Oh, the places I will go (still in Philadelphia 🇺🇸)

 

Benjamin Franklin Bridge, Philadelphia

It’s nearly time to leave Philadelphia and the U.S. behind for a while, the city I have been living in for over a year now, and the country I have been calling home for over six. Europe still keeps the bigger part of my heart and I cannot wait to see all the cities I have never visited before.

 

I will be starting in Barcelona, Spain. While Barcelona is not a World Heritage City, I have a soft spot for Spain and somewhere between the greatest airfare deal and the one Spanish city I have been overly excited to visit, the stars aligned and ¡Hola!, here I come. 

My second stop will be in Visby, a town on an island a few hours off the coast of Stockholm, where I will be exploring what the Swedish culture is all about.

I will be trading Sweden for Warsaw, Poland, exploring the capital of my home’s  neighboring country. While I have been to a couple of places in Poland, it will be my first time in Warsaw.

I will be flying right next door to the Czech Republic after that. After spending a few hours in Prague, I will be traveling to Český Krumlov. Although I lived in the Czech Republic for the first 20 years of my life, I have never had the pleasure to visit this town and I am beyond excited.

My next flight will take me to Istanbul in Turkey, where I will eagerly discover a culture seemingly very different to what I am used to. 

From Istanbul, I will be traveling to Amsterdam, from where I will be taking a bus to Brugge in Belgium. I hope to also have time to tour and discover Amsterdam somewhere in between, before boarding my final overseas flight back to Philadelphia.

 

Boathouse Row, Philadelphia

At the end of my travels, I am very excited to introduce my current hometown to you, and take you on a tour around one of America’s most historical and most important cities.

 

 

As the name of my blog reveals, the connection I will try to find between the cities and towns I will be visiting is: immigration and cultural identity. 

Being an immigrant myself, I am really interested in better understanding how people create communities and keep their cultures alive even when they leave their homes. Just like the Organization of World Heritage Cities protects and promotes our towns, immigrant communities protect their heritage, being their traditions, habits, language, accent or way of living. One cannot exist without the other.

We live in times of global movements, when people easily travel, work or relocate abroad for other reasons, and it is important to have a sense of our own heritage, as much as heritage of the place we designate as our home.

Above belonging to a country, we all belong to this world, so we all should have a sense of responsibility for our world’s heritage, our own heritage and the World Heritage Cities, some of which I cannot wait to introduce to you.

 

 

Currently in Philadelphia 🇺🇸

When my internship boss resent me an email from Global Philadelphia a few months back, I mindlessly opened it, thinking it is just another of the many FIY emails about events in our city I get dozens of, ever since working as a social media intern.

My boss framed the email with “passing this on to all my favorite 18-28-year-olds, mostly because I’m just salty that I’m too old to apply,” catching my attention. 

A pin from the Global Philadelphia office with City Hall in the background

The email was offering a scholarship to young travellers that will send them on a trip through North America and/or Europe. Equipped with a budget of €1,000, winners will get a chance to discover World Heritage Cities, while blogging about their experience, conditioned only by visiting at least three World Heritage Cities, with two of them being members of the OWHC Regional Secretariat.

I was sold on first read. Traveling is what I live for, history is what I love and writing is what I hope to do for a living as a journalism student. Saying that the scholarship was right down my alley is nearly an understatement.

To assure everyone, luck is definitely not one of my assets. I never won anything in my 26 years of living and for that reason I tried to contain my excitement, yet still wrote an excited cover letter, keeping my fingers crossed.

I could not be more surprised when only a few days after hitting send, I got an email from OWHC Regional Secretariat for Northwest Europe and North America office in Germany, announcing me as one of the nationwide winners. 

I don’t even know where to start with describing my initial reaction, but it certainly involved dancing, jumping and an unsuccessful attempt to not scream out loud.

I shared the news with my friends and got asked over and over again, what the OWHC actually is and what does it have to do with UNESCO. I myself was not sure about all the right answers to those questions and therefore went to meet with Melisa and Zabeth, the ladies at Global Philadelphia Association, a member-governed Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation with the purpose to (put it simply) enhance and promote the global profile of the city. It is also the regional secretariat office of OWHC.

Melisa (left) and Zabeth (middle) welcomed me in their Global Philadelphia office

Melisa explained to me that the Organization of World Heritage Cities is not the same as UNESCO with patience nearly endless (thank you for that). 

So I will now try my best to explain the difference: UNESCO — The United National Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was established and signed by 16 countries in 1946, shortly after WWII, in order to create an organization that would solemnly focus on culture of peace. 

The Organization of World Heritage Cities was created in recognition that UNESCO sites within urban areas have very unique needs compared to natural sites.

OWHC was formed as a membership organization in 1993 to facilitate a dialogue between cities and to deal with all issues related to the urban management of a World Heritage property.

For a city to become a member of the OWHC, it needs to have a UNESCO site within the city limits and also prove an “outstanding universal value” — global significance of the city.

The Independence Hall

The United States has 23 UNESCO sites — both natural and cultural. Philadelphia’s one and only site is the Independence Hall, the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were signed.

Philadelphia — one of two world heritage cities in the United States, together with San Antonio — became part of OWHC in 2015, making the case that there are 67 national landmarks within the city, therefore the city has heritage of an important global value.

OWHC holds the world congress every two years, when all cities are invited, a general assembly meets and cities that would like to become members of the organization can present their case.

Over 300 cities worldwide are part of the Organization of World Heritage Cities as of today and I am beyond excited to visit a couple of them and introduce them to you.