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Germany - World Heritage

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Author Solivagant
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#1 | Posted: 6 Sep 2013 05:13 | Edited by: Solivagant 
We have just returned from a c4000 kms drive around Germany in which we added 14 new WHS to our "seen list" (Volklingen, Lorsch, Messel, Pile Dwellings, Margravial, Berlin Housing, Wismar, Wadden See, Bremen, Fagus, Wartburg, Bergpark, Beech Forests, Zollverien), 8 new T List (Schwetzingen, Weissenhof, Erzgebirge, Naumberg, Francke, Danevirk, Chilehaus, Corvey), made 2 re-visits (Speyer, Maulbronn) and took in at least 2 T List "possibles" (Altes Land, Osten transporter bridge). This "completed" for us at least a "partial visit" to all of Germany's 34 WHS and its 9 non "extension" T List (as at Sep 2013). A number of comments and observations have occurred to us both during the trip and thereafter. Although we have a subject on this Forum for "Top 3 German WHS" we don't have a generic "subject" for German WHS matters so I have created one here.

a. One aspect which hit us was the scale of renovation investment taking place at German WHS (and I know this extends beyond the ones we visited) – Lorsch, Margravial, Wartburg, Bergpark, Maulbronn and Volklingen all had large areas covered in scaffolding. Fagus was having a new Visitor Centre built whilst several major buildings in Wismar were being renovated too. Maybe the German governmental coffers are overflowing but one wonders how all this is being justified. The Bergpark seemed to have developed into a never ending maintenance job but the "flyer" indicated that its development and inscription were seen as a major plank in developing tourism in the area. It is interesting that some of this renovation is happening at the time of or very soon after inscription (e.g Margravial, Bergpark) - ICOMOS must have been happy with the plans/intentions rather than the finished result and didn't see the need to withhold inscription until completion. I guess it could reasonably assume the works would be carried out, unlike such plans in a number of sites inscribed in developing countries where promised renovations never occurred (E.g Algiers)

b. Our route included a fair number of "pay to enter" sights (8 of the 14 WHS and 5 of the 8 T List). Most of our travelling over the past 10 years has been in developing countries and we have undoubtedly become "out of date" regarding entrance costs in Europe (and in UK!) Indeed some of the sites seemed to be "money extracting machines" with entrances rarely less then 8 Euro pp plus all sorts of extras for guides/audios/parking and entrances to different parts of the site – one could quickly rack up 20 Euros pp. Wartburg even charges extra to climb a tower inside the castle! And I think of Clyde's comments regarding the Margravial Opera house fee to see a very limited exhibit on the renovation – a rip off which we also had to endure! Germany (unlike UK) rarely gives concessions to us "oldies" either - it must regard its OAPs as being pretty well off!

c. Some of the sites don't seem quite sure what to do with the space they have – both Volklingen and Zollverein are given over to "artistic" endeavours of doubtful value and certainly bearing no relevance to the OUV of the site. And the latter is hawking its real estate around with the promise that "Companies here benefit from the inspiring proximity of the WHS"! Financial realities have to be faced but we felt that Zollverein in particular had veered too far away from the core aspect of its inscription - for instance descriptions around the site were almost non existent (Volklingen had done a far better job in that respect).

d. Germany seems to like presenting its WHS in, what seems to us, a rather regimented and didactic way (not a stereotype I hope!). Many of its sites (my impression is more so than those in UK and elsewhere in Europe) require a group tour to gain an entrée to the core - Lorsch, Messel, Bremen, Fagus, Wartburg, Zollverein. These tours take place infrequently and/or at inconvenient times for those wanting flexibility in travelling! They are also often an additional cost to the basic entry. Unsurprisingly they largely take place in German but, among our sites above, only Wartburg provided an accompanying text in other languages so otherwise the (significant) extra cost is somewhat wasted to a non German speaker! The Messel tour spent 10/15 minutes of a 1hr tour just 10 yards outside the museum explaining how it didn't have enough time to go right into the pit and describing what had already been shown in the museum!

e. Whilst each of the sites undoubtedly had "value", it was difficult, looking back, to identify any real "world class" highlights - particularly among the more recent inscriptions. Perhaps we have just become too blasé. The 8 T List sites were largely "more of the same" too – palaces, churches, mediaeval buildings, industry and modern architecture. All of them perfectly worthy, justifying preservation and "worth a visit" if one were passing – but not really "WHS" material. Some seem no better , or worse, than similar uninscribed "2** Michelin sites" elsewhere in Germany. I don't think there was a single site I would want to go back to but there were also very few I wish I hadn't bothered with (The Pile Dwellings was one – but that's another story!).

