two – from dokkum to harlingen – nph

We left Dokkum having the sky crying insted of us this time. 

Planning to leave at 9, when the Altenabrug would open for the first time, we waited an extra half an hour hoping that the rain would calm down. Sadly we did not have any luck. 

Elena also woke up worried as she could not hear well from her right ear and so we started the second day of our trip with two weight, both mental and physical. 

The plan is to get to Harlingen as soon as possible considering the 6 hours and an half of navigation – still one less hour compared to yesterday – and to talk to local citizens on their perception of climate change and its impact on cultural heritage. The rain is so strong that it is almost painful when it hits your face as the wind gets quite strong too from time to time. With Elena being sick and relieving hard moments lived in the past, Gloria stays on the helm most of the time. 

on water and canals

Even if the rain is terribly annoying and soaked us despite many layers of technical cloathing, we are also quite relieved to be able to experience the “normal” Dutch climate. In fact, as of the month of August, the Netherlands has been declared to be in an official state of water shortage. Comuing from Lombardy, the Italian region of which Milan is capital and that hosts all major lakes – Como, Garda, Maggiore, and Iseo -, we are well familiar with water crisis. 

It may sound strange, but the nation of dikes, canals, rain, and reclaimed land is actually suffering from a lack of water. The effects of climate change are already being felt all over the world, including in the Netherlands, which is known for its abundant rainfall. A drought not only causes the amount of available fresh water to be lower than it should be, but it can also have an effect on the quality of the water that is used for drinking. Because there is less water flowing, there is a greater possibility that harmful bacteria will grow, which poses a threat to the quality of the water that is used for drinking. Another danger associated with drought is that salt water could begin to seep into the groundwater and the soil, which would present difficulties for agricultural practises in the Netherlands.

During times of crisis, new and often perplexing terms are coined, and it is not always easy to understand what they all signify. You have probably come across the phrase “drought phase 2” in recent times, and you are probably curious about what it means. To put it succinctly, it indicates that a crisis team has been assembled in order to deal with the situation. The group has been in charge of determining the destination of our extremely valuable fresh water. It has been four years since the last time that drought phase 2 was announced, so despite the fact that there is no need for panic, the situation should definitely be taken seriously.

consequences

Due to the lack of precipitation, dike walls have a greater risk of drying out and becoming unstable. Dikes are typically constructed out of peat. Specialized boats that pump water from the canals onto the embankments of smaller dikes made of peat and built primarily inland along canals and rivers are used to irrigate the embankments of these smaller dikes. Due to the fact that the country is expected to be plagued by droughts in 2018, 2019, and 2020, their use is becoming increasingly widespread. There has not been sufficient precipitation to adequately hydrate the levees and replenish the groundwater. It is against the law for farmers in the southern part of the Netherlands to use water from canals and rivers to irrigate their fields.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Mark Harbers, has issued a plea to the general public “to give careful consideration to the question of whether they should wash their car or fill their inflatable swimming pool all the way up. The Netherlands is a country built on water, but water is also a precious resource in these parts.” According to what he had to say, “the water shortage is already having a negative effect on shipping and agriculture in particular”

The low water levels in the rivers and canals are making it difficult for barge traffic as well as the traffic of the smaller ferries. And we have been experiencing discomforts as well, even in these two short days of navigation. In fact the inland water infrastructre, part of the National Heritage of the Netherlands, works thanks to a very delicate balance between sea water, water coming from the dried lands, river water, and rain. When one of these key elements is missing the whole system is shaken and multiple actions of transferring water where needed are necessary. This causes sluisen (dams) to be operated more frequently making our trip longer as often they can be left open in water-balanced situations. Also the levels of the canals are sometimes unpredictable making the navigation more stressfull. 

