My Favorite World Heritage Sites Vol. 2

June 8, 2017 Global Heritage Comments (0) 1858

In the last blog I mentioned that I am now living in a World Heritage site (San Antonio Missions) for the first time, but that is not quite true.

In the summer of 2005 I had a 5-week residency in Austria, in the Wachau, which is a World Heritage landscape – a stretch of the Danube River that included the towns of Krems und Stein, where we stayed.  This location also proved a great jumping off point for visits to a few more World Heritage sites.

Krems, Austria

Stein, Austria

The designation includes the vineyards that rise up from the river throughout the Wachau – primarily Grüner Veltliner, a grape rarely seen in the U.S. but one of the few white wines I like…

Stein from above

The Wachau is also studded with Baroque churches and abbeys, many of which are important to the World Heritage designation, such as Stift Melk.

Did I say Baroque?  I meant BAROQUE!!!

Durnstein.  This town gets out of bed looking like this.  Yes, I know it’s not fair.

Exploring these towns and abbeys was great but our best adventure was looking for a Celtic stone circle I had been told about.  I went to the Visitors Center in Krems and they said there wasn’t one.  I studied maps and looked out our fourth floor balcony at potential sites across the river.  With a few clues here and there, we searched for the site for three days, finally giving up in the little village of Nesselstauden, walking toward a bus stop to take us home when suddenly we saw a little wooden sign pointing down a hill.  STEINKREIS it said.  And there it was.

Moments before the discovery

Moral?  Man sollte niemals Ihr Ziel aufgeben.

The trip into Vienna was a little over an hour and we made it several times.  Not only is Vienna inscribed as World Heritage, but the stunning Schönbrunn Palace is as well.


The Sezession building – what a treat!

Stephansdom funky hipster patterns

Lower Belvedere

The upper Belvedere, Vienna

Schönbrunn Castle.  All Photographs copyright 2005 Felicity Rich. 

Speaking of impossibly scenic places, we went to Hallstatt, part of the Salzkammergut World Heritage site (which if you know the German, is a spoiler in Monuments Men).  This site goes WAY back, because if you study European prehistory, there are a few key places, like the Neander valley and La Tene and Hallstatt, which looks like this:

Also not fair

We took a couple trips in the Czech Republic and Poland, which allowed us to encounter more World Heritage Sites, beginning with Prague.

The Orloj, a glockenspiel of unparalleled sophistication, is a highlight in the center.

Prague is a favorite destination of many and we were no exception, although even 12 years ago it had become quite the tourist center.  The castle hill seemed less packed and the fabulous Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral includes wonderful Alfons Mucha-designed stained glass from the beginning of the last century.

We continued through the Cesky Raj to Turnov, and then into Poland, where we saw Wroclaw with its fantastic architecture and medieval town hall, but its only World Heritage site is Max Berg’s 1913 Centennial Hall, a triumph of early concrete.

From Wroclaw we stopped briefly in Rydzyna to chase some of my supposed ancestry and then on to Kracow, whose historic center was inscribed as World Heritage very early, back in the 1970s.

The amazing Cloth Hall.  McDonald’s is only a block away.

The whole historic center is UNESCO World Heritage, but a particular treat for me was the Franziskaner Church with its stunning early 20c glass by Stanislaw Wyspianski.  TD.

Now that’s God!

Main Square, with St. Mary’s on left.

Wawel Cathedral, Kracow.

Later in our Austrian residency we took a trip to Budapest, which is actually Buda and Pest, and together is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Parliament building in Pest, which you may recognize from cruise commercials…

Buda Halaszbastya – super cool castle on a hill.

Buda Matyas Templom (Matthias Church)

Buda Szechenyi Thermal Baths

My favorite bit was less the medieval or Baroque but the early 20th century style that goes by Nouveau further West but seems endemic symptomatic and dare I say emblematic of Eastern Europe.

Going Postal in Pest…which is what happens if you steal photos copyright 2005 Felicity Rich!

end of Volume 2 stay tuned for Volume 3, which will include Philadelphia and Sighisoara and China and maybe Thailand and Malaysia….








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