Monthly Archives: April 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #231: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Posted by on April 13, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #231: Plitvice Lakes National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #231: Plitvice Lakes National Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

Plitvice Lakes National Park contains a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls. These have been formed by processes typical of karst landscapes such as the deposition of travertine barriers, creating natural dams. These geological processes continue today.

The Plitvice Lakes basin is a geomorphologic formation of biological origin, a karst river basin of limestone and dolomite, with approximately 20 lakes, created by the deposition of calcium carbonate precipitated in water through the agency of moss, algae and aquatic bacteria. These create strange, characteristic shapes and contain travertine-roofed and vaulted caves. The carbonates date from the Upper Trias, Juras and Cretaceous Ages and are up to 4,000 m thick. In order to maintain and preserve the natural characteristics of the lakes, the whole of surface and most of the subterranean drainage system has to be embraced by extending the original borders of the park. The new areas comprise layers of karstified limestone with dolomites of Jurassic age.

There are 16 interlinked lakes between Mala Kapela Mountain and Pljesevica Mountain. The lake system is divided into the upper and lower lakes: the upper lakes lie in a dolomite valley and are surrounded by thick forests and interlinked by numerous waterfalls; the lower lakes, smaller and shallower, lie on the limestone bedrock and are surrounded only by sparse underbrush. The upper lakes are separated by dolomite barriers, which grow with the formation of travertine, forming thus travertine barriers. Travertine is mostly formed on the spots where water falls from an elevation, by the incrustation of algae and moss with calcium carbonate. The lower lakes were formed by crumbling and caving-in of the vaults above subterranean cavities through which water of the upper lakes disappeared.

Plitvice is without question one of the most spectacular national parks in Europe.

What it is, is simple enough: a chain of lakes connected by waterfalls. However, the visual effect of the lakes, the falls and the color of the water makes for one of the most amazing views you will see on the continent. It is a scene which would be right at home on a Japanese painting.

I had the luck (or misfortune depending on how you look at it) of being in the park during a freak April snowstorm. The ‘winter wonderland’ effect is something that is seldom seen in the park and I was lucky to get photos of.

Plitvice is about a 90 minute drive from Zagreb or Zadar. If you are in the region I would highly recommend a visit.

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

Posted by on April 6, 2013

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

Posted by on April 5, 2013

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.