Blog WHS Visits

WHS #786: Carthage

Carthage may not be Tunisia’s grandest attraction anymore, its rich and powerful empire by far superseded the importance of the country it currently is part of. Unfortunately, not a lot is known about the cultural history of the Carthaginians – most books focus on the military history and their battles with the Romans (using sources written by Romans). You'll know enough if you listen to only one podcast on that subject. At an exhibition on Punic Carthage that I visited in Leiden in 2015, I found more to my taste (those white and blue glazed pendants!). The accompanying book, “Carthage: fact and myth”, still is the best one I could find as it covers a range of topics including the Punic writing system, the relationship with the Numidians, and its influence on European art.

I choose to do a half-day tour with Le Lemon Tour for my real-life visit. They own a bicycle shop in Carthage and conduct tours – on a bike of course! - to the archaeological sites. They are very professional and you can also just rent a bike to explore the area on your own. That a bike is such a good way of transportation here, also says a lot about the terrain. The sites are all separate “islands”, with their own access, in between the quiet and prosperous residential areas. Fortunately, you have to pay your entrance fee only once: for 12 TD (4 EUR) you can visit the 8 associated sites and they will stamp your ticket at each location.

We started our tour at the Tophet. During the whole itinerary today I tried to concentrate on the Punic aspects and 'think away' the later Roman ones, but this is a Punic location only. Here they buried their children in amphoras, with hundreds of headstones still remaining. The headstones show writing in the Phoenician alphabet and depictions of local gods such as Tanit. It’s a very atmospheric place, especially because of the many trees. One of the species present, the pomegranate, even was named after the Punic: its Latin name is Punica granatum

We then cycled on towards the Punic harbour. As its naval fleet was Carthage’s greatest asset, they built a military harbour with restricted access behind the commercial harbour. The commercial one was rectangular, the military one circular shaped. The current 2 Tunisian dinar coin shows these two connected harbours very nicely. We cycled along both, but the best views may be had from Byrsa hill. It’s a long distance away, but the shapes can be clearly seen.

Byrsa Hill probably is the main location of this WHS. It has remains from Punic, Roman and colonial times. Here we also encountered the most other tourists. The Punic ruins consist of a residential quarter, now signposted as “the Hannibal district”. It had houses and shops in a fan-shaped plan, that suited the steep terrain.

We further visited remains from the Roman period: the Roman theatre and the Antonine Baths. The baths are the most impressive Roman remains, especially because of their size and their elaborate setup. It really was a spa ‘avant la lettre’, with a huge variety of baths and pools. Except for Byrsa Hill, all locations we visited were very quiet and the roads between them as well. So I had a very pleasant cycling tour and I am happy that I have seen the works of the Carthaginians with my own eyes.

Els - 15 May 2022

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Blog WHS website

Spring Cleaning

Over the past 6 weeks, I have spent 3 to 4 hours a day improving much of the outdated content on this website. Country by country, I touched upon every single WHS site page; all 1154 of them. I replaced old photos, verified links, spell-checked texts, and re-evaluated reviews. I finished last week with Spain and Italy, which took a full day each but brought back good memories of so many short trips. Find below what I learned from it, plus some hints on how you can help to improve these pages even more.

1. Site Intro

Every WHS site page starts with a short introduction to the WHS and one identifying photo. I tackled these photos first, some were over 15 years old. They were tiny, scanned from an analog photo, or unsharp in general. In the process, I replaced 633 old photos with bigger/better/newer/sharper ones. But there are still 85 photos left that are older than 10 years. Can you help refresh them? I've provided a list and the requirements at the Forum.

The intro texts I haven’t yet touched content-wise (that may be a project for next year). But I did try to make them all of a similar length. So some became shorter, and others got a few extra lines. Especially for the newer sites without clear OUV, I find it hard to write something.

2. Reviews

The review sections also have had a major upgrade. Starting with my own reviews: I have moved most (583 out of 755) of them to the generic “Community Reviews” section. While copying them I did a spell-check (finding out that I make the same mistakes over and over again – I seem to not be able to spell “volcano” right for example). I can recommend other non-native English speakers to use a tool like Grammarly as well.

Regarding the Community Reviews: I disabled 205 reviews of other people, less than 3% of the total. I still have been quite lenient I think in the interpretation of “quality”, but have removed those without proper punctuation marks, the ones that were written as a school exercise, or without clear reference to actually having been there, and those just stating that they loved the shops or pointing to outdated weblinks.

What I noticed, in general, is that some countries are seriously under-reviewed: Armenia is a good example. Norway also has not that many contributions. Other sites seem over-reviewed (Vienna, Cologne Cathedral) but lack substance. The serial transnational sites on the other hand seem popular for all their locations to cover: there’s a great spread among the Beech forests, Struve Arc and Le Corbusier reviews!

If you’re looking for an original review to write: I’ve made a list of sites that have not been reviewed in the past 10 years – it includes Quebrada de Humahuaca for example (pictured below), and the Drakensberg Mountains.

3. Site Links

Surprisingly, the most effort went into the Site links section. I verified the links of all official and related websites. Some brought me to casino websites or triggered browser security warnings. I had to throw away a lot, including “official” web pages. So now we're left with 84 WHS without reference to an official website!

Some countries also have significantly improved their web presence in English. Glamorous national tourism websites all named “Visit [countryname]” have been developed, such as Visit Saudi (“Welcome to Arabia”) and Visit Montenegro (“Breathtaking Beauty”). There now even is a Visit Pitcairn for those who want to hit Henderson Island.

Els - 8 May 2022

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Comments

Martina Ruckova 8 May 2022

Amazing work done, Els, as always! As a regular, I would like to say to all of you who review sites, Ivan and I love reading your insights both before and after our own visit. They are a great source of information and many are very amusing. I will try to add some more of my own where they might be helpful.


Jay T 8 May 2022

Thank you for all the work you put into this site — I really enjoy the layout and the reviews, as well as the community here. I’ll see if I can find some photos for a couple sites you are hoping to update.


