Blog WHS Visits

WHS #880: Makli, Thatta

There are some WHS on the List where it is hard to imagine what they are about and what they look like before you visit it. For me that always has been the case with “Makli, Thatta”. What’s Makli and what’s Thatta? Well, Makli means “little Mekkah” and is the name of the site, while Thatta is the name of the city it belongs to. The site is usually described as a necropolis, but I believe it is not really about the number of burials. It stands out for its set of monumental tombs and mausolea created in different styles by local dignitaries, who wanted to be buried near the shrine for the Sufi scholar Shaikh Jamali.

Makli was already inscribed in 1981, which seems a little early as although it is a nice site to visit it can hardly be seen as globally influential in any way; it’s more the eclectic result of a local building tradition. There is little info to go on why exactly it was made a WHS. It went through a re-focus stage post-inscription (including a name change) as described here, as the earliest incarnation seemed to suggest that other monuments in the city of Thatta were inscribed too. But only Makli is.

The entrance fee, as at all other WHS in Sindh Province, nowadays is 3,000 rupees (about 10 USD) for foreigners. It’s a vast site, impossible to cover fully on foot, with alternating areas of little interest and eye-catching monumental tombs. Our guide went on a bit about this being “the largest cemetery in the world” (not the one in Iraq, which he also was aware of), but this seems merely an example of the (often very local) chauvinism not based on facts that is common in Pakistan.

In the end, we just went to see the prettiest mausolea. To my untrained eye, they display two distinct styles of architecture. One is the local Chaukhandi style (sandstone structures with fine carvings, named after the exquisite nearby TWHS of the Chaukhandi Tombs), and the other is an adaptation of Central Asian and Persian dome-type structures with glazed tiles. A few of the latter have undergone recent renovations, mostly focusing on the exterior tilework (the Tomb of Diwan Shurfa Khan may be the best example of this). ‘The man with the keys’ is needed to open up the most precious ones, as the entrance gates to the individual mausolea are usually locked to prevent vandalism. The heavily eroded site also suffers from winds blowing in plastic trash.

After we had seen several of the tombs we asked what the green building in the distance was. It turned out to be the Sufi shrine dedicated to the Baghdadi scholar Abdullah Shah Ashabi. An electric vehicle was summoned to bring us there. The shrine is fairly small, but large crowds of pilgrims still are said to come here on Fridays. We met a few people inside. The inner courtyard holds two huge cauldrons: here food is cooked to be handed out for free to the worshippers and/or the needy.

We spent about 2 hours at Makli, which I felt was enough. It is recommended to go in the late afternoon to get the best pictures of the tombs. Upon leaving, we were invited to tea by the site manager – the first of many such ‘ceremonies’ we were to undergo in the next 2 weeks. He said he greets all foreign visitors. There is sort of a WHS plaque, which unfortunately I did not manage to locate, but they also have a pretty sign displaying the most notable tombs and the WH logo. 

Els - 10 December 2023

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Blog Countries

Top Tips for Saudi Arabia

I just spent 8 days in Saudi Arabia. It hadn’t been high on my travel wish list, but it presented itself as a convenient stop-over on my way to Pakistan. You can find my itinerary here. I am glad that I did it, despite the pitfalls described below: Saudi Arabia never has been as open before as it is now. Maybe it’s better to go in 5 years when they have ‘finished’, but who knows which way the political winds will blow then? Herewith are some tips for travelling to Saudi Arabia as a WH Traveller.

1. They don’t adhere to the WHS Commandments

Saudi must be among the worst followers of the WHS Visitor Commandments – you’ll hardly find anything that could pass for a plaque, most sites are first inscribed and only afterward made ready to receive tourists, there can be unannounced closures when bigwigs show up and they don’t like you looking around on your own at archeological sites. There usually is some on-site explanation available in Arabic and English, but it is generally of little depth.

They seem to have created a few Commandments of their own though, such as: “Don’t open a site before the shops and restaurants are ready”. Or: “Hide places from sight that look unrestored or are not instagrammable, by surrounding them with huge cardboard walls!”

2. Don’t expect to see ancient or pretty mosques.

Saudi Arabia’s current WHS don’t hold any Islamic religious sites. You won’t find anything here like the monumental building tradition of the Umayyads or the Timurids, or even the fine rural Sudanese-style mosques. The Saudi kind of Islam does not care for them - they have to be large, practical and with modern amenities such as air conditioing and clean toilets. Even in Medina, where the first mosques of the world originated, their foundations have been erased. Anything that looks remotely pretty likely dates back to Ottoman times (such as the Mosque of Al-Ghamama in Medina, photo 2).

3. Be aware that practical info is outdated within a year

Things change fast at the moment in Saudi Arabia, each year new possibilities are opening up. So any practical advice you find online from before 2021 is useless, expect everything to be more available and generally easier/better/more convenient. And leave the abaya at home: the official dress code nowadays is ‘keep your shoulders and knees covered’, and you really don’t have to go beyond that.

4. It isn’t that expensive 

It’s not a cheap country, but still, prices of groceries, food in restaurants, taxi rides, etc are lower than in NW Europe or the USA. Entrance fees barely exist, but there also isn’t a lot that you can really enter. You can pay for everything everywhere with a credit card. Except for the taxi drivers in AlUla!

I see no reason to “do Saudi Arabia” on a tour nowadays – those tours still are very costly, similar to when Saudi Arabia was ‘closed’. Daily rates of 400-600 EUR are common, and then you still have to pay for your own food and are expected to tip. I read that it is because of the high hotel costs and the high fees earned by Saudi guides (the main reason I think is because they need to organize through a Saudi agency). I spent 215 EUR a day in the country (excluding international flights and visa, but including food, 4 domestic flights and a return ticket on the superfast train to Medina).

5. Public transport is improving

I covered my whole itinerary by public transport, using domestic flights, rideshare taxis, and trains to get around. I flew with FlyNas 4x. They are a budget airline (you even have to pay for water), but were always on time and did not check the height/weight of hand luggage. I had 3 rideshare taxi apps on my phone: Uber, Careem and Kaiian. I ended up using Uber the most in the big cities as I could pay with a card that way. Kaiian is the best for AlUla (see my Hegra review for specifics). They’re working on improving the inner city public transport, which is still almost non-existent. Riyadh plans to finish its first metro line in 2024 and they already have neat airconditioned bus stops for an expanding bus network. Jeddah and AlUla have plans as well.