Part of the cultural landscape of the Dutch countryside is the green layer of plants that grows on the surface of canals during the summer and that survives until the end of September normally. These plants thrives in warm still water, keep the temperature stable, and provide shade and shelter to local fauna. Because of the need to move water around and the lack of rain of this summer, we could not see these traditional green carpets on the canals and we fear for the already much anthropized ecosystem.

arriving in harlingen 

Tetide in Noorderhaven

Elena’s hearing got progressively worse during our trip and passing spiked canals of the capital city of Fryslan, Leeuwarden, we decided she needed to go to the hospital as soon as we would get to our destination. Soaking wet we managed to get to the outskirts of Harlingen around 4pm and we starte     d manouvering to get in the first harbor before the dike as we planned since the morning. Being the sluis doors open, the tide was too strong for Tetide engine to safely enter the small gate of the first harbor. We then decided to cross the sluis with a very strong favorable tide that pushed us at the crazy speed of 11 knots between the two tight 10-meters cement walls leaving us excited and a bit shaking. After almost half an hour we managed to enter the Noorderhaven and we docked next to another sailboat. The nice Dutch owners, together with other German boat-neighbors, helped us get Elena to a doctor. He prescribed her cortisol and suggested her to get back to Italy as soon as possible to get urgent care

Elena rested and planned her trip home while Gloria started looking for another person to continue the trip with. Both tired, worried for one-another, and for their commitment to the trip, we went to sleep hoping for better winds tomorrow.

one – from groningen to dokkum – nph

We untied Tetide from its berth. 

We cried a bit, we smiled a lot. 

The first bridge opened in front of the stern, the Reitdeip canal in front of us.

Groningen is behind already, and Dokkum very slowly approaching. 

In fact on Tetide sailboat, a C&C 34/36 from 1989, we have an average speed of 5 knots, 9,3 kilometres per hour. The right rate to take in all the Dutch landscape has to offer us. The first day was a good one. No rain, and little wind, which is always good when navigating a tight canal and you don’t want to get stuck on the muddy banks. 

The Retidiep canal leading from Groningen to the Lauwersmeer

It was also a good day for the most favourite hobby of sailors in Dutch canals: cow-watching. They are many, pacific, a bit annoyed by the sound of the low-consumption engine. They resort to looking at you with their lost gaze, and keep chewing their grass. In these moments you find yourself embarrassed by your own presence, willful to pet those big, calm eaters, and conscious of their terrible impact on the climate. Intrigued by our thoughts, we researched a bit of the facts while passing through the Lauwersmeer: the area where in ancient times, fresh and saltwater flowed into each other in the Lauwerszee. Fear of flooding led to the construction of a dam in 1969 when a beautiful new landscape arose on the former seabed, a real bird paradise and a National Park.

on cows

Flat, verdant fields dotted with horses, sheep, and the world-famous black-and-white cows would probably be what comes to mind when one imagines the countryside in the Netherlands. This is the image that most people have of the Netherlands. And there is some truth to each stereotype: there were an astounding 1.57 million cows in the Netherlands in 2021, which is almost one-tenth of the country’s human population. 

Despite the fact that agriculture is responsible for 16 per cent of the Netherlands’ total greenhouse gas emissions, the Netherlands are the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, behind only the United States. Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, and cows’ digestive systems are a major source of methane emissions. In the Netherlands, livestock farming is one of the primary contributors to the emission of greenhouse gases; as a result, climate change poses a threat to the low-lying fields in the country. In addition to this, livestock produces manure, which, when combined with urine, results in the release of ammonia, a compound containing nitrogen. An excessive amount of nitrogen can cause damage to sensitive natural habitats if it enters lakes and streams via farm runoff. For instance, it can encourage algae blooms, which can reduce the amount of oxygen present in surface waters.

The Netherlands has been dealing with what it refers to as a “nitrogen crisis” ever since the highest administrative court in the country found in 2019 that the Dutch government was in violation of EU law by not doing enough to reduce the amount of excess nitrogen that was present in sensitive natural areas. To reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides released into the atmosphere, the daytime speed limit on highways has been lowered to 100 kilometres per hour, gas-guzzling construction projects have been halted, and a new law requires that 50 per cent of protected natural areas have healthy nitrogen levels by the year 2030.