Blog Connections

Petrosomatoglyphs

Among the farewell gifts from my last (and final?) job was a book called “God. An anatomy”. It describes the depiction of body parts of God in early sculptures and paintings as found in the region where Christianity developed. It is chock-full of descriptions of places where such examples can be seen. Of course, I immediately considered whether a new connection could be derived from it. However, depictions of (parts of) God are rare at WHS, or are so small or precious that they have been moved to museums.

But we already have a similar connection, about a subject which the book also touches slightly: Petrosomatoglyphs. These are (supposed) impressions of part of a human or animal body incised in rock. I updated the connection details, deleted a couple, and found some more; the sources used can be found for reference in the weblinks on the connection page.

Divine Footprints

These prints are often used in religious ceremonies, a practice that is present in all main religions.

Christianity

  • In the Church of San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura in Rome, the alleged footprints of Jesus can be seen. They are related to the apocryphal episode called Quo Vadis, where St. Peter fled Rome, and met Jesus at the Via Appia who was going the other way “to be crucified again”.
  • At Kernavë, a stone has been found with 'footmarks of the Christ, the Virgin Mary and the lamb'. I suspect it is in the on-site museum, but have failed to find pictures of it.

Islam

The veneration of the Footprints of the Prophet is common in Islam as well, although it is rejected by the orthodox. This article explains well how it developed.

  • The tradition may have started at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, where there are "marks" of the footprint of Mohammed (made as he stepped upon it to mount his horse Barak when commencing his ride to Paradise), Barak's Hoofprint and the hand/fingerprint of Gabriel (who was holding back the rock as it tried to follow Mohammed). Its discovery may have been a 7th-century answer to the footprints of Christ which were shown to pilgrims at the Mount of Olives.
  • In Caïro, two footprints have been preserved in the Mausoleum of Qaitbey.
  • In Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, there is a whole collection of Mohammed’s footprints, brought there from other places.

Buddhism

The most and best-known examples of divine footprints surely come from Buddhism. “In [the] early years, when overt representations of the Buddha image were taboo, the main artistic vehicle for symbolizing the Buddha’s presence was to show the Buddha's ‘footprint.’” * Among the WHS, they can be found at:

  • Ancient Nara: at Yakushi-ji, footprint incised stone with circles of truth engraved in the feet (dated to 753 AD)
  • Ancient Kyoto: at Kiyomizu-dera 
  • Central Highlands: a footprint-shaped mark at the summit of Adam’s Peak. This is believed by Buddhists to be that of the Buddha. Christian and Islamic traditions assert that it is the footprint of Adam, Hindu tradition refers to the footprint as that of Shiva.
  • Luang Prabang: at Phu Si, “it must be an abstract representation rather than the real deal, as it measures three metres.”
  • Bagan: for example at the Ananda Temple, which has two Buddha footprint symbols on pedestals. In Bagan, the tradition was started to ”depict the 108 auspicious signs on the soles of the Buddha’s feet”.
  • Sanchi: the bottom of the pillar face of Stupa 1 has two footprints of the Buddha with a wheel of the Law on their sole.

Prints left by common people

Foot and handprints of common people, without the symbolic connotations, have also survived. They were left accidentally in clay or concrete, or maybe on purpose by the people who built the sites: 

  • Hal Saflieni Hypogeum: a carved left hand of a human is to be found on the wall of the Decorated Hall in the Hypogeum
  • Frontiers of the Roman Empire: at Vindolanda, a partial print of an adolescent’s right foot has been found and dated to 160-180 CE.
  • Tchogha Zanbil: the floor tiles show both animal and human footprints, one or more said to be of children.

Petroglyphs of footprints are very common in the Valcamonica rock art (over 200 in the single Rock 6 in the Foppe di Nadro area). They also appear as part of the petroglyphs of Twyfelfontein and Tanum. They seem similar to the Hand Prints, which are painted instead of engraved.

Do you know of more examples to add to this connection? Any Hindu ones within WHS core zones? 

Els - 1 May 2022

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Els Slots 2 May 2022

Found one in Ephesus as well, as mentioned in Clyde's review.


Els Slots 2 May 2022

Thanks, Astraftis. I have added the Danevirke one.


Astraftis 1 May 2022

As for other footprints of common people, at the Danevirke museum near Schleswig one exhibit is a brick with a small human footprint. You could vote whether you think it is of a child, or a gnome...

You can see it in the first image here: https://www.danevirkemuseum.de/de/startseite/


Astraftis 1 May 2022

I cannot remember any such stone with footmarks at Kernavė's museum, which I visited quite attentively. Is it exhibited at all or will it be some sort of mirage?!


Els Slots 1 May 2022

Good additions, Pavel and Juha!


Juha Sjoeblom 1 May 2022

I remember that inside the Dingding Gate (Silk Roads) of Luoyang there are lots of footprints of human and horse and traces of horse cart wheels from Silk Road times.


Matejicek 1 May 2022

...and there are also hand-prints and footprints of pilgrims in underground corridors of the sanctuary (Santuario di San Michele Archangelo).


Matejicek 1 May 2022

In Santuario di San Michele Archangelo in Monte Sant`Angelo (component of Longobards in Italy WHS), Michael the Archangel descent from Heaven and left his footprint on the rock in the cave.


Blog WHS Visits

WHS #783: Lake District

Although I have visited almost all West European WHS, two easy sites across the Channel had become virtually inaccessible during the Covid years. One of those is the English Lake District, an annoying miss as the site is visited by millions of tourists yearly and is also comfortably in the top 20% of most visited by our community. The best time to visit the Lake District is when it doesn’t rain and when there are no school holidays. I was rather lucky with 2 sunny weekdays in mid-April, though I did catch the final days of the Easter holidays.