6. It will teach you about subjects the average history podcast doesn’t

Overall, I did find it ‘interesting’ as you learn about the early history of Islam and early Arab civilizations. For me, Hegra and Medina were the highlights, with honourable mentions for the National Museum and the archaeological site of Dadan (photo 3). But travelling here can be pretty boring as well and 8 days was enough for me: the food is dull, the cities offer few sights, and the whole colour scheme of the country is comprised of one drab, sandy colour.

Els - 3 December 2023

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Blog TWHS Visits

Hejaz Railway

Nabatean Hegra may be its main tourist attraction nowadays, but Saudi Arabia’s Unique Selling Point is being the custodian of the two holy sites of Islam: Mecca and Medina. No less than four TWHS are directly related to the pilgrimages to these sites. There are three Hajj Road serial transnational sites, of which the Darb Zubaydah seems to be prepared at the moment as a joint nomination between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. And there’s also the Hejaz Railway, which despite the “transport” theme also is closely associated with the Islamic pilgrimage route. The Islamic pilgrimage routes probably are the closest the Saudis will get to putting forward its holy sites as WHS (Mecca’s Kaaba is #9 of our Missing List).

My first encounter with this subject was at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. At the moment they are hosting a special exhibition called ‘Hijrah’. It tells the story of how the Prophet Mohammed fled from Mecca to Medina to avoid persecution. Although this seems like a difficult and intangible theme, they found clever solutions to bring the message across also to non-Muslim visitors. Large video screens show his journey day by day and the desolate landscapes he passed through, alternated with works by modern artists (among them many female).

The Hejaz Railway entered Saudi Arabia from the northwest, bringing pilgrims from Turkey and Syria – essentially it was the early 20th century version of the Syrian Hajj Road. The remains of the old railway station of AlUla can be found in the center of that town. They have created a neat little park around it (even with a bike path!) but the buildings are fenced off and seem to be in a bad condition. There isn’t much interpretation beyond “this was a railway station plus some administrative buildings”. Water provisioning was much needed at every station, here in AlUla it came as a wind-driven pump that supplied a twin-tank water tower from two wells. Across the street, two wooden carriages have been preserved. I didn’t notice any remains of the railway tracks.

Medina was the end station of the Hejaz Railway. Originally the trains were meant to continue as far as Mecca, but that never happened after a successful tribal campaign in 1907 claiming the loss of revenue from transporting pilgrims on camelbacks. Mecca and Medina nowadays are served by railways: the high-speed Haramain Rail connects both holy sites via Jeddah. The wagons come from Spain, the slick but understated railway stations were designed by the firm of Norman Foster. I used this train to visit Medina on a day trip from Jeddah; it takes under 2 hours.

The Haramain train isn’t used only by pilgrims, and that was probably true for the Hejaz Railway as well. I noticed plenty of businessmen, families and regular commuters using the train to get from Jeddah to Medina. Despite its holy connotations, it’s also ‘just’ another large Saudi city with one million+ inhabitants. There is nothing of note along the way, no other cities, only flat and uninspiring desert for over 400km.

In the city of Medina, I used the Hop-on Hop-off bus to get a first look at its sights. The old Hejaz Railway station has its own stop, but when booking the bus ticket online it showed that this stop was unavailable due to road works going on and the railway museum being closed. Just another case of unfortunate Saudi closures? We did pass it from a distance and I got unobstructed views, so after the tour, I decided to just walk there from the Prophet’s Mosque in the city center (in contrast to the modern station, which lies just outside the Haram area, the Hejaz one lies firmly within its borders). You have to cross a few multi-lane streets but it isn’t far and there are pavements. I arrived around 2 pm and the sun was just on the wrong side to get good shots of the station’s pretty façade. But it is worth walking around it, as the back is just as good and you can see that this was a ‘real’ railway station with remaining tracks and wagons. I am sure when the museum reopens, it will be a worthwhile visit.

Els - 26 November 2023

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Els Slots 2 December 2023

Yes, except for the interior of the Holy Mosque of the Prophet

CugelVance 2 December 2023

Els,one question,please: is it possible to enter Medina for non-moslems without any restrictions??

Blog Connections

Best Visited on a Bicycle

At first, I thought it was only me, noticing how many WHS I have visited using a bicycle as my main means of transport, as I practically grew up on a bicycle in the Netherlands. But then I saw other community members doing it too – even Hubert from mountainous Austria! And long-distance cyclist Michael Ayers has proven that you can cycle almost anywhere. There are just so many WHS where a bicycle is the right kind of transport.

What advantages does a bicycle have?

If you have to choose between walking and cycling, the advantage of a bicycle is that it takes you just that bit further. It’s ideal for distances between 15 and 40km and perfect for exploring serial sites or cultural landscapes that are spread out.

Choosing between driving and cycling, a bicycle will give you of course that breath of fresh air. But also more of a ‘feel’ for a certain area (cultural landscapes again come to mind), as you move through it more slowly. You can also take smaller paths and don’t need to worry about parking. And it’s cheaper to rent a bike than a car.

Which WHS are best suited to a visit on a bicycle?

I've searched all our reviews for the term "cycle". After weeding out some dynastic, agricultural and climatic cycles, over 100 WHS were left. I then also excluded those where a bicycle was just used as door-to-door transport. The remaining ones come in four categories:

1. Popular choices

A fairly large number of WHS come with a clear bicycle infrastructure for tourists. They are usually recommended for cycling by more than one of our reviewers. These sites include Angkor (The Small Circuit), Bagan (more popular by e-scooter nowadays), Bali Subak System, Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, Kinderdijk, Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, Muskauer Park, Neolithic Orkney, Polonnaruva, Rapa Nui (though the big circle (45km) is better done using an e-bike), Reichenau, San Antonio Missions (Photo 1), Schokland, Southern Öland, Stari Grad Plain, Sukhothai, Trang An, and Wachau Cultural Landscape.