f. It occurs to me that one of the reasons Germany has so many WHS is that it has more "transfrontier" sites than any other country – 5 with 3 more on its T List. This isn't totally unreasonable given its geographic position and history but Germany does seem to have played this aspect of the "nomination game" quite cannily! There is little doubt that UNESCO rather "likes" trans-national sites. It may be true that, as in the case of The Silk Road and Qapac Nan they can take a lot of developing but they do also receive a fair wind too at the evaluation stage – can anyone think of a trans-national nomination which has been rejected? But Germany also has a good record of riding along on the coat-tails whilst another country takes the lead or even joining after the main location(s) have been inscribed. I think of the Pile Dwellings, the Limes and the Beech Forests.

On re-reading this it all sounds a bit down-beat! We did have some "wow" moments – the cascade and water organ at Bergpark, the Festival Hall and other rooms at the Wartburg (albeit somewhat degraded by the ongoing renovation in the Singers' Gallery), seeing an Osprey catch a fish at Edersee-Kellerwald (though, strictly, it was outside the WHS boundary even if we were inside!), looking down the "sharp end" of the Chilehaus and along Aroser Allee at Weiße Stadt. Others would no doubt have alternative highlights - our interests and priorities will all be different. Our prime reason for being in Germany was to attend the Festspiele at Bayreuth, but, beyond that our route was determined almost 100% by WHS factors – as such we no doubt gained a skewed view of that country's attitude towards its tangible heritage which maybe isn't as "Welterbe" oriented as it might seem from our route. Indeed we came across plenty of other examples of initiatives to promote cultural preservation and tourism. But I can't avoid the conclusion that Germany has gone, and is going, somewhat overboard in pursuing the goal of UNESCO inscription. "Länder" competition might well at least partly explain this and, of course, the UNESCO system allows, even encourages, it, despite the guidelines to restrict yet more nominations from the serial nominators! But enough is enough – though, as I already have the next 9 "ticked off", perhaps I should be pleased at the possibility of yet more inscriptions!

Author meltwaterfalls
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#2 | Posted: 6 Sep 2013 06:02 
:)
Looking forward to going through this in more detail. Germany has become something of a specialist area for me recently (I've seen more WHS there than anywhere else, 6 more than it's closest challenger UK).

There is certainly a lot in your run down that I agree with; many of the T-sites will add nothing new to the list and the Lande rotation can lead to some rather uninspiring progress.

Solivagant:
c. Some of the sites don't seem quite sure what to do with the space they have – both Volklingen and Zollverein are given over to "artistic" endeavours of doubtful value and certainly bearing no relevance to the OUV of the site

These giant industrial sites really do cause problems, they are usually removed from the general footfall of a city centre and due to their nature contain vast spaces, finding a use for these that will attract people is a real challenge.

Personally I think the German method of using them as art spaces is a great solution and certainly preferable to the UK trend of filling them with places selling Lavender soap and China plates depicting the Royal family.

Though true that the relationship between the artistic displays and OUV is mostly non existent. But it does keep the spaces open to tourists and encourages people to visit them that wouldn't normally be there. I wish that other sites would be a little more inventive with there use of space (Royal Palaces of Europe I'm looking at you)

Author elsslots
Admin
#3 | Posted: 6 Sep 2013 13:00 
Solivagant:
We have just returned from a c4000 kms drive around Germany in which we added 14 new WHS to our "seen list" (Volklingen, Lorsch, Messel, Pile Dwellings, Margravial, Berlin Housing, Wismar, Wadden See, Bremen, Fagus, Wartburg, Bergpark, Beech Forests, Zollverien), 8 new T List (Schwetzingen, Weissenhof, Erzgebirge, Naumberg, Francke, Danevirk, Chilehaus, Corvey), made 2 re-visits (Speyer, Maulbronn) and took in at least 2 T List "possibles" (Altes Land, Osten transporter bridge).

Knowing your usual speed of travel, I was wondering: how many days did this itinerary take?

Author Solivagant
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#4 | Posted: 6 Sep 2013 13:44 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
I was wondering: how many days did this itinerary take?

Author Solivagant
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#5 | Posted: 6 Sep 2013 13:45 
elsslots:
I was wondering: how many days did this itinerary take?

