Concluding remarks on youth participation within the notion of world heritage cities: multiple youth perspectives

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog posts and following my journey.

In addition, special thanks to Monika and the whole OWHC team for their tireless support and especially for facilitating this amazing project and letting me be part of it.
Thank you also to the wonderful colleagues I had the pleasure to meet, with special thanks to Paula and Eloise.
Further, thanks to all the curious people on the road who shared their interest, perspectives, and dedication to the preservation of world heritage,
With a special focus on the participating cities, I had the chance to explore world heritage further, namely in the MENA region.
Yet, blogging and being on the road requires much more organizational skills than expected. 

Highlights: exchanging with people on the road and 

While the understanding of world heritage has often been described as very intangible and “far away” from people, it has always been described with a positive connotation and a certain national belonging.
When talking to young people, especially in hostels, we always received the highest level of interest and motivation and many curious questions.
As a result, I believe it is certainly facilitating the idea of mainstreaming young people’s involvement in the field of world heritage. Yet, certainly, there remains a huge lack of possibilities for “young people” to participate. While many world heritage cities have developed and managed to involve young people, it varies greatly depending on various factors. 
While this is my final blog post, this project has had a significant impact on my career path. I will forever remain a world heritage enthusiast and ambassador and aim to further explore novel ways for young people to engage in the preservation of world heritage!



Picturesque Amsterdam – a museum lover’s paradise

Amsterdam is simply unique and probably one of the most popular European capitals: youthful, laid-back, easygoing, and the perfect place for cultural enthusiasts. 
One respondent, claims it to be the perfect northern European city:  Bright, fresh, clean, and open-minded.
People I encountered point out the “culture of acceptance” as the city’s main perk. Yet, many have claimed the city has become too international and has become distant from the locals in recent years. Despite its skyrocketing housing prices, the city attracts millions of students every year. 
Yet, there seems to be a vacuum or even a conflict between cultural exposure and the city’s identity. 
Undoubtedly, the city’s identity astonishes tourists with its canals, picturesque architecture, and merchant houses. 

Therefore, Amsterdam is often referred to as the Venice of the North. To put it in numbers, there are 100 kilometers of grachten (canals), about 90 islands, and 1,500 bridges. UNESCO has designated the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht, and Jordaan canal ring area of the 17th century as world heritage.

 I loved visiting some outstanding museums. At the Stedelijk Museum, which exhibits contemporary art, I enjoyed the exhibition on colonization and educated myself about the Dutch colonial past in Suriname and Indonesia. 

The Rijksmuseum and its exhibitions can not be missed.

In addition, I finally managed to visit the Anne Frank house (make sure to get tickets online in advance) This is the place, where Anne Frank hid for more than 2 years during WWII and where she wrote her infamous diary.

Later, I enjoy scrolling through the magnificent city and visiting the sights such as Dam Square, Royal Palace, the New Church and Waterloo Square.

Time has been too short, and I have unfortunately missed Almere and the chance to visit the Floriade. (Thanks and shotout to OWHC colleagues in Beemster, who have organized a free ticket)

Floriade is a world Horticultural Expo and is well known as the largest public event in the Netherlands. The 2022 event titled  ‘Growing Green Cities” reveals the need for rethinking the future of our cities and how we are going to life there in the future. 

Floriade, therefore, contributes to a dialogue and sparks ideas by bringing different countries, cities, and companies together to flourish the Green City of the Future. 



Brügge, the medieval fairy tale

“Brügge sehen und sterben,” as we say it in German, is a must-see for everyone. It even appears to be the most popular place to visit in Belgium.
I’m enjoying this beautiful sunny day in this marvelous city, but I’m a little concerned about how warm it is at the end of October.
While strolling through this wonderful medieval city alone is worth the journey, I highly recommend opting for a free walking tour. This allowed me to learn more about the legends and myths of the city, transcending a truly medieval atmosphere.
Yet, everything in the city seems to originate from medieval times, such as the beer culture and its secret recipes.
I feel that people truly enjoy the privilege of living in such a beautiful city.
Enthusiastically, the guide welcomes us: “Welcome to the most beautiful city worldwide.”
Brügge’s entire historical city is marked as a world heritage city.
We are strolling around the historic city center and visiting the main attractions:
Belfry (Belfort van Brugge)
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Church of Our Lady
Museums in the Dijver Mansions

When Brügge developed into an international trading hub, much wealth came to the city.
After the tour, I visit the historium which again allows you to deep dive into the medieval past. The museum is not only super insightful but an experience you will never forget.