2. Good finds

Individual reviewers discovered the following alternative ways to visit the following WHS on a bicycle, where it isn't common practice:

  • Ancient Kyoto: Daniel wrote, “With a mountain bike it is possible to visit all interesting sites east of the river in one day. ... And nearly all sites have free bicycle parking".
  • Berlin Modernism Housing Estates: Michael Turtle: “visited three of the six apartment blocks, using a rental cycle to get between them and then back to my accommodation in the centre of Berlin”.
  • Białowieża Forest: Jakob even crossed the border into Belarus and spent 6 hours exploring the paths in the forest.
  • Carthage: Els visited the spread-out locations on a guided bike tour (Photo 2).
  • Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape: Tom about Gwennap Mining District, "a good way to see this subsite is to cycle the 11 mile miners' track”.
  • Talayotic Menorca: Els: “The distances between the sites in the southeast of Minorca are perfectly suitable for cycling.“)

3. For the intrepid cyclists

The bicycle expeditions below are probably not to be repeated by others, as they require serious preparation, fitness, or a general adventurous demeanor:

  • Aasivissuit – Nipisat: Michael Ayers rode through the core zone from Kangerlussuaq airport, but you have to bring your own bicycle.
  • Fertö/Neusiedlersee: Hubert cycled around the entire Austrian part of the lake (a total of approximately 80 km).
  • Galapagos Islands: Tonisan explored the Santa Cruz highlands, cycling all the way back to Puerto Ayora. "I only recommend doing that if you don't mind getting wet because of the mist and full of mud, and I must say it is physically challenging.”
  • Hué: Els rented a bicycle to see some of the places outside the city. "But the road quickly deteriorated, the signposting got more erratic, the sun warmer and the hills higher. At one moment I even found myself and my bicycle on the very dusty AH1 highway between Hanoi and Saigon". (At least they have bike parking, Photo 3)
  • Nemrut Dag: Emyr shares: “I cycled up there in 1988 - 21 years ago!!!. It took all day. I remember being knackered by the time I reached the top”.
  • Route of Santiago de Compostela: Walter: “I decided that I needed to complete the 700 km in order to tick off the site. Lacking time, I decided to cycle the route.”

4. Mentioned as an option

It is funny to see that reviewers mention taking a bicycle as an option more often than they actually use one. And they often also already include the excuse for not doing so (Uphill! Strong winds!). But still, these may inspire future visitors: Ayutthaya, Beemster Polder (strong winds), Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (a lot uphill), Brazilian Atlantic Islands (but there’s a convenient bus system), Canal du Midi (on the old towpath along the canal, but takes a couple of days), Evaporitic Karst and Caves (one needs some training), Ferrara (Po Delta), Frontiers of the Roman Empire, Isole Eolie, Ohrid Region, Pampulha, Par force hunting landscape, Pico Island (the northern part), Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos, Site of Xanadu, St. Petersburg, Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine (for the trip to Black Trout Adi), Taxila, The Four Lifts, and Val d'Orcia.

Are there other WHS that come to your mind that are well-suited to be explored on a bicycle?

Els - 19 November 2023

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Astraftis 21 November 2023

I add myself to those mentioning the Curonian Spit: it is absolutely the best way to experience it from an extremity to the other, as there is a nice route which is mostly distant from the car road. I did it from Juodkrantė to Nida using a local bike rent which allowed me to drop the bike at the arrival. There are also companies offering bike tours.

Durian 21 November 2023

Ten years ago, cycling was a popular way to see the whole town of Luang Prabang. Every hotel has bicycle for guest to rent.

jonathanfr 20 November 2023

Maybe we could create a connection?

Solivagant 20 November 2023

@Els "I think cycling hasn't been a real option for Kathmandu anymore in the past 30 years, Solivagant. Due to the traffic, dust and air pollution".
I have done a check and there are a lot of Bike hire companies still in Kathmandu - now offering mountain bikes for longer trips but still marketing them for trips in the city and around the Valley as well.

Michael Ayers 19 November 2023

Just adding my stamp of approval. :-)

Shandos Cleaver 19 November 2023

Another great option for cycling is Lord Howe Island. The island is fairly compact, so nearly all visitors hire a bicycle, to supplement the shuttles provided by the accommodation to/from airport and restaurants in the evening. Car hires are quite limited.

We also hired bicycles to explore Keoladeo National Park in India. It was the perfect speed for a brief visit spotting birds alongside the path.

Plus, in Sri Lanka, we used bicycles at Anuradhapura as well as Polonnaruva.

Silivagant 19 November 2023

No mention of Luxor/Karnak....we have twice used bike hire to see the sites there again some years ago. Maybe the security arrangements nowadays make this more, difficult I remember us taking our bikes over the hills from the Valley of the Kings and down to Queen Hatsepshut's tomb. An ideal site for bikes... Many separate places which are a bit too far aooart for walking and a bit too close for a car. Yes it can be hot but perfectly doable .

Another site I remember cycling at was Hoi An....

Jakob 19 November 2023

We visited quite a number of WHS by bike. We had Bromptons ans this Summer even our ordinary bikes with us.
Sites where biking enhanced the experience immensly:
- curonian spit: nice 45km Trip from Nida toKlaipeda
-bialowieza, perfect to explore the belarussian Site
- lots of places in the NL: -Kinderdijk (this time we couldnt park anywhere, thus had to skip)
- Beemster Polder
- Water Defense line, e.g at Utrecht
Amsterdam canal Ring
- Grand Guerre sites around Ypern
- Dessau Wörlitz combined with Bauhaus
- Parforce near Copenhagen
- Potsdam Palaces, best way to see most of them in one day, unfortunately restrictions are in place
- Sukhothai, cheap to rent
- Dresden Elbe Valley

Sites, where I wished I had a bike with me:
- Hadrian Wall
- Wachau

Many cities can be best visited by bikes and just as a roadtrip by camper, in dense WHS regions its fun to go from one WHS to the other.

Zos 19 November 2023

Beijing is cycling friendly again with dedicated bike lanes. And there are different shared bike options you can use. One can cycle from Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Central Axis, Grand Canal and Summer Palace within a day.

Els Slots 19 November 2023

I think cycling hasn't been a real option for Kathmandu anymore in the past 30 years, Solivagant. Due to the traffic, dust and air pollution.

Can Sarica 19 November 2023

I had cycled the Angkor long tour a few years ago and it was definitely my best WHS experience. This summer, I visited the San Antonio Missions on bike. The bike-sharing system is really making the visit so enjoyable and convenient there.

Another location to cycle may be Rideau Canal. The path besides the canal is suitable for a bike ride and stretches from Ottawa river to Mooney’s Bay. However, there is no bike share system in Ottawa but only a e-scooter system.

