Category Archive: World Heritage Sites

Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia

Posted by on March 8, 2017

Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia

Nan Madol: My 313th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Nan Madol:

Nan Madol is a series of more than 100 islets off the southeast coast of Pohnpei that were constructed with walls of basalt and coral boulders. These islets harbor the remains of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential domains built between 1200 and 1500 CE. These ruins represent the ceremonial center of the Saudeleur dynasty, a vibrant period in Pacific Island culture. The huge scale of the edifices, their technical sophistication and the concentration of megalithic structures bear testimony to complex social and religious practices of the island societies of the period. The site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats, notably the siltation of waterways that is contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves and undermining existing edifices.

Overview of Nan Madol

The Canals of Nan Madol, MicronesiaNan Madol is one of the most fascinating and significant places in the Pacific. I first visited Nan Modal in 2007 as I began my around the world trip. However, it took until 2016 to be placed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site is extremely deserving of world heritage status and years it was number one on my list of places which should have been world heritage sites.

The site has been called “the Venice of the Pacific” because it is a network of small islands separated by canals and connected by bridges. In fact, the name Nan Modal means “spaces between” which references the canals. Most of the islands have a structure which can best be described as a log cabin built with basalt rocks. Geologic testing shows that many of the rocks were brought from other islands to Pohnpei, and it hasn’t been positively determined how they were transported.

The structures were used both as dwellings and as burials sites.

How to Get There

Stones of Nan MadolThe hard part about visiting Nan Madol is getting to the island of Pohnpei. Micronesia gets very few visitors as it is far away from any major population center, and there is only really one way to get to the island. The only way to get to the island is via the “island hopper” flight which is run by United Airlines. It starts in Honolulu and stops at islands in the Marshall Islands and Micronesia on the way to Guam three days a week. It alternates going Guam to Honolulu the other days of the week.

There are no major hotels or resorts on Pohnpei, so you will likely be staying in lodging which would be the equivalent of a 2-star hotel or a motel.

I arrived at the site by boat on a day long boat tour of the Pohnpei lagoon. You can also arrive by car, but there is a hike involved to get from the road to the location. It is approximately a 90-minute drive from the capital city of Palikir.

Expect to pay a few dollars as an entry fee.

What to See

Give yourself at least an hour, if not more, to explore the site. The location isn’t very visitor friendly. There is no visitor center and little to nothing in the way of interpretative material. If possible, hire a guide who can share some of the oral history of the site.


View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 11, 2017 @ 8:37 am

Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor

Posted by on March 7, 2017

Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Silk Roads were an interconnected web of routes linking the ancient societies of Asia, the Subcontinent, Central Asia, Western Asia and the Near East, and contributed to the development of many of the world’s great civilizations. They represent one of the world’s preeminent long-distance communication networks stretching as the crow flies to around 7,500 km but extending to in excess of 35,000 km along specific routes. While some of these routes had been in use for millennia, by the 2nd century BC the volume of exchange had increased substantially, as had the long distance trade between east and west in high-value goods, and the political, social and cultural impacts of these movements had far-reaching consequences upon all the societies that encountered them.

The routes served principally to transfer raw materials, foodstuffs, and luxury goods. Some areas had a monopoly on certain materials or goods: notably China, who supplied Central Asia, the Subcontinent, West Asia and the Mediterranean world with silk. Many of the high-value trade goods were transported over vast distances – by pack animals and river craft – and probably by a string of different merchants.

The Tian-shan corridor is one section or corridor of this extensive overall Silk Roads network. Extending across a distance of around 5,000 km, it encompassed a complex network of trade routes extending to some 8,700 km that developed to link Chang’an in central China with the heartland of Central Asia between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD, when long distance trade in high-value goods, particularly silk, started to expand between the Chinese and Roman Empires. It flourished between the 6th and 14th century AD and remained in use as a major trade route until the 16th century.

Overview

The Silk Roads world heritage sites is a serial site consisting of 35 different locations spread across three different countries: China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor
I visited the Burana Tower which was in the ancient, and near the current, city of Balasagun, Kyrgyzstan.

