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World Heritage Site

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Recent Community Reviews

1036 of 1073 WHS have been reviewed by our community.

Hawaii Volcanoes Michael Ayers, 24-May-18

Hawaii Volcanoes

Visit in May 2018.

It had been a surprisingly long, and often frustrating, ten years since I last had the opportunity to visit a new WHS in person. Only a few recent inscriptions of places I had visited in the past were added to my total during that time. Then, in 2018, a hastily-arranged trip, which was part personal business and part pleasure, would allow me the opportunity to see seven sites that I had not previously visited. Chronologically, the last of those was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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Bethlehem DL, 25-May-18

Extensive restoration has begun since 2013. This isn't an ideal time to visit; almost every inch of the interior except for the altar and the Grotto of the Nativity is covered by scaffolding.

Since the church was in such a compromised state, I had two choices: I could leave immediately or I could go against my better judgement and queue up for the Grotto. At the end there was really one choice, so I hesitantly threw myself into the crowd, a mix of pilgrims from all over the world. When I could finally see the entrance to the Grotto, some 80 minutes of being smouldered in a sweaty chamber later, I improbably lost my will to continue and left.

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Blaenavon Industrial Landscape Jay T, 23-May-18

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

About halfway through my very rainy drive from London to the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in Wales earlier this month, I had to remind myself BBC weather predicted clearing skies by the time I would arrive at Blaenavon. Fortunately, the weather forecast was correct, and I was able to enjoy some sun for an hour in the town before driving to the Big Pit to descend into the depths of the former coal mine. One of the best things about visiting Blaenavon is that entrance to both the Blaenavon Ironworks and the Big Pit is free, and the former miners giving the tours of the coal mine were knowledgeable and amusing (and good singers, which I suspect is a requirement for being Welsh) as they discussed the hardships of the coal mining industry. On my tour was a friendly Welsh couple who gave context to how the coal mining at Blaenavon benefited the copper industry near their city of Swansea.

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Masada DL, 23-May-18

Before thinking you are about to see a major Jewish site, note that Masada is a Roman ruin all in all, the only exception being a synagogue converted from a stable by the Jewish rebels. Despite Josephus' claim that Masada was first occupied by the Hasmonean, no archaeological finding can support such claim and the current consensus points to Herod founded the site as a fortified palace between 37 - 31 BC. 

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Madinat al-Zahra (T) Zoe Sheng, 21-May-18

Madinat al-Zahra (T)

This place used to be an ancient city in the styles one can see at the Alcazar in Sevilla but rather than "just" a palace or building the area was an entire town with garden built strategically into the slope of the mountain. Having said that the ruond don't send as massive as it sounded like beforehand.

To reach the site you need to get to the outskirts of Cordoba. The museum is at the parking lot and free for EU citizens (there was no ID check so maybe they go by accent or trust? I.e. hide your American accent and seem trustwurthy, or just fork out whatever they ask for.) Inside you watch a prerendered CGI movie about the history of the city and it's daily ongoings. It prepares you for what you are about to see up the hill, kind of.

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Blog: WHS #661: Malbork Castle

Malbork Castle was the headquarters of the Teutonic Order's crusader state. The castle had both a religious and a political function: here lived the Grand Master and the daily management of the Order, and about 3,000 knights. The castle was built at the end of the 13th century, and was expanded ever further. It is entirely made of brick, and according to unconfirmed sources this is the largest area of any castle and/or the largest brick building in the world. I went to see it on a half-day trip from Gdansk.

Castle Gate

My visit was on a sunny Saturday morning, and because I was expecting crowds I had purchased an entrance ticket online beforehand (I did so as well with all train tickets on this trip). I arrived at the Malbork train station at 8.45 a.m., and from there I had a 15 minute walk to be at the gates at the opening hour of 9 a.m.. Local authorities have not bothered to sign the way to the castle, but it lies on the right side from the station and then straight ahead until you see the red towers on the horizon. From the train you’ll already have a tantalizing view of it.

At the entrance I picked up my pre-booked audio tour and headphones, and went ‘in’. If you want to save money or are in a hurry, you can also choose to view only the exterior: access to the complex within the walls is free, and there is plenty to see there. It consists of 3 separate parts: the High Castle, the Middle Castle and the Fore Castle. They are surrounded by canals and different rows of defensive walls.

The Great Refectory, Middle Castle

The audio tour will guide you through the entire complex. It’s a ‘smart’ device, it acknowledges where you stand and then tells you what’s to see and how to continue. There is a story in every room - at a given moment it seems like there is no end to it. After the guide led me to the courtyard for the third time after 1.5 hour and stated 'now we are halfway', I decided to quicken the pace from then on. I skipped some rooms and exhibitions (the amber museum has some fine pieces, but I can do without a large collection of weapons) to keep my visit at about 2.5 hours.

One of the most beautiful spaces within the castle grounds is St. Mary's Church. It is entered via the Golden Gate - a door framed with colourful figures with a golden glow. This church has been badly damaged during the end of the Second World War, but in recent years they have continued to restore it towards the original state and in 2016 it has reopened.

The recently restored St. Mary’s Church

The castle derives its OUV partly from its restoration and conservation methods. Although it was substantially damaged during World War II, it could be restored by using “the abundant and meticulous records of those responsible for restoration and conservation works in the 19th and early 20th centuries” (including Karl Friedrich Schinkel). 

Published 26 May 2018

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