Hubert 19 November 2023

I also like exploring WHS by bicycle. I used a bicycle at about 20 WHS, and at a few TWHS (yes, Via Appia was quite bumpy). You have a different view of the surroundings than by car, you can stop wherever you want and reach spots that are not accessible by car. And it's often time-saving, even in Japan where public transport is excellent (Asuka TWHS). It's perfect for large garden landscapes like Potsdam, Lednice-Valtice, Dessau-Wörlitz or vineyards (Saint Emillion, Burgundy)
My most memorable bike tours are Kyoto, Fujisan (the area near Lake Kawaguchi), Orkneys, Loire Valley (a 40 km route), Curonian Split.
If you use a rental bike, the quality is crucial for the fun. I have experienced this on the Orkneys. There was only one small bike rental in Stromness, with only five bikes, none of good quality. And in Japan: don't take a mamarachi bike, it can be exhausting, especially if you are taller than 1.60 m. The best option is always a mountain bike.
And yes, you can take an e-bike, but that's for wimps.

Ian Cade 19 November 2023

A few months too early perhaps, but last week at the Roman end of the Via Appia was full of cyclists (and it seems Hubert added it to his list of sites he explored by by bike as well). Will probably need a mountain bike as those cobbles looked pretty erratic, though my Flemish friends were very excited by the prospect when I sent through pictures.

Solivagant 19 November 2023

Sukhothai and Ayutthaya must surely still be ideal cycling sites - we did so as "recently" as 2017. Bike rentals were much in evidence

Looking back over the Years......
Hue - may be "adventurous" now but was the "normal" way of seeing it in 1994! There were no motorways - a peaceful trip with a pleasant ferry ride on the way

Others from the past we did
Beijing - 1989 - Then was by far the easiest way to see the entire city through the quiet hutongs! The main problem was finding one's bike among the thousands in the bike parks!
Suzhou also for getting quickly around all the gardens - in 1989 we left the bikes outside each of them with no problems. Now???
Kathmandu - Around the city and out into the countryside to see Boddhanath and Swayambu (1975)

Blog WHS website

Things I learned from rewriting the site intros

Earlier this year I started rewriting the site intro texts to make them more consistent and appealing. The idea was to turn them into an Executive Summary of the WHS: what is it, why was it inscribed and what has the community to say about it (as written down in the reviews). It proved to be a huge amount of work, on average one WHS took me 15 minutes. I now have 95% completed and hope to finish the project before I embark on my next trip later this week.

During the process, I also made hundreds of small changes to the individual site pages which have improved their overall quality. Think of standardizing the size of the main photo, removing blank lines, updating specific visitor requirements (free entrances, guided tours only, etc), small name changes, and adding overlooked locations. And I took note of some remarkable, unintentional findings which are listed below.

I love one-sentence quotes that define a site: As I was aiming to summarize, I was glad to find single sentences within reviews that cover the site beautifully. Like “Falun gives you a real sense of how heavy industry can alter a landscape”, or “Prague is Europe in a nutshell and on a budget”, or “You need to really love rock formations and hard-to-see petroglyphs to get much out of it” (Talampaya). Or the honest ”The statue was large and the queues were long” (Statue of Liberty) and the concise: “It’s brick walls” (Nalanda).

The UNESCO pages aren’t static either: Adding the Retrospective OUV Statements has been a great improvement by the WHC Bureau. But sometimes smaller changes have been made too, reflecting later corrections. So Hal Saflieni went from the Bronze to the Neolithic Age, Hollókö from the 17th-18th centuries to the 18th-19th centuries, the discovery of the Son Doong Cave was added to the description of Phong Nha and the history of Gorée has been revised.

The site and its OUV can be a mystery: Some sites were particularly tough as they have no full OUV statement available (like Porec, Tongariro, Agra Fort) or the prose is unclear (like Wartburg, Naples). I found all of India's WHS hard, often weird sentences in the OUV statements appear there such as “comprising deep layers of deposited rock and detritus overlain by sandy loam and a layer of humus represented by bhabar tracts in the north” (Manas).

Countries often have their own peculiarities: As I did them country by country, I started seeing common threads. Portugal seems to still be preoccupied with its independence from Spain, while Russia glorifies colonization and Christianization of remote parts of its territory. Iran loves its qanats and Bulgaria’s sites are often tiny in scope. Spain stands out for not really adhering to the WHS visitor commandments, with frequent complaints about its very Spanish opening hours (closed Mondays and between 1 and 5 p.m.), the necessity of joining guided tours (in Spanish of course) and outdated ‘no photography inside’ regulations.

The level of interest among reviewers varies greatly per site: Sometimes one great review seems to stimulate the posting of other memorable ones (Orkney, Ujung Kulon, Ischigualasto/Talampaya), while about other sites everybody essentially says the same. The summarizing I think turned out best when people visited different components, did it in different ways, or expressed different opinions. In other cases I have just pointed out the “star review”, the one(s) best to start with reading.

Serial sites with one unrepresentative component: There may be a new connection in here. Some serial WHS have one component that is visited (and reviewed) by far the most often but isn’t a fair representation of what the WHS stands for as a whole. Think of the Alamo, FLW’s Guggenheim Building in New York (one of his later works, far different from his classical Prairie School architecture), and Cuernacava's Popocatepetl 'monastery'. Possibly also the Catania component of Val di Noto. You'd actually need to see an additional component to make a “good visit”.

The tone of the reviews does not always match the site's rating: Now and then I noticed a strong mismatch between the overall opinion among reviewers and how the site is ranked by the community overall. Acre is an example, where the site has a fairly good rating (3.36/5), but the reviewers give it little praise.

There’s lots more to review: Not only are there 23 WHS that have no review at all, but numerous other WHS are also seriously underreviewed. I’d particularly welcome reviews of recent visits covering:

Els - 12 November 2023

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Shandos Cleaver 16 November 2023

I'll try and write some reviews soon including the Tasmanian Wilderness - I've visited quite a few components over the years.

Dennis Nicklaus 14 November 2023

I like your refreshed intros. Just wanted to let you know they are noticed and appreciated.

Els Slots 14 November 2023

Thanks, Mohboh!

Mohboh 13 November 2023

I've added a brief review of The red tower of Death if it helps.

Philipp Peterer 13 November 2023

Great job, Els! I tried to visit the tower of death during covid, but it was not even possible to get close. did not seem like it could be visited. maybe that changed now.

Els Slots 12 November 2023

Well done, Svein!

@Sebasfhb - if you think you have something to add to the reviews that are already there, please do so

Svein Elias 12 November 2023

Jomon Sites Hokkaidi just sent in :-)

Sebasfhb 12 November 2023

I could write a recent one on Tournai, but the scaffolding is still going on. Just on the inside, though.