Like most towers in Muslim lands, it served as a minaret for daily calls to prayer. However, as it was an important stop on the silk road, it also served as a type of landlocked lighthouse. In the evenings a fire would burn on the top of the tower so caravans could see it from a distance. Today the tower is approximately half the height of the original tower which was reduced in size due to earthquakes.

In addition to the tower, there is also a graveyard located containing Turkish headstones known as balbals. They are carved into the likeness of the person who was buried there.

How to Get There

Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan CorridorThe Burana tower is located just outside the city of Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan. It is approximately 70km from the capital of Bishkek. You can reach Tokmok by bus and then take a taxi to the Burana Tower. It can be visited as a day trip from Bishkek.

What to See

The primary attraction is the tower itself. You can climb to the top of the tower via a very narrow and winding staircase. The staircase only has room for one person. The graveyard mentioned above is the other primary attraction of the site. There is also a small museum on the site which displays artifacts which have been excivated from the site.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyrgyzstan.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 11, 2017 @ 8:40 am

UNESCO World Heritage Site #311: Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region

Posted by on May 16, 2016

UNESCO World Heritage Site #311: Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region

UNESCO World Heritage Site #311: Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Lake Ohrid region, a mixed World Heritage property covering 83,350 ha, was inscribed for its natural values in 1979 and for its cultural values a year later. Lake Ohrid is a superlative natural phenomenon, providing refuge for numerous endemic and relict freshwater species of flora and fauna dating from the tertiary period. As a deep and ancient lake of tectonic origin, Lake Ohrid has existed continuously for approximately two to three million years. Its oligotrophic waters conserve over 200 species of plants and animals unique to the lake, including algae, turbellarian flatworms, snails, crustaceans and 17 endemic species of fish including two species of trout, as well as a rich birdlife.

Situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, the town of Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Built mostly between the 7th and 19th centuries, Ohrid is home to the oldest Slav monastery (dedicated to St. Pantelejmon) and more than 800 Byzantine-style icons of worldwide fame dating from the 11th century to the end of the 14th century. Ohrid’s architecture represents the best preserved and most complete ensemble obf ancient urban architecture of this part of Europe. Slav culture spread from Ohrid to other parts of Europe. Seven basilicas have thus far been discovered in archaeological excavations in the old part of Ohrid. These basilicas were built during the 4th, 5th and beginning of the 6th centuries and contain architectural and decorative characteristics that indisputably point to a strong ascent and glory of Lychnidos, the former name of the town. The structure of the city nucleus is also enriched by a large number of archaeological sites, with an emphasis on early Christian basilicas, which are also known for their mosaic floors. Special emphasis regarding Ohrid’s old urban architecture must be given to the town’s masonry heritage. In particular, Ohrid’s traditional local influence can be seen among its well-preserved late-Ottoman urban residential architecture dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. The limited space for construction activities has led to the formation of a very narrow network of streets.

Although the town of Struga is located along the shores of Lake Ohrid, town life is concentrated along the banks of the Crn Drim River, which flows out of the lake. The existence of Struga is connected with several fishermen settlements on wooden piles situated along the lake shore. A great number of archaeological sites testify to origins from the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age, the Macedonian Hellenistic period, the Roman and the early Middle Age period.

The convergence of well-conserved natural values with the quality and diversity of its cultural, material and spiritual heritage makes this region truly unique.

The Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region is a fantastic world heritage site. The lake straddles Macedonia and Albania, although only the Macedonian side of the lake is part of the World Heritage Site. It is one of only 28 sites in the world that are recognized as a mixed World Heritage Site; recognized for both its natural and cultural value.

I spent several days on the shore of Lake Ohrid for a recent conference I attended. It has the charm of a small sea side resort, but it still doesn’t have the feel of being overrun (although I wasn’t there during the peak season, and I’m sure it is much more crowded then.)

The lake itself is one of the deepest in Europe with a depth of 288 m (940 ft), and is also one of the coldest.

The city of Ohrid has seen history dating back to the ancient Macedonians and has remained an important city throughout history. The Greeks, Romans, Bulgarians, and Ottomans all controlled Ohrid at one point or another and used it as an important center for trade and religion.

Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region is about a 2.5 hour drive from both Skopje and Tirana. Roads are mostly 2-lane and wind through the mountains. As of 2016, there is construction of 4 lane roads to connect it to Skopje, which should cut driving time almost in half.