As the size of the Lake District and the lack of clear focus of the WHS is a bit intimidating, I decided to allocate 2 days to it. Fortunately, near-local Solivagant suggested two driving routes. On the first day, I drove South to West, from Ambleside to Sellafield. I actually started a bit north of Ambleside, at Rydal Water. Here you can do the Lake District in a nutshell: the easy 1.5-hour hike around the lake will deliver lake views, dry stone walls, some sheep, and bare hilltops. Rydal Hall, a large country house, features the “Quiet Garden” with reference to the Picturesque period. The area is quite touristy, and people were sunbathing at and swimming in the lake.

I then drove on to the west, using the Hardknott Pass. This is England’s steepest road – and narrow it is as well. Fortunately, you can see approaching cars coming from afar. I found the drivers very accommodating: officially, the ascending cars have priority, but in practice, everybody tries to get out of the way in one of the many roadside bays. At a plateau just beyond the top of the pass lies Hardknott Fort, the impressive ruins of a Roman fortress. A couple of Herdwick sheep roamed around as well. The driving and the scenery have slight similarities to the Silk Road, but the road between Ambleside and Eskdale is only 27 km long and the top lies at just 393 meters altitude.

On the second day, I drove North to East, from Cockermouth (where I had been staying overnight) to Keswick. The overcrowding and lack of parking were more of an issue here, and a number of parking lots could only be paid for with pound coins (which I did not have).

I did enjoy my morning though, when from a small free car park at Crummock Water I hiked past fields of bluebells that were just starting to blossom (early May would be the best bet here) uphill to Rannerdale Knotts. This “fell” is one of the 214 peaks in England known as the “Wainwrights”, named after an author who described all of them in cute little books in the 1950s and 1960s. The path here slowly ascends, it’s a medium-level hike of about 2.5 hours / 8km return. I did only make it to the second hump of the mountain ridge: severe winds prevented me from pushing on towards the peak. The local sheep didn’t seem to be bothered by the gusts.

Two topics cannot be left undiscussed regarding this WHS: the District’s natural values and its OUV. In the week before my trip, I had been reading The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane, where the author searches for “genuinely wild places” in Great Britain and Ireland. There’s a short passage on the Lake District as well: he climbs the Red Pike near Buttermere in mid-winter. He describes the value of the Lake District “as though it had been loved into tameness by its millions of visitors”.

I never got a grasp on the site’s OUV either. It wasn’t discussed at the WHC, as ICOMOS favoured inscription as a cultural landscape already since its first proposal in 1987 and the site was a shoo-in in 2017. The UK used a combination of 3 arguments to substantiate its claims, as in “the only site that has a blue roof, a red fence ánd a yellow front door”. I’ve tried hard to summarize its apparent values in one clear sentence but failed. The site seems to have the greatest importance for the UK itself, for its artists, and for the development of its park service. What remains for others to enjoy is mostly criterion vi, the romantic associations with a pretty, manicured landscape.

Els - 24 April 2022

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Jay T 24 April 2022

Robert Macfarlane is a fantastic author to read when journeying through the UK’s great outdoors. I quite enjoyed his book Landmarks, which made it into the top favorite books I read last year. Glad you had such amenable weather for your travels in the Lake District!


Blog Connections

Fossil sites

While preparing for my upcoming trip to eastern Canada, I discovered that I “have to” visit 3 WHS that derive their OUV from fossils. Western Canada even has 2 more of those, resulting in a particular focus on Canada’s World Heritage List (5 out of 20). I find fossils intriguing: it’s exciting to look for them, and there’s the satisfaction of actually finding a good one (preferrably on your own). However, the visitor experience of these sites is often disappointing. As Zoë wrote in her review of the particularly unloveable Chengjiang Fossil Site: “Fossil sites generally mean museum. I see how there is a difference between the fossils and the Earth has a long history, but they are still boring to me. I also don't find them worthy of their inclusion for specific reasons or superlatives. They should be studied, protected, but they are definitely not a tourist attraction.”

In total, there are now 27 Fossil WHS on the list. Below I will have a closer look at them, and how our reviewers have evaluated their visits.

Types of fossil sites

A fossil is “the shape of a bone, a shell, or a plant or animal that has been preserved in rock for a very long period”. The term fossilized is also often used in a metaphorical sense, such as the “fossilized landscape of St Kilda”, but we will focus here on the original definition.

Of the 27 Fossil WHS, 20 have remains of animals, 11 of hominids, and 5 of plants.

Mistaken Point is the oldest. It dates from the Proterozoic and is one of the oldest WHS overall. It is followed by a bunch of others (including the Joggins Fossil Cliffs and Miguasha NP) from the Paleozoic. The hominid sites of course are the youngest, the most recent are from the Late Pleistocene.

In its most recent study on Geological World Heritage, IUCN states that regarding the “History of planet Earth and the evolution of life”,  there would be space for more fossil sites on the List. Suggested is a serial transnational WHS on ichnology (tracks and traces, beyond dinosaur footprints only) and testimonies to extinction events ("Palaeozoic extinctions at the end of the Ordovician, Devonian and Permian are not yet represented").

What makes a fossil site great to visit?

Before comparing the Fossil WHS on their rating, it is good to acknowledge that there is a group of WHS that has fossils but no one ever sees them & they are overshadowed by surroundings of natural beauty. Think the Grand Canyon, the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone. I've left them out of the equation.

Another cluster is formed by WHS with fossil hominids only, all without remains in situ. They generally rank from bad to worse.

That leaves us with the best “proper” fossil WHS, where multiple reviewers have seen the fossils in situ and enjoyed the experience:

  1. Mistaken Point - 3.87 (“of sea life from ancient times and fairly eroded, so the guide is quite useful”, “the most interesting fossil site in Canada”; the remoteness and natural setting of the site may have influenced the score)
  2. Dinosaur Provincial Park - 3.66 (it lies in a pretty badlands landscape, but all reviewers also describe the fossils favourably; to my knowledge, it is the only WHS with visible fossils of dinosaurs)
  3. Wadi Al-Hitan - 3.58 (focus on the fossils of whale vertebrae)
  4. Willandra Lakes - 3.5 (mostly for the fossilized tree trunks and exposed fossils of Australian animals, the landscape is impressive too)

Do you have any great memories of a visit to a fossil WHS? Or shouldn’t they become WHS at all?