Blog WHS Visits

WHS #875: Erfurt

So I have the honour to first review this site after inscription! Fortunately, it wasn’t as gloomy as I expected it - instead of the celebratory “Wir sind Welterbe” banners common in Germany, the components of this WHS displayed happy purple signs stating “Jetzt UNESCO Welterbe - Mazal-Tov!”. Even the infamous Stone House (component #3), which was previously hard to recognize, now stands out in its street.

I don’t know whether Erfurt normally sees a lot of tourists, but on the Thursday in late October when I visited many tour groups were led through its historic center; mostly German, some Asian. I could overhear their guides talking about the newly gained World Heritage Status. I also happily explored its streets with its eclectic architecture, visited the Cathedral, the St Severus' Church, and the Citadel, and ate a hearty lunch. But after that, I couldn’t postpone the Jewish Heritage sites anymore.

The Old Synagogue seems to have gotten more accustomed to receiving visitors - you get a proper ticket plus an audio guide or a booklet on loan that explains the site and Erfurt’s Jewish history. One enters via a small courtyard and then has three floors to cover in the building itself. They did their best to fill it with relevant items and I seriously started reading in the provided guide, but after a few minutes it gets to you: there is nothing authentic of any relevance to be seen here. It’s like being in one of these caves where hominid fossils were found - one where the cave has been altered beyond recognition that is.

The top floor shows the remains of the dance hall it once was, and the basement holds the Erfurt Treasure (I think the discovery of this provided the tipping point to apply for WH status, but these are moveable objects that were not even found at one of the inscribed locations). When the building was a synagogue, there was neither a basement nor a top floor by the way.

Further disappointment followed at the Mikveh. I had read online that there is a tour every Thursday and Saturday. But at the advertised hour of 4 p.m., no one showed up. Only then I noticed a small note next to the door of the Mikveh entrance, saying "Only tours on Saturday, they have to be pre-booked and start at the synagogue". Grrr. It turned out to be a classical mistake of the English version of an official website not having been updated while the German version was. I sent an e-mail to the contact address given, they never replied and the error persists.

I feel for the well-meaning citizens of Erfurt, who so diligently have uncovered this part of their city’s history and should continue to cherish them as a local treasure. This recent article describes how it all came about.

I do not sympathize so much with those who oversee the German nominations and ICOMOS. There is a question in the FAQ of Erfurt's official website, asking why this Jewish heritage was nominated instead of the Old City or some of its more notable monuments. The answer: “Jewish heritage is underrepresented. Medieval and Christian heritage and historic old towns, however, are disproportionately represented in Germany and Europe. A further application with such a topic would therefore no longer be accepted by UNESCO.” So the golddiggers at the German national committee saw a high chance of inscription (Fills a Gap!) - no matter that there are already 95 sites with Jewish heritage on the list, and 10 mikvehs, and Germany itself is probably the most overrepresented within the overrepresented Europe/North America region. This is not equal to Kazimierz or the Old New Synagogue in Prague or even to the SHuM sites. The Jewish sites of Erfurt never had any influence beyond the city borders, not in their architecture nor in their spiritual meaning.

ICOMOS did give them a bit of a hard time in the preliminary stages - Germany needed the submission of over 400 pages of supplementary information and a lot of adjectives in describing the OUV to convince ICOMOS. It lost one criterion and an Epic Subtitle along the way, losing the intangible link of coexistence with the Christian majority.

Stripped to the bare bones, the narrow narrative now consists of the oldest known remains of an Ashkenazi synagogue (but what if we find an older one tomorrow? – Jews have been present in this part of Europe for centuries before), a Mikveh that only stands out for its “spatial distribution” (which means that it was built a few streets away from the synagogue as the surrounding area had no space anymore), and wooden beams painted with some decorative flowers in the ceiling in the once Jewish owned Stone House.

If they just had nominated the Erfurt Cathedral and St Severus' Church (a former TWHS) or Erfurt’s Central-European townscape of medieval origin (including the Jewish sites) I could have lived with it. Erfurt overall is pleasant enough for a few hours and superficially it isn’t much different from Quedlinburg or Bamberg. I would have given it 2 or 2.5 stars, and complained a bit about “same old, same old” but what they got now is one of the poorest WHS on the list, for both intrinsic value and visitor experience.

Els - 5 November 2023

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Blog Connections

Minor Boundary Modifications

Minor Boundary Modifications are a ‘thing’: over the past 18 years or so (I see them first appearing in 2005), over 120 of these modifications have been approved. They take up a lot of time from the State Parties and ICOMOS/IUCN in clarification but always pass through without discussion at WHC meetings so their contents stay a bit hidden.

We’ve had them as a Connection for a long time, but it was just a list without explanations – so it did not fit the requirement that we can actually learn something from it. I decided to refocus it, by only mentioning changes made to the core zones (about 60% of the modifications regard buffer zone changes or new buffer zones). The new definition will be: “Sites where a "Minor modification” has been approved after the year of inscription. Includes only modifications to the core zone that add or remove a named element.”

The difference between a minor boundary modification and an extension

There are actually three mechanisms within the WH process that deal with site boundaries. There is an ongoing ‘project’ of the WHC called ‘Clarification of boundaries’ which requests proper maps and coordinates for WHS which do not have them yet. Then there is the minor modification: “one which does not have a significant impact on the extent of the property nor affects its Outstanding Universal Value”.  If the modification proposed is deemed too significant, the procedure for new nominations will apply (and you get what we call an “Extension”).

Refocusing on the core zones

I started from the 113 sites in the old connection and checked them all on the UNESCO website what the change involved. I deleted the changes to buffer zones, and also those changes that were mere cartographic errors and did not lead to a named component being added or deleted. For the ones remaining, I added a rationale. Here’s the updated list.

This list may not be complete – I have not gone through the decisions year by year. I only did so for the past 2022/2023 session, which yielded a few more notable entries including huge extensions to the French Austral Lands and Taï National Park, and the addition of a few more monuments in Lima.

Why were these boundary changes needed?

