The best of the best and top of the line! The World Heritage Sites appointed by UNESCO (UN’s Education, Science and Culture Organization) is just that. Natural and cultural sites of Outstanding Universal Value.
In 2021, 34 new properties have been added reaching 1.154 in total. I love history and old stuff, so I will let someone else focus on the natural wonders and inspire you to visit the cultural sites. I’ve selected 12 out of the 29 new cultural sites.
At the end of the post you can find an unusual one: 1 site that was kicked off the list.
12 new cultural UNESCO sites
THE SPA TOWNS OF EUROPE
Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, UK & Northern Ireland
“The Spa Town of Europe” were all part of a growing interest in healthy living. From 1800s to the 1930s almost any town near a spring became a recreational hot spot – for the wealthy that is. And so the spa and wellness wave started with huge luxury resorts shooting up with massages, healthy food, green areas and swimming. And many of them are still here.
What’s not to like about visiting these World Heritage Sites?
Emporium of the World
The Silk Road is one thing. This is the Maritime Silk Road. But just like the first it’s all about trade and the riches that follow. For almost 1700 years, this trade route went from China, Southeast Asia, India to the Arabian peninsula and Europe exchanging the real gold: spices.
Quanzhou is one of the cities prospering and became an emporium in the 10th – 14th centuries. Sights include an almost 1000 year old Qingjing Mosque, bridges and Islamic tombs. You can find production places for iron and ceramics and stone docks. The docks was of course for commerce, but also for defense.
If you want to see where the riches from the Silk Road went, try visiting Uzbekistan.
PORTICOES OF BOLOGNA
Built from the 12th century to the present, the vaulted arcades are magnificent. Some are made of wood, others of stone or brick, as well as concrete and shows the change of style. The genius of it, is that they cover the pavement, so whether the warm Mediterranean sun shines at you too much or the rain falls, you are protected. Underneath you find shops, university students drinking, hotels and coffee shops.
And Bologna has some of the best food in Italy. And that’s saying a lot!
COLONIES OF BENEVOLENCE
Just like the UNESCO site of Christiansfeld in Denmark, this is an experiment on how to schematically plan the layout of a town according to a belief system or a strategy.
The colonies is a 19th century experiment in avoiding poverty in the city. How? By building agricultural colonies in remote locations. It didn’t quite go as planned and they needed money. The Society of Benevolence then made a deal with the government to settle orphans, beggars and vagrants, which instead of helping ended up being a kind of labour camp. Why do social experiments almost always go haywire?
The earliest colony is Frederiksoord in the Netherlands from 1818. Here you find the original headquarters of the Society of Benevolence.
Church of Atlántida
I feel connected to this site, since I work in a church, also made of bricks and also a World Heritage Site. You might think only old monument make the list, but this church is only 60 years old.
Maybe the architect – engineer Eladio Dieste –has been to Roskilde Cathedral, because his church is inspired by medieval religious architecture, but taking bricks to a new level. The modernistic complex has undulating walls and roof. After this, modern architecture in Latin America was never the same. The aim was to build for social equality but with few resources – and making it look good at the same time.
Well, that’s one more reason for me to go to Latin America, where I have never been. Sadly.
Everywhere I look on Instagram, it’s filled with lighthouses. Or maybe that was just during the lockdown and Danes had to be creative in our flat and tiny country. I think we are drawn to them, since the are litterally a light in the dark saving lives.
But this lighthouse is extra special. Like a cathedral, it’s covered in white limestone. The lighthouse is almost 400 years old dressed but remodeled 300 years ago. And also just like a cathedral this lighthouse is decorated with pilasters, columns modillions and gargoyles. (Like the gargoyles of Notre Dame) As if the sea monsters weren’t enough. A technological achievement trying to continue the tradition from antiquity.
A lighthouse is not just a lighthouse. Literally a cultural beacon.
12 VILLAGES OF Hawraman/Uramanat
Zagros Mountains, Iran
This village reminds me of the Berber villages in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. And probably many mountains villages share the same difficulties and resources.
This remote landscape shows the traditional culture of the Hawrami people. They are a farming Kurdish tribe, and they have lived there for 5000 years. Between the two valleys Zhaverud and Takht in Kurdistan Province and the Lahun in Kermanshah Province you’ll find the typical steep-slope planning and architecture. The tribe have gardening on dry-stone terraces and livestock. Despite these villages, the Hawrami people are semi-nomadic moving from lowlands to highlands during the year.