Els - 17 April 2022

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Randi Thomsen 17 April 2022

I have great memories from the top three, all have visible fossils on site. The most special one is mistaken point. You have to put on shoe covers, then you can walk on the site and look for the oldest fossils in the world. Amazing!
Agree with Kyle, petrified forest is really nice to


Kyle Magnuson 17 April 2022

If and when Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park is inscribed, this will likely be rated somewhere in the same range as Canada's Mistaken Point and Dinosaur Provincial Park. The park is exceptional for a variety of reasons, just don't go in the Summer.


Blog WH Travellers

WH Travel Focus

The implicit aim of the members of this community is to visit as many WHS as possible. Or as many as they’ve set themselves as a goal. But there are also smaller ‘achievements’ to be gained. A satisfying and popular subgoal for example is having a country ‘complete’, especially one of the biggies. And there are other cross-sections to make that show the specific Travel Focus of our WH Travellers. For example: who has bagged the most WHS in Africa? Or who has visited the most WHS on Uninhabited islands?

Countries completed

From the 3 countries that have the most WHS within their borders, China is completed by 5, Italy by 11 and Germany by 20 community members.

Looking at the countries that cover a large geographical area: 3 members have the USA complete (Don Parrish, Zoë Sheng, Jeanne OGrady). No one has Canada complete. No one has Russia (Ivan & Martina have 28/30, missing Uvs Nuur and Wrangel Island). Australia is best covered by Shandos Cleaver (18/20), missing Macquarie and Heard & McDonald Islands.

Ever-popular Turkey (8) seems to be relatively easy to complete, and Mexico (2) only has the Archipiélago de Revillagigedo as a tricky one. Completing the UK is notoriously difficult because of the many remote islands on its list (Solivagant comes out best with 31/33, missing Henderson Island and the easy St. George, Bermuda).

Best by continent

When we look at the WHS per continent (using the UNESCO definition of “regions”), the top scorers are:

  • Africa: the late Iain Jackson comes out best by far (67/106)
  • Arab States: Singaporean Zen Zeng comes first (71/87), Hungarian Szucs Tamacs wins silver with 70 and Chinese Shihe Huang is 3rd with 69.
  • Asia and the Pacific: Zen Zeng is first here as well (247/283), closely followed by Zoë Sheng (239)
  • Europe and North America: Zoë Sheng comes out first (501/619); Ivan Rucek - thanks to his great scores in Russia and Turkey - is best overall in Europe only (463/575)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Iain Jackson again (117/155, see his missing map below), Atila & Nihal Ege doing well too with 105 as does Luis Filipe Gaspar.

I’ve dumped the top 50’s in a dynamic table for you to browse and in a pdf for future reference.

Difficult to reach

We can of course apply the same kind of queries to the travel-themed connections.  There are the trivial ones, such as “Who has seen the most WHS with chimpanzees in the wild?” (Iain Jackson 6/13) or the most Located in a Capital City (Solivagant has almost all of them, 85/89)?

Or these ones, that tell us something about the logistical difficulty factor:

Top rankings for these connections can be found here, including a few extra ones such as Arctic, Dependent territories, and those with 'ticks' spread out over the highest number of countries.

Do you pursue any specific WH-related travel subgoals?

Els - 10 April 2022

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Astraftis 23 April 2022

I might mention serial completism: leaving pile dwellings aside, for many it is actually possible to visit all sites, even if it can be quite an effort. I'm setting it as a goal for some selected serial sites. Also "regional completism" for transnational serial sites.


Lubos 14 April 2022

Recently I did about 19 WHS in Spain in 21 days. Not the best way when it comes to quality sightseeing but somehow for me satisfying never the less. And I like to do some kind of speed WHS hunting in the future as well.


Philipp Peterer 12 April 2022

I am obsessed with having good weather when I visit. So I try to visit as many as possible when at least the sun is showing partially.
Also trying to cover as much as possible when in a new country and complete smaller ones in one trip.
Getting nowhere in terms of inscription years. My range there is 67-21%.


Nan 12 April 2022

>> Also, I prefer ticking more rather as less. For exampme would love to visit Wrangel. But it eats a lot of days so I rather go somewhere else.

Used to be my approach, too. But nowadays the clusters are gone. And after having reached a certain quantity, it's more about the quality to me.


Chris W (christravelblog) 10 April 2022

I have no sub goals in particularly but do prefer finishing a whole country at once if its do-able in 5-14 days. I also prefer a new country over a re-visit of one I have been.

I do go to places first which have my personal interest the most (of course will also visit sights less interesting).

Also, I prefer ticking more rather as less. For exampme would love to visit Wrangel. But it eats a lot of days so I rather go somewhere else.


Nan 10 April 2022

I think completing inscription years is more reasonable nowadays. Years tend to mix continentsxamd easy and hard one. The early years are also very high quality.

For a country complete in 2020 or so makes more sense. In my case, Italy will be undone soon again. And incessant battle against mediocre new sites, gets upended by giving a reference year.

Last but not least, finished the Hanseatic city leagues connection.


Blog Books

Book: India: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

India: UNESCO World Heritage Sites was published in August 2021. This book, covering all Indian WHS up to and including 2019, is a must for every India enthusiast and WH book collector. One can only hope that it inspires other larger countries with a wide geographical spread of WHS to compile similar books; I am especially thinking of Canada or Argentina.

How it looks

When the delivery guy brought the book to my door, I was surprised that it wasn’t especially large or heavy. It probably would have fitted into the mailbox. The hardcover edition has 240 pages and measures 25 by 30 cm. It has been written by Indian scholars and conservationists with insider information (such as a former WHC member) and is endorsed by UNESCO (its logo features on the cover).