Countries submit Minor Boundary Modifications for a variety of reasons. The following types can be distinguished:

  • New archeological discoveries: Choirokoitia and Jelling were extended because new findings were made just outside of the original core zone, while at Stonehenge the Fyfield Down site was revalued due to scientific work in 2000 (so it was moved from buffer to core zone).
  • Result of Clarification of boundaries: the 'Clarification of boundaries' process often brings inconsistencies to light, in the case of the Loire Valley for example the Estate of Chenonceau was mentioned in the text but not part of the designated area on the map.
  • Rationalizing: sometimes an inscribed area just proves to be illogical and it gets corrected. At Durham, the part between the Castle and the Cathedral was added to show the continuity between the two. For Manu NP, the NP boundaries were followed which was not the case at inscription.
  • Redrawing National Park borders: natural WHS often have their boundaries correspond with the boundaries of national parks, as it makes for easier management. If the national park boundaries change, so should those of the WHS (e.g. Donana).
  • Include something that was left out of the inscription on purpose: at Kakadu, the Koongarra Project Area was left out originally due to uranium deposits found.
  • Removing parts that “cannot be saved”: the more tragic side of the previous one, where a part of the WHS is just given up. This was the case at Selous, to allow uranium mining.
  • Local circumstances: the funniest is Giant’s Causeway, where the coastal border has been moved 5m inland due to coastal erosion – otherwise the coastal cliffs (part of the OUV) would not be in the core zone anymore in a few years!

What were the side effects?

Although such modifications may not have a significant impact on the extent of the property, some have fairly substantial consequences:

  • Becomes a serial site: Lena Pillars, Lima.
  • Or loses locations: Rammelsberg and Goslar, Westminster.
  • Significant increase in size: 14% Bosra, 20% Naples, 53% Taï National Park, 147% French Austral Lands.
  • Significant decrease in size: 30% Willandra Lakes.

Pictured with this post are three notable sights that have been added via a Minor Boundary Modification: from top to bottom, Castel  Sant'Angelo in Rome, San Miniato al Monte in Florence and the Chenonceau Castle in the Loire Valley.

Els - 29 October 2023

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Solivagant 30 October 2023

Re Liam's original question and Meltwaterfalls' subsequent comment.
The best article i have read is titled !What was UNESCO up to in Liverpool" and can be found by searching on that title. It has also been referred to by me on the UK Forum and the same search criteria will find it.
A couple of quotes on the boundary Modification issue -
"What are the main lessons from Liverpool’s loss?
First, draw realistic boundaries. A city is not a
museum. Think very carefully before including derelict and disused areas, where there is
known to be an appetite for major investment"

"World Heritage UK had suggested amending
the boundary of the world heritage site as a
potential way forward, but to no avail. There are many who have the view that the boundary was drawn too widely. It is unclear why amendment of the boundary was not considered by Unesco"

Ian Cade 30 October 2023

<i>Just wondering whether Liverpool ever sought a MBM to remove the Bramley Moore docks which were after all only in buffer zone.</i>

Just had to double check but Bramley Moore Dock was actually in the core zone, which I guess is the main thrust of the problem. Perhaps an MBM could've helped it, but after Liverpool Waters I think good will was gone.

Why the derelict docks were included in the core zone originally is probably the root of the problem.
I would imagine that a group with an almost exclusive heritage focus was responsible for drafting the boundaries, and went for an approach that more sites were essential to getting a positive inscription (probably isn't the case, ICOMOS don't even mention Bramley-Moore in their evaluation).

Then after inscription other parts of the city council looked at this massive empty space, and a local enterprise in need of a massive empty space, put 2 and 2 together and got delisting :|

Ian Cade 30 October 2023

Ah sorry I understand now.
Loses locations as in it was 2 seperate locations and is now 1 larger one.

I understood it as loses locations "xxx building was originally part of the core zone but now isn't"

All very clear, just my misreading.

Els Slots 30 October 2023

@Meltwaterfalls - Nothing of Westminster has been removed, but two locations were joined into one by adding the road in between

Meltwaterfalls 29 October 2023

I’m just wondering if Westminster is mislabelled, the boundary change seems to have just included the road between the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, I can’t really see what previously inscribed part has been removed

Solivagant 29 October 2023

A sense of the discussions which must have taken place regarding the Selous boundary modification can be gained from the report of the St Petersburg WHC.... This was the final conclusion, hedged with numerous requirements and requests!.. "Decides in an exceptional and unique manner to approve the proposed boundary modification of the Selous Game Reserve, United Republic of Tanzania; "
We don't of course know who argued what in those pre Live Stream days

Els Slots 29 October 2023

@Liam - For Selous there must have been, as the decision taken at the WHC was different from the IUCN advice. But a MBM like this doesn't come out of nowhere, in the case of Selous there was also a possible in Danger listing being discussed because of the mining concession.

Liam 29 October 2023

Were there any serious discussions at the time about approving Minor Boundary Modifications which removed chunks of the core zone because of economic development (Humberstone / Ivrea / Selous)?

Just wondering whether Liverpool ever sought a MBM to remove the Bramley Moore docks which were after all only in buffer zone. Rather than both sides progressing inflexibly.

Solivagant 29 October 2023

Interesting and useful extra info.
But I hate "losing" knowledge ... is it too late to at least keep the other previous buffer zone related connections as a list even if not as their own "connection".
Another thought...are there any "extensions" which were first proposed as simple "minor modifications"? You indicate that "all" proposed "minor modifications" have got through "on the nod" so, maybe not, or IUCN/ICOMOS stopped that approach before it reached the WHC/

Blog WHS Visits

(T)WHS of New York City

It took me 35 years of travel as an adult, visiting 126 countries and 873 World Heritage Sites, before I finally made it to New York. I had a nice place to stay near the Flatiron building in Midtown Manhattan, and it almost felt like I lived there. I did not enter many places, I enjoyed just walking around and taking the subway or bus to cover the larger distances. Overall I found it had quite a European feel to it and it wasn't as crazy loud as you see on TV. The city’s 2 WHS and 3 TWHS are on the well-trodden tourist trail, but I’ll try to add some insights from a World Heritage perspective.

On my first morning in the city, I took the first ferry of the day to the Statue of Liberty. With a starting time of 9 a.m. on your ticket, you are allowed to enter the queue at 8.15 and the security tent at 8.30.  I managed to get a spot on the upper deck. From here you get the best photo opportunities of the statue right before the ferry docks at the island (it does a small loop around it). Although the boat was very full, we spread out quickly on the island. I went directly to the Pedestal access and could climb the stairs alone. Keep an eye out for the WHS plaque – it is on the wall on the ground floor of the pedestal, next to the museum entrance.

The island has two similar exhibitions on its history. I liked the one inside the pedestal best – it shows old photographs and newspaper articles of how the Statue came about, how it was created in Paris and how it got assembled in New York. The attraction of the separate exhibition building elsewhere on the island is the original torch, which was removed from the statue in 1984 due to damage.