Well we had 6 days at Bayreuth of course with most of the operas starting at 16.00. So the Margravial Opera House plus other "Wagner shrines" were taken in then. On one day it didn't start until 18.00 and we went up to the Erzgerbirge.
The travel days were, after flying late into Dusseldorf and travelling to Nr Koln
1. Nr Koln to Nr Worms via Volklingen (Saarbrucken)
2. Nr Worms - Nr Worms via Lorsch, Messel, Schwetzingen, Speyer
3. Worms - Nr Ulm via Maulbronn, Weissenhof, Pile Dwellings
4. Nr Ulm to Bayreuth
5. Bayreuth to Berlin via Naumberg, Francke, Berlin Housing
6. Berlin to Nr Hamburg via Wismar, Danevirk
7. Nr Hamburg to Bremen via Chilehaus, Altes Land, Osten, Wadden See (Cuxhaven), Bremen Town Hall
8. Bremen to Eisenach via Fagus, Corvey
9. Eisenach to Kassel via Wartburg, Bergpark (for Sunday pm "show")
10. Kassel to Kassel via Beech Forests (Time for a hike!)
11. Kassel to Essen via Zollverein
12. Essen to Dusseldorf to fly

Author Khuft
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#6 | Posted: 6 Sep 2013 17:41 | Edited by: Khuft 
Having lived in Germany for 6 years now, I would disagree with the conclusion that Germans are going overboard with pursuing UNESCO inscriptions. Rather, the UNESCO inscription drive (certainly driven by Länder competition) is just one outcome of a broader evolution in the German consciousness.

Germans have in the last decade or so come to regret their heritage lost in WWII. After the war, many cities decided to reconstruct their destroyed city centres in the then contemporary modern style. Sometimes they even tore down historical buildings that had survived WWII because they were in the way of a rational reorganization of city centres. Stuttgart's city centre is a good example - so is my current home city of Frankfurt (which unbelievably used to have largest medieval townscape before WWII).

The big exception to this trend was Münster (of course, you also had some cities, like Munich, that suffered little destruction). Münster decided after WWII to reconstruct its city centre as it was before - not as thoroughly as Warsaw, probably, but still very much like it was before. Initially laughed at, Münster became recently the idol that all cities want to belatedly emulate.

Lots of currently ongoing initiatives aim at reclaming the lost heritage. The rebuilding of the Frauenkirche in Dresden - and the popular support it gained - was the kick-off. Hannover rebuilt one of its palaces (partly as a shopping centre though). Berlin has decided to rebuilt the Prussian city palace too, right on the Museum Island. Frankfurt is rebuilding the most famous houses of its former medieval centre. And so on.

In this perspective, the refurbishing of WHS in Germany in not so much linked to UNESCO WH glory seeking, but should rather be seen as an attempt (maybe sometimes going overboard) to best preserve the few authentic remains that survived WWII.

Currently, wherever you go in Germany, you see cranes and scaffoldings. New exciting architecture is being created / destroyed buildings are being rebuilt either faithfully or as pastiches / existing historical buildings are being refurbished. It's one of many signs of Germany coming to terms with its history in all its aspects.

Author elsslots
Admin
#7 | Posted: 7 Sep 2013 10:55 
Solivagant:
very few I wish I hadn't bothered with (The Pile Dwellings was one – but that's another story!).


We need a review of that one on this website!

Author hubert
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#8 | Posted: 24 Sep 2013 12:52 
Solivagant:
One aspect which hit us was the scale of renovation investment taking place at German WHS

Indeed, there is a specific investment programm from the German government for WHS. Between 2009-2014, they give more than 200 million Euros for restoration and preservation of objects and also for the development of touristic concepts. In general, the government bears about 50% of the cost of each project, the rest has to be covered by the federal state or the municipality.

http://www.welterbeprogramm.de/cln_033/INUW/DE/Home/homepage__node.html?__nnn=true

Author Solivagant
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#9 | Posted: 24 Sep 2013 15:04 
hubert:
ndeed, there is a specific investment program from the German government for WHS. Between 2009-2014


And the long list of Federally supported projects on the link at 34 different WHS locations still doesn't include
a. Margravial Opera House
b. Bergpark - a sign near the Herkules said that was costing 20.1 miilion Euros

Author hubert
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#10 | Posted: 24 Sep 2013 16:15 
Solivagant:
And the long list of Federally supported projects on the link at 34 different WHS locations still doesn't include

Yes, obviously there are also other sources of funding. Within the framework of the above-mentioned investment program, there were two calls for project submission, 2009 and 2010, ie before Bayreuth and Kassel were inscribed.

The renovation of Bayreuth Opera House is funded by the State of Bavaria, they estimate the cost to 19 million euros. The sum is not only for the restoration of the interior, but also for the installation of an air conditioning system (for long-term preservation), fire protection facilities (the interior is mainly made of wood), and the installation of stage technology to make the theatre suitable for opera events, at least in summer.
Still, it's odd that the renovation probably will take longer than the building (only 4 years). But I'm looking forward to visit the Opera House when the renovation is complete, and would very much like to attend an opera performance.

Author meltwaterfalls
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#11 | Posted: 4 Nov 2013 07:52 | Edited by: meltwaterfalls 
Do we have definitive take on the next batch of German T-list sites yet?

I know we had the ruminations a couple of years ago, but I couldn't tell if it had been finalised or if the current list was going to progress for a little longer yet.

I say this as I am off to Nuremberg in a few weeks and wondered if the Courthouse or Nazi showgrounds were still in line for being put forward.

Also just on the back of this, I'm thinking of skipping the short trip to Bayreuth to see the Opera House after reading the reviews about the limited viewing opportunities. Does anyone think it maybe a worthwhile trip to visit during the restorations or better to save it for a future visit?

--EDIT--
Just carried on further in that thread and answered my own question, thanks Assif.

Still if anyone has any additional information on Bayreuth it would be appreciated.

Author clyde
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#12 | Posted: 4 Nov 2013 11:52 
If you're not pressed for time do visit Bayreuth. The exterior of the opera house is still visible although it is nothing compared to the interior and there was an information center open. I went there early in the morning and was lucky enough to be invited in the opera house for a quick peek. The restoration works were still in the initial stages when I visitied so I promised myself that I would certainly visit again when the restoration works are finished. So if you have some spare time, go for it. If not, you'll have to wait till 2017!

Author hubert
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#13 | Posted: 5 Nov 2013 07:13 | Edited by: hubert 
meltwaterfalls:
I say this as I am off to Nuremberg in a few weeks and wondered if the Courthouse or Nazi showgrounds were still in line for being put forward.

As posted by Assif, the final decision for the new German T-list is expected in 2014. Currently, the proposals are evaluated by an expert panel. It's hard to say whether the Nuremberg courtroom will make it on the final list, but in any case, I can recommend a visit, at least if you are interested in the recent European history. There is an interesting permanent exhibition on the Nuremberg trials, but be aware that access to the courtroom is limited, because it is still in use for court trials. So it is probably the best to plan a visit on Saturday or Sunday.

http://www.memorium-nuremberg.de/index.html

Re: Bayreuth
I'm not sure whether a trip to Bayreuth is worthwhile, though it's only one hour by train from Nuremberg. I visited the Opera House in 2011 before the restoration started, it's marvelous, but I am afraid that you would not enjoy it if you have no access to the interior.

On the other hand there are some other interesting sites to visit in Nuremberg. First, the former Reichsparteitagsgelände. There is a documentation centre in the Congress Hall (which I've not yet visited) and remains of the Zeppelinfeld, the tribune and the Great Road. Although it now has been converted into a recreation area, one can still imagine the huge dimension of the initial plan.

http://www.museen.nuernberg.de/dokuzentrum/
http://www.kubiss.de/kulturreferat/reichsparteitagsgelaende/stationen/stationen.htm


And Nuremberg houses the largest museum on German culture from prehistoric times to present: The "Germanisches Nationalmuseum", but I think it is not well known with foreign tourists and even Germans.

http://www.gnm.de/index.php?id=384

Nuremberg itself is not the most attractive tourist destination among German cities. It was largely destroyed in 1945 and the city center is today an rather uninspired mixture of preserved historic buildings, reconstructions and rather unlovely new architecture of the 1950s and 60s. But the city is well known for its Christmas market, which is one of the largest and most famous in Germany.

Author meltwaterfalls
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#14 | Posted: 7 Nov 2013 04:58 
hubert:
Nuremberg itself is not the most attractive tourist destination among German cities

I'm surprised by that, it always has a high billing in guidebooks, but in terms of the rebuilding I guess it makes sense.

The courthouse is certainly on our itinerary, like wise for the Reichsparteitagsgelände.

Bayreuth may turn up still, I'm just weighing up my options.

Thanks for the feedback though.

Author Khuft
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#15 | Posted: 7 Nov 2013 09:59 
I must say I quite liked Nuremberg, despite the rebuilding. Its city walls are quite complete too, I believe.

Do you have Bamberg on the agenda? That's definitely worth seeing

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