Now, civil servants working in the ministry of finance and agriculture have drafted proposals, one of which includes reducing the number of livestock by 30 per cent. This plan is one of the most radical of its kind in Europe. Farmers in the Netherlands are finding themselves cornered by the government, which is giving them the ultimatum that they must either make their farms more friendly to the environment or find new employment elsewhere. Some farmers could be forced to sell their emissions rights and possibly even their land to the state under two different scenarios that have been proposed.

adaptation

Zoutkamp from Tetide

To be expected from the Dutch, who always manage to disrupt the established order of things. They had the ingenuity to construct a network of dikes and canals several hundred years ago so that they could live on land that would have otherwise been inundated by flood waters. This allowed them to continue to exist in the area. The Netherlands are also responsible for the conception of sustainable cell-cultured meat; the leading start-up company, Mosa Meat, has its headquarters in Maastricht, which is located a train ride’s distance southeast of Rotterdam. And now in the middle of Rotterdam’s Merwehaven port, where ships used to dock, there now stands a floating dairy farm: a three-story facility spanning 1,800 square metres, the farm has been open since May and is currently home to 35 cows as well as 4 calves that were recently born.

Food production that takes place closer to where consumers live and that is done in a “climate-adaptive way” is what the owners of this property hope to highlight with its unusual setting, which stands in stark contrast to the typical landscape of rolling green hills. These cows are a part of an experiment being conducted in the Netherlands to rethink the way in which cities are supplied with dairy products while simultaneously promoting a more sustainable food cycle. The cows are fed the grass that has been removed from nearby soccer fields, the potato peels that have been discarded by businesses that make french fries, and the leftover bran that has been removed from nearby windmills. Electric cars are used to collect these resources and transport them to The Floating Farm where they are used.

We are not sure this is a solution that will be able to solve the impact that livestock has on the Dutch climate and waterways, therefore threatening the cultural heritage that is always directly connected or touched by water, nor that it will allow the cultural landscape and traditional activity of raising cows. But it surely represents a laudable initiative of adaptation. 

fryslân

Berth in Dokkum

Continuing our navigation we left the province of Groningen and entered Fryslân – or Friesland, in Dutch-, the northwest province of the Netherlands that maintains a unique culture and pride. From their language, endangered but spoken and learned in school by many, to their versions of traditional food, and their immense sailing skills and history. The Wadden Sea, part of the World Heritage, can be found along its borders and completely encircling its barrier islands. In the summer, the province is known for its famous skûtsjes sailboats, which cruise along the province’s lakes and canals. In the winter, the province is known for its Frisian skaters, who take to the ice with their hands clasped behind their backs.

We finally got to the lovely city of Dokkum on the canals that maintain the star shape typical of the defence system of the 16th century and we docked right under the Zeldenrust, a smock mill. We enjoyed a walk in the beautifully preserved town centre and we celebrated our first reached goal with a cold beer immediately followed by some hot tea.

zero – navigandum per hereditatem – nph

Hey there! We are Gloria and Elena, two young professionals in the field of cultural heritage about to start an awareness-raising action concerning climate change and its impact on cultural heritage in the Netherlands and Belgium!

We will have the privilege of travelling through the Netherlands and Belgium by sailing boat thanks to the Organisation of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) Young Travelling Scholarship 2022 between the 7th and the 27th of September. We are granted the opportunity of being welcomed in Beemster, Amsterdam, Bruges, and Bruxelles where we will be exploring the cultural heritage and the impact of climate change on it and on waterways.

Our project is called navigandum per hereditatem. We have chosen this Latin expression because of the double meaning per hereditatem has: it can signify “trough the heritage”, or “for heredity”. We believe it summarises well both the cultural heritage focus and the attention they will give to sustainability seen as the prerequisite to have future generations inherit intact cities from us. For us, the protection and enhancement of heritage is a personal priority, and we recognise the importance of communicating it with and to society. We believe that tomorrow’s World Heritage will increasingly value sites that foster positive relations between man and nature and will progressively include more intangible heritage, such as local culture and practices.