The ferry then continues to Ellis Island. This was probably the biggest disappointment for me. You cannot freely walk around on the island, virtually only the National Museum of Immigration is accessible. This has the impressive Great Hall where immigrants had to wait for their screening to be let into the country, but the exhibition did not really do anything for me (maybe because my ancestors did not cross the ocean). Also the ‘museum’ mostly consists of boards with information, there are very few original exhibits.

The Brooklyn Bridge is an easy add-on to the Islands cruise, as its access also lies in Downtown Manhattan. I first walked on the East River Esplanade, where the closer you get the better views of the bridge you will have. It then takes a detour inland to get to the ramp for pedestrian access to get on the bridge itself. The walkway was flooded with tourists and souvenir sellers – I walked about halfway where you can see the structure with its cables best. A future WHS? Nah, the age of single monuments has gone and although this one used to be the longest suspension bridge in the world only that would not suffice.

I did two walks through Central Park, finding it a pleasure to just stretch my legs at the start of the day. The first was through the southern part, and the other day I went north as far as The Lake. It helped to have a self-guided walking tour downloaded, otherwise just roaming around you somehow often end up at an exit. The ‘backbone’ of the park is where the most points of interest are, with its statues and other common props such as a monumental fountain and obelisk – mere follies actually. With UK’s Birkenhead Park now also T Listed, it raises the question of whether Central Park would best represent the global, mid-19th century trend of parks developed for the greater public – one that has been unrepresented so far. It certainly is remarkable that Central Park stayed untouched considering the real estate value of the surrounding blocks.

From the north of Central Park, New York’s ‘other’ WHS can be easily accessed: FLW’s Guggenheim Museum. Its low, round forms stand out among the surroundings of vertical blocks. I hadn’t planned to go inside, but I arrived just before the opening hour and there was no queue. You can just enter the ground floor without paying, but I also entered the other floors and saw an exhibition on Avantgarde Korean Art. The ramp was closed due to changing exhibitions (the entrance fee was lowered as well). With what was accessible now, I did not find the layout very handy for a museum visitor, as you always have to look where the exit is to the next floor. This contrasts sharply with the MoMa – a perfectly simple building with a great permanent collection. For the WHS fetishist, room 511 even has models of the Tugendhat Villa (the original made by the Office of Mies van der Rohe) and the Bauhaus Building in Dessau (a later model, from 1979), plus a video on the construction of the Van Nelle Factory. New connection!

Finally: what about Missing WHS? NYC is full of skyscrapers of course, and they are of all ages although many of the very old ones have been demolished. As an outsider I would find it hard to propose a coherent group of buildings, so we’d have to resort to an iconic single skyscraper. The Chrysler Building has been named, I liked the Flatiron building best (even though it's half-hidden under scaffolding now). What negatively distinguishes them overall compared to the Early Chicago Skyscrapers is that they are not open to the public (even the Chrysler Building’s entrance hall was blocked), while peeking inside is such a joy in Chicago. So my vote would still go to Chicago!

Els - 22 October 2023

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Ligocsicnarf89 28 October 2023

NYC is truly a heritage treasure trove. I can see something such as 'Art Deco and Revivalist Skyscrapers of New York' making a great World Heritage Site. Other sites in NYC that could be awesome WHSs that come to mind are 'Grand Central Terminal', 'Carnegie Hall', the 'Moorish Revival Synagogues of New York', the 'New York Botanical Garden' and the 'SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District'. (:

Nan 23 October 2023

@Kyle: There is also the departure ports, e.g., Ballinstadt in Hamburg. Will post in the forum.

Kyle Magnuson 22 October 2023

After visiting Angel Island in San Francisco a few years ago, I think I could only support Ellis Island for world heritage status if Angel Island was included.

Jay T 22 October 2023

As for the skyscrapers idea, I do think New York has some iconic buildings, and I'd be curious to see if they would ever be considered as having OUV.

What I like about the Chicago skyscrapers TWHS is that it is focused on the innovative design that changed the way the world approached constructing tall buildings.

Jay T 22 October 2023

Central Park holds a special place for me because I appreciate how Olmsted kept nature within the city. I'll be curious to see how Birkenhead Park continues, and I should really get out there in the next year or two.

Also, glad you got to see the Guggenheim! Not my favorite FLW building, but it was interesting to see inside. I'm not sure I'll need to go back when the spiral ramp reopens.

Jay T 22 October 2023

Glad you enjoyed your visit to New York City! I'm glad to hear an outside perspective on Ellis Island. Immigration is a big part of what makes the U.S. the U.S. (and I wish our politicians would remember that more), but I suppose it may not translate as well for those who don't have family that emigrated to the U.S. I also hadn't considered that the visit on Ellis Island is a lot more constricted than that of Liberty Island.

Nan 22 October 2023

Re NYC skyline, I think the relevant skyscrapers are later than those in Chicago. There is a big batch of Art Deco skyscrapers (Flatiron, Chrysler, Empire State, ...) that probably deserve a place on the list.

Other sites I could see: The traditional neighborhoods in Brooklyn (redstones). The UN Building.

Zoe 22 October 2023

New York City is the greatest city in the world! :)

Blog WHS Visits

WHS #872: Poverty Point

On my recent trip to the eastern half of the USA, I visited all three ‘mounds’ or earthworks WHS: Cahokia, Hopewell and Poverty Point. During my preparations, I found the last one the most intriguing. And although it probably has the least remaining visible remains, after my visit I still think Poverty Point is the most interesting of the three sites. Reviews of the other two will be published as well in the coming weeks, but I will now put the spotlight on Poverty Point.

The site isn’t visited that often as it lies in the middle of nowhere deep in Louisiana. I ‘did’ it as a day trip from Dallas by rental car – it’s 5 hours each way, which is long of course but it’s a straight shot east on cruise control and without much traffic. ‘Poverty Point World Heritage Site’ (this name is used on road signs to distinguish it from a nature park also called Poverty Point) lies just outside the cute towns of Delhi and Epps where everybody seems to live in a prefab house and have his or her own church.

Poverty Point is the oldest of the inscribed earthworks in the US. It was made by prehistoric hunter-gatherers who (at least seasonally) lived on the earthen ridges. In this lies the big distinction with the other two WHS that were merely ceremonial sites: because it was lived in, many artifacts have been left and rediscovered. The visitor center has display cases full of very sharp-looking spearheads, engraved objects, figurines that may have been fertility symbols and decorated clay objects. Some are so-called “Poverty Point Objects” – stones that were heated for use in cooking.