The 38 WHS covered are split between cultural, natural, and mixed sites. Each section has an explanatory essay about the subject, eg. “From rock shelter to stupa and temple”. The cultural sites have multiple of those. Each WHS is portrayed in 4 dedicated pages, including glossy photos but also reproductions of 18th-century paintings and photos from around 1900. There is an overview map where the spread across the country can be seen. The quality of the print is very clear.

Qualities of the book

What I especially liked:

  • The selection of the images is excellent – not only in the general quality of the pictures but also in highlighting certain important aspects.

  • The texts are easy to read, but not dumbed down. I was able to write down a few new connections from it, such as that Jaipur was named after an individual person.

  • All WHS are treated equally.

  • The essays as an introduction to the subjects covered by the WHS are a bonus.

  • It’s a coherent whole, as it weaves all WHS into one story of India’s history.

I can’t really think of any cons. Maybe it is too short – they could have easily doubled the number of pages dedicated to each WHS.

India's WHS and the Global Strategy

While reading this book, my mind wandered to planning future trips to India (must really go to the natural sites!). But I also kept thinking about India’s current list of WHS and its Tentative List. India has actively participated in the WH convention from its beginnings and ratified it in 1977. It got its first WHS in 1983. The text refers to the Global Strategy, and how India from 2010 on also has tried to move away from its more classic Hindu empires and Mughal nominations towards cultural landscapes and modern industrial/scientific/technological sites.

There seems to be a lot of competition within India between the federal states to get their sites inscribed, which may be an obstacle to this changing nomination strategy. Just this week India has added 3 new sites to its Tentative List, of which 2 clearly fit into these categories (a prehistoric landscape and a continuing cultural landscape), while the temple at Lepakshi can be considered more of the same (covers the same era as Hampi). Looking at the 2 inscriptions from the 2020/2021 WHC (Dholavira: A Harappan City and Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple) and the (likely) candidates for 2022, 2023, and 2024 Santiniketan, Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala, and the Mughal Gardens in Kashmir, only 20th century Santiniketan seems to meet India's own Global Strategy goals.

Els - 3 April 2022

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Esteban Cervantes Jiménez (vantcj1) 4 April 2022

Seems a very interesting read. It seems very balanced in terms of form/content.
By the way, the book that you gave me on WHS in the Netherlands was a read that I really enjoyed. Thank you again for the kindness.


Astraftis 3 April 2022

Just a (pedantic?) detail: it is nice to always have directly the site of the editor for a book, in this case: https://www.hirmerverlag.de/eu/titel-3-3/india-2055/

The only con might be that as beautiful as it is, it is a rather costly book! :-D


Astraftis 3 April 2022

Nice! You know that you are contributing to more fatigue for my bookshelves, Els, right? Don't you feel guilty? :-)


Blog Connections

Cable cars

When I was in Zacatecas a few weeks ago, I used its Teleferico to cross the city and had a great overview of its urban plan within the narrow valley. As over 35 WHS have one or more cable car systems in their core zones, they warrant a closer look; so I did some additional research and updated the existing connection details with a year of construction, length in meters & minutes, etc. To determine what’s in and what’s out, I used the wiki definition of cable car: “a vehicle suspended in the air from a cable”. There apparently are 3 main types: Aerial tramways, Chairlifts, and Gondola lifts. The gondolas have a rotating bull wheel at the terminal that moves the cable forward, the aerial tramways just go back and forth.

History

The earliest incarnation of a cable car (drawn by horses) is said to be from the 17th century, but in the late 19th century the idea really took off with the use in mining areas. They carried ore from a mine located high on the mountain to an ore mill located at a lower elevation. In the early 20th century, they started transporting tourists instead of goods.

The cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio is the oldest among the WHS that I could find. It originally dates from 1912 and is said to be the third-ever constructed in the world. Other early ones are the Krossobanen in Rjukan (1928, “a gift from Norsk Hydro to the people of Rjukan, offering them a view of the sun which is obscured by the surrounding mountains during the winter months“) and the one to Table Mountain in the Cape Floral Region (1929).

Superlatives

Cable Cars at WHS that stand out:

  • The world's longest cable car (according to CNN, 2017), 7455 meters long, passes over the Zhangjiajie National Park (Wulingyuan), and leads to Tianmen Mountain.
  • Another candidate, stretching 7.5km, is the Skyrail running above the Barron Gorge National Park (Wet Tropics of Queensland); it was the world’s longest gondola cableway at the time of completion in 1995.
  • The Table Mountain cable car nowadays has ‘rotairs’, rotating cabins that allow for a 360-degree view.
  • A ride on Macao’s Cable Guia takes only 80 seconds.
  • The Funivia del Sacro Monte di Varallo is the steepest cable car in Europe.
  • Masada’s track starts 257 m below sea level (and ends at a modest 33 m above), thereby making it the lowest aerial tramway in the world.

No less than 17 Chinese WHS have cable cars, but I had a hard time finding data about them. Most are fairly new (>1990) and Chinese-made, but some are designed by an Austrian/Swiss company similar to a high percentage of the others across the world.

Controversy

In their evaluation of nominations, ICOMOS and IUCN seem to react not so strongly against already existing cable cars. Regarding Masada: “The only intrusions are the lower visitor and cable car facilities, which in their new form have been designed and relocated sympathetically, to minimize visual impact, though the siting of the summit station, is still controversial.” They oppose new developments however, such as at Mount Emei: “The main intrusion has been a cable car which leads to the Golden Summit of the mountain and brings some 300,000 people a year to the sensitive montane forest zone, as well as the construction of a light monorail in 1998 after inscription of the property.”

The most controversial cable car still operational is the one at the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. It was meant to be a temporary construction for the Federal Garden Show 2011 in Koblenz and to be demolished after 3 years. This didn’t happen, so after a lot of discussions, the 2013 WHC agreed to tolerate its existence until 2026, when it technically would be end-of-life.