The city’s beauty and fairy tale character will hopefully never fade. In such a tourist city, various innovations have been implemented to preserve or improve understanding of cultural heritage. In recent years, the city has sought to find new ways to understand and generate social value for tourists, which I have been testifying.




Brussels: European Capital, Art Nouveau, and a melting pot of cultural heritage

First and foremost, I have to admit that I have not only traveled to Brussels as a tourist but that the city has indeed become my current hometown in the last few months. Contrary to its many stereotypes of being an ugly or dangerous city given the social problems, I absolutely love Brussels. Why? 

  1. Brussels is incredibly green with loads of parks. To fact-check, 50% of the city is classified as green space. 
  2.  Cultural exposure: Strolling around Brussels, you are constantly exposed to historical monuments, sites, and beautiful architecture. Needless to say, Brussels prides to have gastronomic delicacies from everywhere. In addition, you find the multicultural confluence of heritage from different countries. A statue of Nasreddin Hodja of Turkey surprised me while strolling through the Turkish district of Schaerbeek (near Gare du Nord). A piece of the Berlin Wall can be found next to the European Parliament.

However, despite its international residents, I have felt that the city is an ethnically segregated one.

The well-known gems: Grand Place and the Atomium

Undoubtedly, the Grand Place is Brussels’ most important gem, exposing the city as a world heritage site and attracting thousands of visitors daily. 

I am meeting Paula, who is in charge of the restoration of the Grande Place.

She shows me around the neo-Gothic “La Maison du Roi,” which perfectly reflects the heritage of the city and is probably the best starting point to fully understand the history of the place and how it has transformed throughout the last decades.

Musee de Roi

You can truly feel how the people working there, and their tireless efforts  foster the preservation of world heritage. Seven bronze UNESCO logo plates e. The grand place line is indicated bye pinpoint towards the grand place.  Do not miss out on the little, narrow streets and hidden, picturesque bars around the square.

Another must-see is definitely the Atomium, constructed in 1958 for the Brussels World’s Fair; it is located outside the city of Brussels. Yet the futuristic structure shall not be missed. 

Preserving European history

Another interesting aspect of the city is its “center” of European history. Immerse yourself by not only visiting the European district’s institutions but also participating in cultural activities. Here you will also find the museum of European history.

It is a very visitor-friendly, interactive museum—definitely worth a visit. This museum explores the paradoxes of Europe and its many facades. In addition, the horrors of war are discussed. … This aspect of the museum very much appealed to me because it prompts us to consider the question, “What is Europe?”

Another must-do is The Parliamentarium in the European Parliament, which takes you through European history and integration and looks into what the world and work of a European politician could look like.

I am talking to my contact, who works for the Commission on Cultural Policy.

We discuss the city of Brussels, and she explains its specific role as a world heritage city. She argues that in Brussels, cultural heritage is constantly renegotiated and is home to different communities. Given the political landscape and the impact of the organizations’ presence, youth in Brussels are generally much more active in the sphere of heritage. This simply makes world heritage more accessible and easier to follow.

During my time in Brussels, I hope I can take part in it and contribute to it. 🥰🤗



Fontainebleau, the hidden gem – your alternative to the obligatory Versailles visit?

Though I have been visiting Paris many times, I have heard about the mystical place Fontainebleau, but never managed a visit!

While approx. 1 hour away by public transport from Paris, Fontainebleau remains a hidden gem and is barely crowded.


The little town feels magical, a laid-back place where time seems stuck. A perfect destination to escape the busy days of one’s big city life.

The main attractions of this cute little world heritage town are the Palace and Park of Fontainebleau.

While I am not most intrigued by French royalty, this castle has much to offer just by looking at its 800 years of history. 

With over 1500 rooms, it is the second-largest castle in France and extremely rich in history!

The Château de Fontainebleau is a royal and imperial castle of medieval, renaissance, and classical styles, and as Napoleon said, the Château de Fontainebleau remains a “true residence of kings, a house of centuries”.

Yet, Napoleon I himself:

“breathed new life in Fontainebleau after the Revolution. Visiting the château he restored, furnished and inhabited, you uncover the statesman, the military leader, the family man and the patron of arts.” There is also the only still-existing throne room of Napoleon.