You can choose to visit the outdoor part of the site by car or on foot – for each, they give you a booklet with explanations of the waymarks. I chose the 4km long hike. Before you arrive at the visitor center you’ll notice what looks like farmland on both sides of the road – these are the main Earthworks! It took me strolling through the grass on the first part of the trail to understand that what I was walking on actually was ‘it’. This is the area where the concentric, C-shaped earthen ridges were made. Differential mowing of the grass makes them stand out more, and they are visible if you look hard. White markers indicate where traces of wooden post circles have been found. But this WHS truly is best seen from the sky: it wasn't until archeologist James Ford in the 1950s examined aerial photographs that he recognized the geometric design.

Similar to Cahokia, a fairly busy road cuts through the site (and the Earthworks). ICOMOS gave Poverty Point a Deferral advice (which was overturned at the WHC meeting) because it wanted to have the road diverted. I must say it did not bother me as much here as in Cahokia - at least they have a pedestrian crossing here. On the other side of the road from the visitor center, you can find the main mounds. These weren’t burial mounds and their use is unknown. A boardwalk will lead you up to the top of Mound A, with distant views of another earthwork, Lower Jackson Mound.

The trail then continues through a forest. The prehistoric people found berries here, there was water from a river and wildlife still uses it so it would have been good for hunting. It also has native pawpaw plants that carry edible fruits, which nowadays are used in fancy foods.

Overall it was a pleasant walk and I think the site management of Poverty Point has made the most out of the interpretation of this enigmatic site with its colossal earthworks. The site was only nominated under criterion iii, while Hopewell (with younger and smaller earthworks and oh, an active golf course instead of a road) this year also managed to get in under criterion i (a masterpiece of human creative genius) for the "enormous scale...and geometric precision" of its earthworks, which seems unfair to Poverty Point.

Els - 15 October 2023

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Jay T 15 October 2023

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Poverty Point, because I had thought it might be the most challenging of the three earthworks to appreciate. Like Kyle mentioned, it's great to see the perspective of someone who saw all three sites in one go!

Blog WHS Visits

Chicago Meetup

The US City of Chicago was the venue for the 2023 WHS Meetup. It’s a great city that can hold anyone’s interest for a couple of days. It’s very walkable as well - we walked over 11km on the first day for example, on wide, clean and relatively quiet sidewalks. Its public transport, although maybe not fully appreciated by its residents, also is convenient and inexpensive. To the WH Traveller, it has two locations of the Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings WHS to offer and the Early Chicago Skyscrapers TWHS.

We started on Day 1 with a pre-tour walk at 8 a.m. through the Oak Park neighborhood. This lovely residential area is home to numerous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including his home and studio. Some of his designs were easy to spot, others a bit harder as they were more conservative than his signature Prairie Style. Also, I counted at least one squirrel in every garden and many of the historic buildings were showing subtle Halloween decorations.

Our first tour of the day was at Union Temple. This has always been an active church, but it is far from a traditional church building. Wright ‘won’ this commission because he lived in the area and was well-known to the clients. Dating from 1905, relatively early in his career, it consists of two symmetrical reinforced concrete cubes. One is used for community congregations, the other for religious services.

The guide from the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust pointed out the characteristics to us, such as the standard Wright colour scheme (a ‘calm’ brown, green, and gold), the Japanese influences, and the use of wood. The church ‘cube’ has a very intimate feel due to its square layout and seating arrangement. Outside noise also was cleverly blocked.

We then moved on to the center of Chicago, known as The Loop. Here another guided tour was waiting for us: at The Rookery. This office building from 1888 nicely connects Frank Lloyd Wright with the Early Chicago Skyscrapers TWHS. It was Wright who modernized the building some 30 years after its conception.

It isn’t hard to find the early skyscrapers in Chicago’s cityscape as they usually are a bit lower than the current highrise buildings (see The Rookery in photo 2), are often burgundy in colour, and have more ornamentation. The architects used many tricks to convince the people at the time that these skyscrapers wouldn’t fall on them. We visited about a dozen of these buildings, admiring the facades but also trying to enter as often as possible. There are some interesting interiors at the Marquette Building and the Palmer House for example.

All buildings have found a new (private) use, such as department stores, which might be an obstacle to a future nomination. Still, I think the Early Chicago Skyscrapers would be a worthwhile addition to the list, as the ensemble of buildings has an interesting narrative (linked to the Great Fire of 1871 and the Chicago World Fair of 1893).

On Day 2 we visited the second inscribed Frank Lloyd Wright building in Chicago: Robie House. This lies in the southeast of the city, virtually on the campus of the University of Chicago. It’s a pleasant walk from the nearest L-Train station to get there, as it will take you along the pseudo-historical University buildings with ivy growing all over them. The University existed already when Wright built the house, but Robie House wasn't encroached by its buildings as it is nowadays.

We had a guided tour booked here as well. Robie House seems to be a more popular site to visit than Unity Temple – our tour had 12 participants, and other tours were right before and after us. There’s a nice gift shop as well. Robie House is considered the highlight of Wright’s Prairie Style houses, but somehow it failed to captivate me the same way his other buildings did. Fallingwater, which I visited years ago, remains my favourite.

Special thanks go out to Jay T and Frédéric for being such good companions and map readers during the Chicago visit. And to Kyle, who unfortunately could not make it at the last moment but who planted the seed of Chicago in our minds and was responsible for the itinerary.

Els - 8 October 2023

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Els Slots 14 October 2023

Will change it, Jan. It's indeed called the University of Chicago (easily confused with University of Illinois at Chicago).

Jan Hobson 13 October 2023

The Robie house is on the University of Chicago campus in the Hyde Park Community.

Durian 8 October 2023

This year meeting was a near miss to me as I had seminar at University of Wisconsin-Madison a week before meet-up, but still had one free day before flied back to Asia from O'hare to see Chicago's downtown.

Jay T 8 October 2023

Great to see you and Frederic in Chicago, Els! Sorry to have missed you, Kyle. Chicago is a really neat city, and I’m glad it was easier to get into some buildings this year than it was when I visited during Covid. Hope you enjoy the rest of your travels in the US!

Kyle Magnuson 8 October 2023

Sad I could not make it, but it's nice to get this update about the journey! After reading your thoughts on the FLW sites, I am now pondering the different experience visiting the Robie House and Unity Temple. The later remains functional as it was intended. Robie House had to be saved from near destruction and because of the spartan "empty" interior, your thoughts ring true for me as well. The Robie House is great for pictures though and to highlight FLW's different techniques and signature designs.

Looking forward to a future post about the Mound Building Cultures of the Midwest (Cahokia & Hopewell).

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