Do you know of any other WHS with cable cars in their core zone, which aren’t in the connection yet? Or have WHS + Cable car-related stories to share?

Els - 27 March 2022

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Comments

Solivagant 27 March 2022

Welsh slate isn't connected under funicular either.
As per Tsunami.... The use of "cable car" By itself in English is ambiguous.. Remember, you jump on the "cable car" in San Francisco!! I have no problem with the categorization you have chosen but it might be better to title it "Suspended cable cars"?
Regarding " Funicular ".... Comes fromLatin for rope I understand.... One definition is that it has to be equally weighted rather than free... So San Francisco isn't a " Funicular" Just because it is terrestrial and on rails. I haven't looked at all the"Funiculars" to check their "sub type". The Welsh Slate certainly is...


Tsunami 27 March 2022

FYI funicular is referred to as cable car in Japan.


Els Slots 27 March 2022

Regarding the definition: I choose the suspended ones only on purpose. The cable railways we have under a separate connection: Funiculars.


Tsunami 27 March 2022

Hi MoPython, Thanks for sharing. In my attempt to see the Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona site from the Flims side, I have gone skiing at the Flim ski resort twice, in 2015 and 2020. But both times snow storms closed the entire ski area before noon before I got to the point for viewing. It was such a waste of money because the lift ticket and the ski rental together cosr like 200 Euros. But when the WHS center opens, as you said, I might go back there again.


Solivagant 27 March 2022

Cable car definition Wiki
"A transport system, typically one travelling up and down a mountain, in which cabins are suspended on a continuous moving cable driven by a motor at one end of the route.
2.
a carriage on a cable railway."

Definition Webster's
" a vehicle that hangs in the air from a cable that pulls it up and down mountains. : a vehicle that is pulled along tracks by a cable."

So you have chosen a subset of "cable car"... The suspended cable car....


Solivagant 27 March 2022

Or are these not "cable cars" By your definition???


Solivagant 27 March 2022

The Slate Landscape of NW Wales has at least 2 to my knowledge
a. A refurbished demonstration one at Dinorwic Quarry museum site... Showing how slate was moved down the face of the quarry
b. A new (?) tourist carrying one which goes underground (!!) deep into Llegweg quarry. Claimed to be "Europe's steepest".


Els Slots 27 March 2022

Thank you, MoPython. Switzerland and Austria indeed are full of them. I earlier had one connection for Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (chair lift to Cassonsgrat), but this one is not in use anymore. Will add the one you provided, looks like a great ride!


MoPython 27 March 2022

Hi Els
Even if I read a lot on this website (and was excited on your last trip to middle america which I did similar 20 years ago), this is the first time I write something!
I'm working in tourism in Switzerland, so cable cars are a common thing for me. I live close to the Swiss Tectonik Arena Sardona and this is missing on your connection-list, but we have a lot of cable cars around. So I had a closer look at this WHS, looking at the boundaries on the UNESCO-page.
There is probably a dozen of cable cars coming very very close to the boundaries, but not really into it. It seems to me as they defined the boundaries around them. But I found one which goes into it, the cable car Elm-Tschinglen (only german: https://tschinglenbahn.ch). I even found another 3 unimportant cable cars which go into it, but these are only privat ones for alps, but normally wanderers still are able to use them.
At last I will share here a project which will be realized in the next two years, the FlemXpress from Flims (https://www.flem.express/en/) - it will also stay close but still outside the boundaries, but there are two interesting facts:
- it's technically a brandnew thing, because the gondolas will work on demand
- there is a WHS-information center planned on top


Zoe 27 March 2022

It's crazy how almost every Chinese mountain has a cable car, which unfortunately also brings lots of tourism to the mountain top.

Yoshino Ropeway is in the Kii mountains, super close to a site but I am unsure how exact those core zones ended up being drawn. Interesting Japanese use "ropeway" for a cable car system.


Blog Travel in general

My experience travelling ultra-light

For my recent 10-week trip to Mexico and Central America, I had decided to travel ultra-light, replacing my regular 30-liter backpack with a 20 liter one. It is a Deuter Speedlite 20L Backpack that has handy elastic additional pockets. Moving to a warm climate helped in this decision, although Mexico-City isn’t that warm in January (needed the sweater and the raincoat a few times). I had already tried this configuration out on shorter trips in Europe a few times. This travel style sparked a discussion about stinky clothes in our WhatsApp group, so I don't want to keep it away from a bigger audience!

Some of the packing rules I applied

  • Do not bring anything “Just in case”. If you lose something, replace it locally. This strategy may not work in Chad or the DRC, but will in most places and certainly in Mexico and Central America.
  • Only bring clothes that you really like wearing - because you’ll have to wear them over and over again! And verify whether they will dry quickly enough.
  • If there is something that you only need to use once during the trip, then rent it or buy one locally and then discard it. I did so with a sleeping bag and inflatable mattress for my 1-night camping in El Pinacate, which I rented for a small fee from the tour company.

What did I bring?

Electronics

  • Laptop (Dell XPS 13)
  • Phone (iPhone SE 2020)
  • Chargers for laptop and phone, plus 2 cables to connect them
  • Converter plug Europe -> Americas (here I saved a bit on space by not bringing a multi-country one, but a small single-purpose one that I once bought in Panama)
  • Kindle (did use it only a few times, maybe use the iPhone app only next time)
  • Small mp3-player plus in-ear headphones
  • Headlight (only used in El Pinacate and Tikal)

Paperwork

  • 1 sturdy folder where I kept my dollars (between a folded piece of cardboard so they stay crisp), vaccination booklet, passport. And added the entrance tickets of the sites I went to, which are the only souvenirs that I keep. The tickets aren’t pretty in this region anyway. In the past, I have used those thin plastic folders to hold these papers, but I found that they started to be flattened or crumbled by the laptop that goes in the same pocket of the backpack.
  • Credit and health insurance cards which I usually kept in my wallet (which is a small key purse by the way). I had a bank card as well, and a Dutch public transport card to get home.