Walking through the château, the zeitgeist of its past set me in awe. In comparison to Versailles, the castle is much fewer glamours and kitschy but more “practical” Hereby I want to showcase my favorite room of the palace which was the palatial library.


Palatial library

In addition, the palace and its surroundings are huge and I believe 1 day is not enough to study them with the care the place deserves: 130 hectares of parks, courtyards, and gardens of the Château de Fontainebleau Equally, I experienced the park to be truly magical and inviting to have a picnic, and do sports, amazing even some visitors have been picking mushrooms in the woodlands – many practical dimensions of a world heritage site 😀

The Fountainebleau forest with a surface area of state-owned woodland measures more than 22,000 hectares! Yet, I have to admit that I felt the cultural activities planned were barely targeted at a younger audience. Despite the presence of the Ranked #1 European Unicorn University INSEAD, we barely note “young faces.”

Talking to the receptionist in the visitor center, she reminded us about the importance of the awareness of world heritage.


Fountainebleau is the ideal place to daydream about the life of our ancestors and feel like being part of it at least for a day and coming back to the busy streets of Paris.

Yet, Fontainebleau is not an alternative to Versailles, but much different and an ideal gateway for a deep dive into french royal history, heritage, and nature.






Bordeaux, Port of the Moon – a city uncovering its “trade past”


The Tour de France continues in Bordeaux. A city that most people associate with one thing: wine! 

Yet my trip to Bordeaux was much more than exploring its wine culture. I was especially intrigued by:  How can urban spaces be used to commemorate the dark side of the past and educate the public/ visitors? 

But, to start with, I had the blast of meeting, exploring, and being hosted by a local, Eloise. She is a young world heritage ambassador for @opvm. Making her the best tour guide I could have asked for. Big thanks and shoutout to her and Moni for bringing us into contact.

 Certainly, Bordeaux has notoriously gained its appreciation as a world heritage city, namely of its harbor, “Port of the Moon.” Yet roughly 40% of the entire city’s area is covered as world heritage, marking the largest urban area inscribed by UNESCO within those incredibly breathtaking buildings (see photos: Miroir d’eau at the place de bourse)

miroir d´eau

The “innovative classical and neoclassical architectural trends” mark the beauty of the city center. The harbor has helped Bordeaux become infamous for its wine industry and as a global trading center for more than 800 years! Another must-see is the “Cité du Vin,” a high-tech museum teaching you about the history of wine 

Small villages nearby, such as Saint-Émilion, the Médoc, Canon Fronsac, Sauternes, and Graves, are ideal for exploring vineyards and learning how grapes become wine.

 Bordeaux’s glamour is often connoted by its wine. Its majestic buildings and grand buildings were heavily financed by the transatlantic slave trade, generating human tragedies.

The dark part of Bordeaux’s history remains problematic and is a difficult political issue. Even for the residents themselves, My guide says it is partly because of something people have been trying to escape from in the past or hiding behind the facade of being a glamorous wine city.

Yet, many, especially young people, have facilitated and lobbied for a shift towards a “just narrative” which also requires condemning what happened a few centuries ago.

“That story remained untold until recently,” argue the tour guides who aim to tell their visitors the dark and unspoken side of Bordeaux’s glorified past.

In 2019, some of Bordeaux’s streets, which were named after slave traders, have been modified “to add historical context” 

In addition, Bordeaux has created a “memorial route,” or exhibitions in the Musée d’Aquitaine.

Various statues and symbols mark Bordeaux’s public spaces, stimulating visitors’ thoughts and allowing them to listen to the untold stories of the then most vulnerable part of “society.”

One of my favorite statues was the one of:

Modeste Marthe Adélade Testas (1765-1870)

statues speaking for t

She was an Ethiopian slave, who was enslaved by Toulouse merchants and then transferred to the plants in the new world.

Despite the harsh conditions she must have undergone she became  105 years old! She was a popular figure and bequeathed land. Her grandson became Haiti’s first president. (Having tears in the eyes while writing this)

Another interesting encounter was at the embarquement gate of the spokesman of democracy, Thomas Jefferson, which marked the 5 days in Bordeaux of the wine-lover.

Undoubtedly, these statues/symbols do underline a certain political power and broadcast a particular message.

Given these interesting historic insides, Bordeaux has become one of my favorite cities: full of prehistory, the eclectic mix of architectural styles, and the feeling of liveliness and elegance. Only walking through the warm, quirky streets made me feel welcome in such an extremely beautiful city.

