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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers

Recent Community Reviews

1036 of 1073 WHS have been reviewed by our community.

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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Serra de Tramuntana Klaus Freisinger, 21-May-18

Serra de Tramuntana

Even though Mallorca seems to be supercrowded at all times, especially when the cruiseships come in, the island came as a pleasant surprise to me. Palma is a very nice city (and the cathedral would probably be already a WH site if it were in any other country) and the mountains are exceptionally scenic, sometimes even spectacular. The Serra de Tramuntana range is the spine of the island (and protects the beaches from the northern winds) and reaches a height of over 1,400 metres. It includes several pretty towns and various monasteries, including the huge one at Lluc. Even though it is not really easy to find out where the core zone of the WHS starts and what is only in the buffer zone, you can be reasonably sure that any trip to the northern coast will make you traverse the core zone.

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Mesta Livestock trails (T) Argo, 19-May-18

Mesta Livestock trails (T)

Mesta was the organization is charge of managing transhumance of cattle, mainly sheep, in medieval Spain. Mesta trails are the ways that cross central Spain from north to south and that were used by shepherds and their animals.

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Blog: WHS #660: Torun

The medieval city of Torun is a small, well-preserved trading town along the Vistula river. I really enjoyed my stay there, and have been thinking since what the attraction was. A major reason is that – despite its considerable size of 200,000 inhabitants – it lies too far off the beaten track for the weekend getaway and stag party crowd (which Gdansk and so many other cities in Central and Eastern Europe have to endure). It still is more a destination for Polish school trips than for foreign tourists.

St. George Guild House

Although it lies only 168km south of Gdansk, it takes significant time to get to Torun by public transport from there. The fastest trains take 2.5 hours, including a change half way. These are not too frequent however, plus it is wise to pre-book them as seats are reserved and do sell out. On the return trip I got stranded at Torun’s railway station because of a delay of 53(!) minutes, which also caused missing my connection. In the end it took me 5 hours to get back to Gdansk. So going only for a day trip from Gdansk is possible but it is a gamble.

Fortunately I stayed for the night. The WHS zone comprises 3 parts: the Old Town, the New Town, and the ruins of the Teutonic Castle. On my first evening I walked around the Old Town at ease. It does not have a real ‘medieval’ atmosphere, 80% of the buildings seem to date from the late 19th or 20th century. But the buildings of medieval origin that remain are all true masterpieces of the so-called 'brick gothic'. Red bricks alternate with stones of a different colour or plaster. And that’s a very pretty sight in the evening or morning light.

St. Mary's church

The next morning I further explored the city. First I went to the ruins of the Teutonic Order Castle. The Knights tried to conquer and convert the pagan Prussia from this strategic point. Torun at the time (13th century) was situated in the buffer zone between Poland and Prussia - if you look at the map now it's pretty deep in Poland, roughly in the middle of the country. The famous fort turned out to be a lot smaller than I had thought. There are only a few foundations left after the citizens expelled the Order in 1454 and burned down the fort.

West of the fort lies the 'New' Town. This is almost as old as the Old Town, it dates back to the 13th century as well and was built when more buildings were needed for artisans and industry. Both former towns have now grown together. Here in the New Town lies the most beautiful church, at least seen from the outside: the St. James Church. This too is made entirely of bricks. Restoration works are currently going on, so I could not get in. The same issue applied to the Copernicus House.

Row of houses in a side street

A final bit of trivia: I had Torun connected to the European Route of Brick Gothic. But when I checked the organization’s website in preparation for this trip, Torun was not (or not anymore) there as a member. This also applied to Riga and Vilnius. Only German and a few Danish and Polish cities are included now. Sometime after 2012, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia seem to have left this network.

Published 19 May 2018

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