Clothes

  • 1 pair of cotton long trousers
  • 1 pair of bermuda shorts
  • 1 long-sleeved sweater
  • 2 polo shirts
  • 3 t-shirts (bought an extra one in El Pinacate, because it looked nice but also because I could use a “warmer” t-shirt in Mexico)
  • 1 lightweight rain jacket
  • 1 pair of trainers
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 10 pieces of underwear
  • 1 nightdress
  • 1 bag for the fresh clothes and 1 bag for the dirty clothes

Toiletries

  • 1 small ziplock bag with toothpaste, sunscreen, shampoo, body wash. I replaced them with the free stuff you get in some hotels. I also bought mosquito repellent after I got bitten a lot in Copán. You’ll need it for Quirigua and Tikal as well.
  • 1 small toiletry bag (it actually is a pencil case!), with a toothbrush, hairbrush, nail clipper. It also holds a tiny set of needles/threads/pins (also handy for exchanging your sim card) and my “pharmacy” (1 strip of paracetamol and some bandaids against blisters). Plus earplugs. And a set of plastic cutlery (spoon, fork, knife).
  • In Mexico, I bought a bag of 50 facemasks (for 50 pesos only!)

Other

  • Foldable Nike drawstring bag that I use as a daypack

Evaluation

Overall it worked out well, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again on a similar long trip (for the shorter trips this has become my standard already). It's also fun to see how others react to it - "Lady! Lady! Your luggage!" yelled one of the porters of the San Pedro Belize ferry, when I stepped off it and walked on directly towards my next destination without a care in the world with the small pack on my back.

Negatives: the biggest sacrifice is not being able to bring my bigger zoom camera – I took all photos with my iPhone. I only missed it at Hospicio Cabanas (details of the murals) and for some birds at Copan and Quirigua. Going through security on domestic flights was a bit of a hassle too as it is all packed quite tightly (fortunately the Mexican staff didn’t want to look too deeply & helped me re-packing it sometimes).

Positives: It especially works well with public transport, it turns you into an Agile traveller. Especially in El Salvador and Honduras, space on the buses can be tight. I always managed to keep my bag at my feet. Also, the weight is so minimal it’s no problem to visit a site with all of it (I did so at El Tajin).  In 90% of the cases, I liked having the iPhone better than my bigger camera. It is lighter! You can snap an easy shot. It did well in difficult light circumstances, with the contrast between the dark shade and the bright sun.

Els - 20 March 2022

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Comments

Esteban Cervantes Jiménez (vantcj1) 24 March 2022

Really interesting, Els. It was definitely great for you to travel light, pretty impressive considering that it was a couple of months.
Personally, I am pretty bad at traveling with very little, even on hikes here I tend to have several things that I find useful, in such cases I tend to use a typical hiking backpack. I am also quite forgetful, so for longer trips I make a list of things I will carry in my luggage and take it with me, so I won't miss anything I'll use, I check everything again when I am about to leave.
As in your case, I don't carry now a camera and rely fully on my Smartphone features (it is one i I bought mainly for its excellent camera). Of course the charger is something I always carry , as well as a portable charger, so some extra charge may be available if I need it. On electronics, besides that, I don't tend to use more than that. I sometimes pack binoculars when I hike in the mountains.
Clothing is the #1 crowding factor in my case. I tend to not only carry shorts and T-shirts, but at least one pair of longer trousers and more formal/longer-sleeved shirts. At least in Mexico they came in handy a couple of times. For sleeping, I tend to use a different pair of shorts that I don't wear outside. A sweater or jacket is a "just in case" I also end up using most of times. I also tend to splurge in socks and underwear, I try to bring a number of days+1 underwear items. Being in a pandemic, every reusable face mask came in handy, I washed them at the hotel. In the end, even with the fact that I brought quite an amount of clothing, the number of days there traveling made necessary to pay for a laundry service for some of my clothing items, to be able to use them again.
I also tend to -even when most hotels provide them- bring my own soap, and shampoo, I never forget at least the sunscreen, toothpaste, dental floss, hair gel, skin care products and so on. That would of course mean a lot of space lost, but I pour most of these products into smaller containers before going.
Of course, places with colder weather and traveling on rainy season may require bringing things like an umbrella, or rain cape.
I also let some extra space for possible souvenirs, in Mexico (due to the low costs) that was most a good amount of space in my luggage.
In short, I try to be as sensible as possible in what I carry, but still that would be much for most travelers here.


Els Slots 24 March 2022

Thanks for all your comments. Seems that there is a trend indeed to ditch the large cameras!

A few reactions to points that have been brought forward:
- the Powerbank: I would have taken it if I had more space. But I was lucky that my iPhone was brand new, so it easily performed for a day (let's say 9-17) while taking pictures, whatsapping and navigating. I sometimes also could recharge it in buses.
- the stinky clothes: I change and wash the shirts & underwear after 1 day, a bit longer for the socks (which aren't necessary at all in Central America) and pants

The water bottle I put in one of the elastic outer pockets of the backpack.


Nan 24 March 2022

I used to travel with a small backpack but upgraded to a medium sized one, that still fits as hand luggage. Its not that I take more luggage, but I wanted free space to store food and drinks or put stuff away without cramming it into a small backpack. I always carry a water bottle, may take off a sweater ...

With regards to how much I think most underwear and tshirts can work two days, especially if you don't use them as nightgown. More is a bit tricky, but 2 weeks requires 6 sets and that's not a lot of space. Pants, shirts and sweaters is where I go limited with max one replacement.

On weather, I don't see much difference. Cold means X layers worn continuously. Warm means less. Main challenge is changing weather where you need to carry luggage just in case.

Last bit electronics. Rethinking moving to a high class smartphone myself instead of a camera. Weight and hassle are just too much. Powerbank and earplugs are a must. Spare headphones make sense too.