Every corner comes with its own beauty and uniqueness!




A country amidst its worst crisis – where does cultural heritage preservation stand?

Lebanon, the once celebrated “Switzerland of the Middle East”, is undergoing its worst economic crisis: From skyrocketing inflation and public school closings to increasing poverty. The UN has declared Lebanon a failed state. Yet lavish life remains feasible for those earning the US $, coming from abroad or for any mysterious reason. 

 The massive blast at Beirut’s port in 2020 has shaped Lebanese people’s collective memories. 

Further, it damaged hundreds of buildings in the Lebanese capital’s historic quarters, mainly in Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhaël. Yet many buildings remain completely abandoned and destroyed. 


The preservation of cultural buildings has forever been a hot topic amongst urbanists and architects in Lebanon. A yet obsolete heritage law preserves only monuments built before 1700.

Lebanon has no legislation designed to incentivise the preservation of historic buildings

Given the current political turmoil, it will not become on the political agenda soon!  

Yet, Lebanon remains a stunningly beautiful and modern country. Lebanon prides itself, despite its small size, in being one of the religiously most diverse countries, home to 18 religions

My voyage encompassed:  Beirut, Jounieh, and Byblos to Tyre.

One of the most outstanding archaeological sites and the world, Baalbek (1984)

It is “one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee and took 120 years and 100,000 slaves to construct. There are three ancient temples at the Baalbeck Archaeological Site—the Temple of Venus, Jupiter, and Bacchus. The Temple of Jupiter is the principal temple of the Baalbek triad and was originally one of the most critical columns in the world. The Temple of Bacchus is easily one of the best-preserved remains of a Roman temple in the world.


Every summer, Bacchus Temple transforms into a unique venue and hosts concerts. 

Baalbek is not only reminiscent of its roman past but is a pilgrim site for Shia Muslims visiting the Sayyida Khawla Shrine.

Sayyida Khawla was Imam Hussein’s daughter and Prophet Muhammad’s great-granddaughter.




Egypt – more than world wonders

The next country on my MENA tour was Egypt, with Cairo, a city of more than 20 million people, as the first stop. 

However, my first connotation of the Arab metropolis was nothing but negative. (My fellow Egyptian friends recommended avoiding it.) 

Cairo is one of the worst major global cities in air quality, probably even #1.

The roads are heavily jammed. Be cautious—There is no such thing as traffic lights or driving signals! Everything is chaotic and hectic, moving at a different pace. 

Cairo and Egypt are simply intense, unique and charming with its thousand flavours and smells all around the corner, where modernity and tradition meet in any corner. 

From Cairo, Giza to Dahab – Egypt has stolen my heart. 

However, getting to Dahab, the diver’s paradise on the Red Sea, was nightmarish. With North Sinai adjoining Israel and the Gaza Strip, the area remains a “powder keg.” I have never surpassed so many checkpoints and shown my ID this many times in a few hours. 

During our drive, we ought to pass 14 checkpoints and, most of the time, get out of the minivan and show our IDs.

Yet Egypt surpassed all my expectations.  Two outstanding world heritage sites were as follows:

  1. Old Cairo 1979

Historic Cairo is one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities, established in the 10th century. It is so rich, with its 800 monuments, dating back to the 7th century: ancient mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains. For breathtaking Islamic architecture and, surprisingly to me, the many Coptic churches, Cairo is a treasure trove. Indeed, Christians resided in Egypt before Islam entered the country in the seventh century, making Egyptian Christians the most significant Christian minority in MENA.  

2. Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (1979)

For many reasons, the pyramids of Giza are the biggest draw for visitors to Egypt. In Hellenistic times, the Great Pyramids were listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Yet they remain the only ones still in existence, making them probably the most well-known “world heritage” sites worldwide.

The opposite turned out to be reality. Instead of recounting why Giza has earned world heritage status, I listed what surprised me as someone who has always dreamt of going and watched uncountable documentaries and movies about it. However, what astonished me was the size of the fields themselves. It is impossible to visit the pyramids by simply walking around; it is impossible!!! You need a guide/van to carry you from one pyramid to another one. While the Great Pyramid represents the largest one, there are 9 pyramids and burial sites not to be missed! A camel or horse ride might seem like a tourist trap, but it is worth it! The paranormal viewpoint is the best place to marvel at the greatness of the fields. On one right, you can astonish Cairo’s skyscrapers; in the back lay the Sahara’s endless outlays.

