized by the Kingdom of Prussia. Mining and metallurgical operations continued there until the last mine closed in 1988.

The remains of the mining industries include waste heaps from the 10th century and excavated remains of the installations that produced them: the St Johanniskirche (c . 970); ore-transportation tracks of the 12th century: the Rathstiefster tunnel or adit (c . 1150); mining structures of the 13th century: the Tiefer-Julius-Fortunatus tunnel (1585); the overseer’s house (c . 1700); Communion Quarry (1768), the Roeder tunnel system, including two well-preserved underground water-wheels (1805): the old office building (1902); the haulage way and vertical shaft with technical equipment (1905); the Gelenbeeker tunnel (1927); the Winkler ventilation shaft (1936); the surface plant complex of 1935-42: and mineworkers’ houses from 1878 to 1950.

The town of Goslar likewise preserves evidence of its growth and long identification with the mining industry, with remains from many periods. Among these are the Imperial Palace and the Palatine chapel of St Ulrich (c . 1100): the Frankenburger Church (1130); the antechurch of the former Stiftskapelle (1160), containing the 11th-century imperial throne; the market place fountain (c . 1200); the Frankenburg miners’ settlement (c . 1500); many houses of mine-owners from the 14th-16th centuries; and the miners’ infirmary (1537).

The town was not significantly damaged in the Second World War and so the historic centre has survived intact, with its original medieval layout and many Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings of high quality

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time on Goslar. It was freezing cold, with a stiff wind and I didn’t have appropriate clothing. I’m putting this site on my “return to” list for that reason.

I also only was able to visit the old town of Goslar and didn’t get to visit the mines which is an important part of the site.

That being said, I’d put Goslar on a par with Bamberg and Quedlinburg for old German towns with well preserved half-timber housing. Like both cities, Goslar was undamaged by WWII which allowed the pre-war housing to remain intact.

If you are in the area of Goslar I would also recommend visiting two nearby world heritage sites: the Fagus Factory in Alfeld, and St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church in Hildesheim

UNESCO World Heritage Site #226: Fagus Factory in Alfeld

UNESCO World Heritage Site #226: Fagus Factory in Alfeld
UNESCO World Heritage Site #226: Fagus Factory in Alfeld

From the World Heritage inscription:

Designed in around 1910, the Fagus factory in Alfeld constitutes an architectural complex which foreshadows the modernist movement in architecture. Built by Walter Gropius, it is notable for the innovative use of walls of vast glass panels combined with an attenuated load-bearing structure. It bears testimony to a major break with the existing architectural and decorative values of the period, and represents a determined move towards a functionalist industrial aesthetic.

The Fagus factory in Alfeld establishes several major fundamental aspects of modern functionalist architecture of the 20th century, in particular the curtain wall. It constitutes a homogeneous, territorial and built complex, rationally and completely designed to serve an industrial project. It expresses great architectural unity. The scheme is at once architectural, aesthetic and social, and bears witness to a determination to achieve humanist control of the social and aesthetic changes linked to industrialisation. The interior decorative and functional elements are attuned with the architecture and the social project. They represent one of the first consummate manifestations of industrial design.

The Fagus Factory in Alfeld is one of the most unique world heritage sites I’ve ever visited. Despite the fact that it is an actual working factory held in private hands, I wouldn’t really classify it as an industrial site, but rather an as architectural site.

I’ve read several reviews of the Fagus Factory which call it a ‘shoe factory’. This is incorrect. What they make are shoe lasts, which are the molds which are used to make shoes.

I’m guessing that only hardcore world heritage enthusiasts or students of architecture will be interested in visiting the Fagus Factory. If you are in Hildesheim, however, you might want to take the 30 minute drive to Alfeld to visit the factory as it is so close.

Despite being a functioning factory, there is a museum onsite dedicated to the building and the history of the company. Whoever it was in the Fagus corporation who had the idea of turning their factory into a world heritage site is a genius.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #225: St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church at Hildesheim

UNESCO World Heritage Site #225: St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church at Hildesheim
UNESCO World Heritage Site #225: St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church at Hildesheim

From the World Heritage inscription:

St Michael’s Church has exerted great influence on developments in architecture. The complex bears exceptional testimony to a civilization that has disappeared. These two edifices and their artistic treasures give a better overall and more immediate understanding than any other decoration in Romanesque churches in the Christian West.

The ancient Benedictine abbey church of St Michael, built between 1010 and 1022 by Bernward, Bishop of Hildesheim, is one of the key monuments of medieval art. Of basilical layout with opposed apses, the church is characterized by its symmetrical design: the east and west choirs are each preceded by a transept which protrudes substantially from the side aisles; elegant circular turrets on the axis of the gable of both transept arms contrast with the silhouettes of the massive lantern towers located at the crossing. In the nave, the presence of square impost pillars alternating in a original rhythm with columns having cubic capitals creates a type of elevation which was prove very successful in Ottonian and Romanesque art.

St Mary’s Cathedral, rebuilt after the fire of 1046, still retains its original crypt. The nave arrangement, with the familiar alternation of two consecutive columns for every pillar, was modelled after that of St Michael’s, but its proportions are more slender.

The church of St Michael and the cathedral contain an exceptional series of elements of interior decoration that together are quite unique for the understanding of layouts used during the Romanesque era. First come the bronze doors dating to 1015, which retrace the events from the book of Genesis and the life of Christ, and the bronze column dating from around 1020, the spiral decor of which, inspired by Trajan’s Column, depicts scenes from the New Testament.

There are some significant things to be found in Hildesheim.

The church of St. Michael (seen in image) was the model that was used by many romanesque churches and cathedrals throughout Germany and Europe.

Like Würzburg Palace, both churches in Hildesheim were gutted by bombs during WWII. The St. Michael’s you see today is very different than the church which existed before the war. Over the centuries, St. Michael’s had parts of the original Romanesque building removed and parts of other styles were incorporated into the design. After the war the decision was made to restore St. Michael’s to its original Romanesque design from the 11th century.

Oddly enough, the wooden ceiling in St. Michael’s is the original wood ceiling. It is a beautiful design that looks like it has undergone serious renovation. In reality, the only work done on it was scrubbing off a layer of grime.

St. Mary’s Cathedral was under renovation when I was there (a common thread in my travels) but the 1,000 year old column, chandelier and bronze doors were all on display in other churches or museums in town. The cathedral is scheduled to reopen on August 15, 2014.

I’m Making the Jump to Print: Say Hello to the New Staff Writer for Newsweek Magazine!

My blogging days are over
I’ve been working with my manager the last several months on a major deal with a large publishing outlet. After weeks of contract negotiations I’m happy to announce that starting today I am the new traveling correspondent for Newsweek Magazine!

This deal is a dream come true for me and the fulfillment of years of hard work. The truth is, I’ve never really cared much for blogging or the internet. I’ve always viewed it as a place for amateurs and knew that the real prize was appearing in print. To paraphrase Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood from the great House of Cards series on Netflix, “The Internet is the McMansion in Sarasota that falls apart after 10 years. Print is the old stone building that stands for centuries.
Continue reading “I’m Making the Jump to Print: Say Hello to the New Staff Writer for Newsweek Magazine!”