Astraftis 20 March 2022

No discussion about how to treat stinky clothes? :-P

Congratulation for your level of lightness! I am still wondering how all of this can fit in such a small bag, one probably has to try for himself to be convinced. Anyway, as you say, this light pack is largely made possible by a warm, relatively dry climate. If you are travelling during a rainy season or in a cold climate where it is impossible to let things dry, there are more "logistical problems" to be solved. Or also during trips with tighter schedules (departing early - arriving late). For example, I think 3 socks is really a bare minimum, even "risky"!!!

With regard to the nightdress: I also take one with me... I mean, a pajama. Apart being comfy, I think it's a good choice in a perspective of clothes sparing: it's better to not sleep in the same clothes you use during the day. But it's true that in warmer climates you can simply forgo a pajama (but then, it also depends on where you sleep...).

You say that you don't keep any souvenir apart from tickets, and you also have no book... this would be impossible for me, or at least excruciating! D-: Most souvenirs by themselves don't take much space and are light, but I usually end up doubling the weight of a hand luggage because of books and other papers that I then sort at home.

Also, to answer to Solivagant: I think that having different devices (smartphone, kindle, mp3) still is more practical than all in one. Both because of recharging, but mainly because you can spread the usage among them. Doing everything by means of a tiny plastic box is tiring and not too efficient in the long run, in my experience. Or maybe I should upgrade my smartphone. By the way, I have stopped bringing an mp3 with me, simply because I stopped listening to music when I am around: I want to feel immersed where I am and I feel using earphones alienates me instead.

Lastly, do you think a compact camera is still not better than a phone? I do when comparing the pictures I take with both. I also think it is more options. It doesn't take much space: I keep it in a pouch which comes handy for other things too.


Zoë Sheng 20 March 2022

I don't take my camera anymore either, which is a really shame because for nature shots the phone quality still doesn't cut it imho, but camera + lense adds quite a bit of weight and space.

One tip: take old clothes you can spare, especially tshirts, and ditch some on the way. It will make your latter portion of the trip more enjoyable.

nightdress for me means tshirt and shorts :)


Solivagant 20 March 2022

A "Nightdress"??!! It must be a "female thing". Mrs Solivagant always insists on packing hers too. That is one "luxury" which could certainly go.
A bit surprised at the plethora of Electronic boxes - Phone, Kindle and MP3 Player. What is wrong with the Apps for the latter 2? I would also always carry a powerpack for those long days (or camping nights) with no power/heavy photography etc etc. Even the Headlamp seems "de trop".

Agree entirely on the change which has occurred across recent years on the balance between phone and camera photography. I still carry the camera as am not trying to cut down on weight as much as you but find I use it from choice less and less. Back up is better too with auto upload to a Cloud app taking place without the bother of having to sling them via a phone.


Blog WHS Visits

WHS #780: Quirigua

This site hasn’t been reviewed for 13 years, so I think Quiriguá deserves to be put into the spotlights. With this visit, I also completed the list of 9 WHS connected to Mayan culture. And every time you think: “I’ve seen so many Maya sites already, what can this one possibly add?” But they all have different qualities. Quiriguá has the best-preserved sculptures.

The Quiriguá archaeological park has suffered severe hurricane damage from Eta and Iota in 2020 and has only reopened in June 2021. They had to remove 12 swimming pools full of mud and water, which left certain areas flooded up to 1.8m

During my visit in February 2022, nothing of that damage was visible anymore and the site looked very well cared for. At the entrance, you get a site-specific ticket and a booklet in English (both rare in Mexico or Central America). Signage is in both Spanish and English. There is a (new?) boardwalk that takes you along the monuments, so you don’t have to walk on the grass. It had been raining for 2 hours before my visit, and the ground had turned soggy again.

The site comprises a plaza where the sculptures have been resurrected and an acropolis with a few ruined buildings and a ball court. Parts of the site are also unexcavated, you can see unnatural hills where something must be hidden underneath. The sculptures often had fallen down or were broken when they were rediscovered in the late 19th century, they have all since been restored and each one has a thatched cover against the elements.

Directly on the first stele, I discovered something peculiar: historical graffiti from 1881. 1881 was an ominous year in the history of Quirigua, as that was when the British explorer and archaeologist Alfred Maudslay first visited. He later recorded all the monuments in detail and made paper and plaster molds of the hieroglyphic inscriptions, which were shipped to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the casts to the British Museum. It wasn’t Maudslay who made the graffiti, but in his recordings, he also referred to them.

All stelae are in exquisite condition and by far the best ones I have seen at any Maya site, even better than Copán. The site also specializes in zoomorphic and anthropomorphic sculptures, which are very good as well. The Acropolis isn’t a match for any of the other Maya sites – you really have to come to Quirigua for the stone carvings. The complex isn’t large, it takes about an hour to see it all. The site is open daily between 8 and 16.30. The area is also good for birds and I saw an agouti as well.

Quirigua lies in the south of Guatemala, only 4km from the main road that crosses the south; so with a rental car, it’s an easy visit. By public transport it also isn’t that hard: I went by bus from Guatemala City to Los Amates (4.5h with a fairly luxury coach by Litegua). From Los Amates you can take a tuk-tuk to the site, a few kilometers further along the road. To continue your journey after the visit, go to the next town Morales and catch a bus north from there for example to Flores (5.5h with Fuente del Norte, for me it included free training in staying zen because of 8(!) police checks and 2 preachers on the bus).

Before moving on, I stayed overnight at the Posada de Quirigua. This small lodge in Quirigua village is owned by a Japanese woman and has been running for 17 years. It is basic but clean and has useful amenities like hot water, wifi, and hammocks. She cooked me a wonderful Japanese dinner as well (it’s not easy to get soy sauce, nori, or even rice in rural Guatemala!). The posada cannot be found via the generic booking sites, do contact her via her own website if you want to stay there.

Els - 13 March 2022

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