As I was visiting the place at an insane 47 degrees (again!) Giza was not packed by its tourist crowds nor by (the many!) pushy vendors. 

You can visit the empty pyramids from the inside for an extra fee. Not to be recommended for claustrophobes, the entrance and hallway are tiny! 


Tunisa: a mix of roman and arabo-muslim heritage

I had the blast of finally visiting my amazing friend, who I met during my studies in Udine, Italy. She is from Tunis, Tunisia, and within ten days, we visit many intriguing places of the beautiful country, its people and culture, its cultural sites and its delicacies. Some places we visited are: Ell Haouria, Sousse, Carthage, la Marsa, Sidi Bou Saïd, Bizerte to El Jem to the northernmost tip of North Africa, Cap Angela.

Tunisia is also the country, where the Arab Spring started and ignited waves of demonstrations across the Middle East.  However, 10 years later society seems uncertain about how far positive changes have been accomplished.

Yet my friends complain a lot about the current economic challenges and soaring prices that harden living conditions in Tunisia.

The many breathtaking world heritage sites we visit testify to Tunisia’s both roman and arabo-muslim heritage: In particular I loved the  Amphitheatre of El Jem  and Medina of Tunis.

 Wonders of Roman architecture in El Jem – Amphitheatre of El Jem (1979)

Today is a brutally hot day. 47 degrees, and we arrive in the village of El Jem. Here stands the Colosseum, We can’t see any tourists at this point, but a camel sheltered under an umbrella. We dare not to resist and accept to take a  ride on the camel along the impressive ruins of the largest Colosseum in North Africa.

Its excellent state of preservation makes visitors feel awe and wonder. Built 2 centuries after Rome’s Colosseum, El Jem is visited by fewer tourists. We had the luck of being one of the few tourists this day which granted us a unique and adventurous discovery. The entrance fee is only 3 euros.

During summer evenings, even concerts are held in the marvelous monument. Interesting as I found that these cultural events were organized by the German embassy in Tunisia. 😲

Strolling through the enchanting Medina of Tunis (1979)

The Medina of Tunis is one of the first Arabo-Muslim towns of the Maghreb (698 A.D.) Under the Almohads and the Hafsids, from the 12th to the 16th century, Tunis was considered one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the Islamic world. We are exploring the Medina   with Salah, found via  Guru Walk (same concept as Free Walking Tours) He is one of the best tour guides I have ever had and we spend a remarkable 4 hours together in the Medina. (You could absolutely spend even more time there)

By strolling through the Medina and listening to Salah’s stories bear witness to the interaction between architecture, urbanism and the effects of sociocultural and economic changes of earlier cultures.  700 monuments, including palaces, mosques, mausoleums, madrasas, and fountains, testify to this remarkable past.  Everything is simply unique – every door has its beauty and story: 

This Medina is probably the best one I have ever been and an interesting example of how people live within a world heritage site. 🥰

Have a look here to understand the versatile character of the Medina 🙂


World heritage and youths 🤝 – a quick intro

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations” reminds us of the rationale of preserving world heritage and youth’s role in taking an active lead. Whereas the universality of the concept is given per se, it remains often criticised as  “elusive and elitist” and barely understood by those outside its orbit. If this is the case, how can we overcome this challenge and bring world heritage to the spectrum of youth and the new generation, who are ultimately tasked with preserving and cherishing it? 

En route to Amsterdam, Beemster, Brussels, Brügge, Fontainebleau, and Bordeaux, I am most curious to explore the feelings of youth in and within the concept of a World Heritage city. 

  • What does World Heritage mean for young people? How do young people feel living in a world-heritage city?
  • In which ways do youth engage with “World Heritage”?  What motivates youth to shape the future of world heritage?  
  • How can we engage in the preservation and promotion of heritage? 
  • How can we increase the number of young people engaged? 

My name is Lena Eisenreich (24 yo), originally from the heart of Bavaria (Plattling). I have developed my cultural curiosity since I was a child with the dream of travelling to every country in the world and evolving myself in as many cultures as possible.  My approach to travel is to see a different country through interacting and becoming friends with locals and listening to their stories. Before visiting the main cities on my route, I had the chance to visit three amazing North African and middle-eastern countries. (Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon)