1100 of 1121 WHS have been reviewed by our community.


Val di Noto

Carmen Maria David Luxembourg - 18-Jun-21

Val di Noto

''Less is more'', they say. To me it seemed feasible to cover Noto and Modica by train with enough time to return and sleep in Catania, but then I was told at the train station: "Yes, there is a train doing Siracusa-Catania at those hours, but you cannot get a ticket for it. If you go to Modica, you will have to spend the night in Siracusa''. Right. Change of plans, skipping Modica and getting more time in Catania.

Since reviews have been written on Noto, I will just say that as of June 2021 the Duomo's renovation is done (the cupola has hipster-saints, if you ask me) and they are renovating now San Domenico (the one in Els and Ian's photos). 

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Taputapuātea

Kayakka - 16-Jun-21

visited june 2018.

a once in a lifetime visit to an amazing site. having read about the site being introduced as a new world heritage location i decided i had to visit for myself.

after 5 flights, 2 ferries and 3 car rentals the site did not disappoint.

a very simple, easy and beautiful drive from the main village of uturoa.

the marae complex is on the southeast coast of raiatea on a gorgeous lagoon. it is possible to see the break in the reef beyond to see how the ancient peoples would have navigated to the site by boat.

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Pirin National Park

Hubert Austria - 15-Jun-21

Pirin National Park

“Bulgaria? Why do you go to Bulgaria to hike in a region that looks exactly like the Alps here in Austria?” This was the question my Austrian friends asked me when I showed them my photos of Pirin National Park. Of course, the answer is clear, at least for members of this community: it is a World Heritage Site. But in fact, the similarities are undeniable.Pirin National Park encompasses the northern part of the Pirin Mountains. Most of the inscribed area is above an altitude of 2000 metres, including Vihren, the highest peak at 2914 metres. The national park is best accessed at the town of Bansko on the north-eastern side. And it is here that you can see the biggest threat to the WHS and the national park, the ski area

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Mount Etna

Carmen Maria David Luxembourg - 15-Jun-21

Mount Etna

Mount Etna had been on my list for quite a while now, but some of the reviews here made me curious and disappointed at the same time: is it that boring and ugly? I started my trip on the 12th of June 2021 with the bus from Catania train station to Rifugio Sapienza. The bus driver got chatty once we left Nicolosi and by the time the bus arrived its destination, I was hooked. Together with a French couple we went for a guided tour (45 euro), first through the compulsory dress-up (only my jacket was deemed suitable) and then we took the cablecar to 2500 m (30 euro return trip). The cablecar is indeed pricey, but I felt it worth it for the spectacle we were about to enjoy. 

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Alcala de Henares

Hubert Austria - 13-Jun-21

Alcala de Henares

The Old University and Miguel de Cervantes are the keywords that characterize this World Heritage site. Too little to make Alcalá de Henares an overwhelming site, but enough for a pleasant day trip from Madrid or, as I did, one day with an overnight stay.The Universidad Complutense is remarkable because Alcalá de Henares was the first planned university town in the world. The façade of its main building is the showpiece of the town, although the Plateresque decoration is less exuberant than in Salamanca. When you step through the portal, you are standing in the first and most representative of the three courtyards. The rest of the complex can be visited with a guided tour. You can see the other two courtyards, the auditorium and some other rooms

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Blog Books

Book: Chinese Heritage Sites and their Audiences

With 55 sites inscribed, China is the joint leader among the nations with the most WHS. It will probably be surpassed by Italy again after the combined 2020/2021 WHC, as China has only 1 proposal on the table while Italy has 3. It must have really hurt the Chinese that their Badain Jaran Desert proposal couldn’t be evaluated due to Covid reasons so they miss out on a year – even more so while they are hosting the WHC session. China already wasn’t a big fan of the Cairns Decision of 2000, which limited the number of nominations per country to 1 a year. It has so many more to offer and now it will take them 100 years!

The young Chinese scholar Rouran Zhang has written a study about how China deals with its heritage sites and how they are perceived by their visitors. The WHS of West Lake and Xidi & Hongcun are used as case studies. Zhang is also an expert member at the ICOMOS committee on Cultural Landscapes, so he brings in both the Chinese and the international perspective. “Chinese Heritage Sites and their Audiences” is a book for a scientific audience (with annotations and all that), but I learned a lot from it about China’s journey in the world of WHS.

The road to 55

China only ratified the WHC convention in 1985 and got its first batch of WHS in 1987. According to Zhang, they went through 3 phases:

1.     1985-2000: China accepted the international authorized heritage discourse and explored its meaning

2.     2000-2011: China made adjustments to its internal heritage policies to fit within the international framework

3.     2011-present: China has gained the confidence to nominate new types of WHS, such as cultural landscapes and cultural routes. It also understands that its status of WHS world power comes with international responsibilities (such as the contribution to the Angkor Restoration project)

During the second phase China reshaped its heritage management systems and policies along the lines of international organizations like UNESCO, ICOMOS, IUCN. That while recognizing that these international standards do not always fit the Asian perceptions, such as a strong focus on the harmonious relationship between man and nature. This resulted for example in a IUCN-style system of national parks, but allowing for both natural and cultural features to be highlighted.

China sees the WH listing process as a game and knows that it has to play according to the eurocentric rules for political and economic purposes. The main benefits are a sense of nationalism and the opportunity to attract (domestic) tourists, which will lead to economic development for remote areas in particular.

West Lake

West Lake (2011) already was a well-known tourist site in a well-developed region of China before its WH nomination. It was the country’s first nomination of a cultural landscape. Although the inscription seems to have gone smoothly, there was some disagreement between the Chinese and ICOMOS. ICOMOS changed the proposed OUV criteria upon inscription and negotiated in an exchange of letters beforehand that the Longjing tea gardens were left out from the core zone. Zhang sees this as a sign that the eurocentric ICOMOS experts didn’t grasp the full story. For the Chinese, there is no meaning in a West Lake without the tea culture. For ICOMOS, it was ‘just’ an agricultural site not even visible from the lake.

The research also unveiled that a group of local people were removed from their homes near West Lake in anticipation of the WH listing. Officials questioned by Zhang weren’t prepared to talk about it; the elderly displaced locals that he managed to track down mainly missed the proximity to the park and their old neighbours.

Xidi and Hongcun

ICOMOS on the other hand was quite smitten with the towns of Xidi and Hongcun and their vernacular architecture. No difficult deeper meanings here, it was all about historic buildings. This case study focuses on how the two towns have been affected by the surge in tourism after their WH listing in 2000. The inhabitants of Xidi at first profited well because all revenue went to the local community, which was united in the Villagers’ Committee of Xidi. The average income became three times as high as that of the rest of the poor province. Hongcun eventually came into the hands of a Beijing-based tourism company and became much more profitable. They professionalized its management, and invested in infrastructure (e.g. a direct road to the popular WHS of Huangshan) and in advertisement (including a 37 million USD theatre production).

Local authorities are mostly worried about preserving material authenticity that is recognized by national or international authorities, and banned local customs such as selling traditional food items as they would pollute the image. When renovation of the buildings is necessary, home owners get 40% of the costs reimbursed by the government.

Els - 13 June 2021

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