My husband’s niece married into an Iranian family, and I’m hoping I can go there with them someday.
FRONTIERS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
Danube River in Germany, Slovakia & Austria
I’m always surprised at how large the Roman empire actually was. And I have a map of it in my dining room! Last summer my family and I visited some of the frontier going along the Rhine. The border is called Limes.
This new World Heritage Site is a different part of the frontier. It covers almost 600km of the whole Danube. The Danube Limes contains road (thanks Romans), legionary fortresses, small forts and temporary camps. The Danube is the second-longest river in Europe shared by 19 countries. So maybe a cruise?
Sudanese style mosques
Northern Côte d'Ivoire
Look at that mosque! I’m dying to see more of the African continent. I’ve only been to Zimbabwe in Sub-Saharan Africa.
You find the 8 small adobe mosques, at Tengréla, Kouto, Sorobango, Samatiguila, M’Bengué, Kong and Kaouara. The timber and the clay and towers remind me of the structures in Timbuktu. They might have something in common since this style is thought to originate in Djenné in the 14th century. Trade (again) with gold and salt across Sahara made the city wealthy. From the 16th century, the style spread south. Here it developed a special style matching the different weather.
The 20 mosques might not be as tall, old or spectacular as in Mali, but it has to be some of the most off-the-grid World Heritage Sites.
14th CENTURY FRESCOES
I looove frescoes. I don’t work in a World Heritage Sites with frescoes for nothing. But mine are not as fantastic as seen elsewhere in the world. Like this church in Padua, Italy.
The frescoes are painted in the 1300s. They include frescoes by fantastic painter Giotto in Cappella degli Scrovegni (You might have seen his works in Rome, Florence or Assisi). They changed how mural painting was made with new aesthetics and understanding of space. And to imagine he started as a shepherd. There’s hope for all of us. The city’s botanical garden is already on the list.
Lake Onega & The White Sea, Russia
Not only is the word Petroglyphs cool – its literally words from the past. I’ve seen them in Denmark, Jordan, Zimbabwe, Sweden and Uzbekistan, but you can find these ancient cartoons in many countries. These are placed in Karelia which is where my grandmother grew up. But back then it was part of Finland- not Russia.
Imagine that almost 7000 years ago someone carved these signs. Well more precisely 4,500 petroglyphs or rock art. At Lake Onega you’ll find birds, animals, half human and half animal figures and geometric shapes that may be symbols of the moon and the sun. If you instead got to the White Sea, it’s petroglyphs showing hunting and sailing and animal and human footprints. This is art from the Stone Age. And the ones I’ve seen were beautiful.
By Lake Onega another World Heritage Site is located: the 2 old wooden churches of Kizhi Pogost.
Jomon Prehistoric Sites
Hokkaido Island & Tohoku, Japan
I’ve always dreamed of visiting Japan. Someday I will.
These 17 archaeological sites are placed in very different landscape. So you can choose your favourite depending on your liking to mountains, lakes or plains. The Jomon culture was unknown to me. They are even older than the Iranian tribe mentioned earlier. And not semi-nomadic. The sites tells the more than 10.000 year old story of the Jomon culture and its complex spiritual belief system and rituals. Expressions of spirituality can be seen in lacquered pots, clay tablets with the impression of feet and some famous goggle eyed figurines. And like other cultures ritual places including large stone circles of more than 50 metres.
According to you travelers, Tohoku is beautiful with volcanoes and hot springs.
MARITIME CITY LIVERPOOL
Liverpool, UK & Northern Ireland
Yes you can get kicked off the list. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and Dresden Germany has been kicked off the list in earlier years. In 2021, it’s Liverpool.
So why? The city made the Danger List in 2012 due to proposed development of Liverpool Waters. The projects went ahead despite warnings from UNESCO. Unfortunately, the new constructions are detrimental to the authenticity and integrity of the site. So now, it’s off the list.
Liverpool’s historic centre and docklands were originally on the list for showing the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. If we don’t take care of our common cultural heritage it can very well disappear.
You might notice that many are located in Europe. This is NOT because Europe is more fantastic than the rest of the world, but the process of becoming a site is lengthy and costly leaving many countries out. And maybe a bias towards Europe since it all started in Greece.