While we navigate the Dutch and Belgian canals by sailboatTetide from 1989 – we plan to work on three projects:

  • We will post trip updates and daily activities and experiences on Instagram  (@navigatura, @glogloci, @elena_felice) and on this blog to become somewhat ambassadors of the cultural heritage sites we will visit.
  • We will work on a creative project that will be presented at the Regensburg World Heritage Visitor Center and on the OWHC website. To produce this project, we will use watercolour and embroidery techniques and we will create a long strip representing the ongoing landscape we can see by boat and the cultural ties between sites.
  • To increase the impact of their Travelling Scholarship, we have been receiving the support of the European Climate Pact and its Ambassadors with the aim of initiating dialogues revolving around the environmental and social sustainability of cities and heritage sites we will visit. We plan on meeting citizens involved in the safeguarding and enhancement of cultural heritage, other Ambassadors, local institutions, NGOs, and international stakeholders. The project aims at culminating with a report presented during the Dutch National Week of Climate in November 2022.

During our trip we will be staying in Dokkum, Harlingen, Volendam, Beemster, Amsterdam, Ijmuiden, Den Haag, Zeebrugge, Bruges, Bruxelles, Bruges, Veere, Willemstad, Rotterdam, Leiden, and Amsterdam, and visit many other cities in between. The itinerary, the schedule, and the boat log are public and keep being updated with meetings and activities. If you want to collaborate on our project you can in fact contact us via Instagram or leave a comment on our schedule!

We can’t wait to share more with you about what we will see, experience, and learn during the next three weeks!

zero

#4: Philadelphia

August 22-25, 2022

When I told my friends that I was flying to Philadelphia, most of them didn’t immediately know what to associate with the city. To be honest, I didn’t know much more about Philly either, except that Independence Hall is located there and that I had a great-aunt in New Jersey. But: this city is definitely underestimated!

>> INDEPENDENCE HALL & LIBERTY BELL <<

First of all: Why is Philly a UNESCO City? As already teased in the post about Washington, Philly is actually the city of the American Declaration of Independence. It was signed in the Independence Hall on 4th of July 1776. Liberty Bell is the name of the bell that was rung when the American Declaration of Independence was read in public for the first time in Independence Square in Philadelphia. Both landmarks can be found in the city’s Historic District. There are not many UNESCO cultural sites in the USA, more natural world heritage ones. In Philly, however, American independence was declared. That makes the city doubly exciting. To represent UNESCO even more in the US, there is an important institution: The GPA….

>> GLOBAL PHILADELPHIA ASSOCIATION & PUBLIC ART <<

… My highlight was the meeting with Zabeth from the Philadelphia Global Association (GPA) (connected by Moni in Regensburg). This non-profit organization was also created to assist international cooperations, to promote the development of an international consciousness within the region and to enhance the region’s global profile. Zabeth and her colleagues Andrew and Sylta showed me around and welcomed me so warmly! First we’ve been to an offical flag raising in front of the city hall and in terms of the 31th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine. We also met Sheila there who gave a speech as city representative. This event was really emotionally and I was luckily part of it! Many Ukrainien people wore their traditional dresses.

Afterwards I’ve been introduced to a really impressing project. Philadelphia is the first US city to launch a campaign to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In cooperation with many other partners, Global Philadelphia Association places murals all over the city to raise SDG awareness and they make the city even more colourful than it already is. Those art works are painted on canvasses so they are “movable”, which is pretty smart. The vision of the SDG Mural Project is that the murals become part of the city and the day-to-day life in Philly. Each SDG is accomponied by a research project by outstanding scholars at the top local universities. With the help of the SDG Public Art Project Map (& Anderw) I found two of the art works and I really love the idea of this project. I think it’s important to raise awareness of the SDGs, especially in the US, and the project connects different actors, which makes for a great symbiosis.

Picture 1&2 – SDG Gender Equality
Picture 3 – SDG Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions (a portait of Thurgood Marshall, the first Afro-American judge on the US Supreme Court)

Besides the project, there is a lot (street) art in this city. I’m very impressed by Philadelphia’s creativity and vibe. I feel there is so much diversity in this city. Either you find it along the Cherry Street Pier with many different art galleries, the Queen village or in the Italian District. Furthermore, you’ll find interesting and historical facts on information boards places across the city. I really enjoyed my stay in Philly and would be happy to come back one day. Pictures speak louder than words at this point.

 

 

By Way of Introduction

‘The joyful anticipation before a journey is always outweighed by the irritation of actually going,’ writes Joseph Roth, but for once I have to disagree. The weeks before I’m due to leave for a trip, I feel nothing short of domestic bliss. Neighbours who once petty are suddenly charming, chores which once seemed tiresome are suddenly effortless, my belongings, normally forgotten about, seem suddenly precious. Familiarity, modesty and comfort become virtues as alluring as any garden variety vice.

There is so much to do. We forgot to take the winter tires off the car. I need to order a road atlas. Oh, and go down into the cellar and dust off my tent. What about a language guide? A backpack for my camera?  And my sleeping medication, or will it be fine? Should the shoes I bring along be elegant or practical? Perhaps I’ll bring one pair of each, and another two pairs just to be safe. Will it be warm? Will I go swimming? What if there is a cold snap?

All of this to distract, perhaps, from the fact that leaving on a journey is a terrifying thing. So much could go sideways. Or go wonderfully. But if it goes wonderfully then we probably have to change our minds about something or other and that is about as uncomfortable as things going sideways.

There is absolutely nothing to be done. Preparations will continue to be made. The car will get new tires. The tent has a hole in it, but it can be patched up. And I’ll do well to remember the words of the editor who published Roth’s tirade: ‘We assure our readers that in spite of everything he says… our author spends very little time at home.’

That all being said, I’ll take the liberty of adjusting Roth’s words for my own purposes: The irritating anticipation before a journey is always outweighed by the joy of actually going.

August 23

Wismar

From Stralsund the journey continues to its Unesco brother Wismar whose old towns form together one heritage. Interestingly, both Hanseatic cities have a wallpaper room in the World Heritage House and have the addition “Hansestadt” as their official city name. Like Stralsund, Wismars old town consists of a unique mixture of Brick Gothic houses (e.g. Alter Schwede Haus) and baroque houses from the Swedish period (e.g. Zeughaus). What is special about Wismar is that the city has largely retained its harbour basin in terms of location and specific design since 1211. The landmark of the 6st biggest city of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the Wasserkunst: A pavilion-like, free-standing building directly on the market square which was used for water supply.

Left: Harbour and old town from St. Georg’s Church; Right: Wismar harbour

Another symbol of Wismar are the “Schwedenköpfe”, which can be found for instance on piles when entering Wismar harbour, in front of the “Baumhaus” and on the entrance of the restaurant “Alter Schwede”. Its exact purpose is still unclear.
Another interesting site is the “Grube” – An artificial watercourse through Wismar’s old town that is bridged by a half-timbered house shortly before the harbour.

Left: Grube and Gewölbe built over the waterway; Right: Schwedenkopf at the entrance of “Alter Schwede”

Besides that Wismar’s old town has three main churches: St. Georg’s Church, St. Mary’s Church and St. Nicolai’s Church. Two of them were severely destroyed during the 2nd World War, St. Mary’s church today only consists of a tower, the church nave was not rebuilt. Finally, two fun facts about Wismar: The first Karstadt was located in Wismar and the Unesco World Heritage Zone of Wismar is not only the filming location for Soko Wismar, but also served as the backdrop for the vampire film Nosferatu.

Left: Ruins of St. Mary’s Church; Right: Nosferatu was filmed in Wismar

August 20-22

Stralsund

Day 1

From Sweden to a city in Germany that was nearly 200 years part of Sweden: Stralsund. Day 1 was primarily a ferry day where I went from Visby to Rostock and proceeded to Stralsund. But even on this day the Hanseatic League has accompanied me during the trip.

Left: Logo of the ferry company; Right: Logo of Hansa Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s most successful football club, includes a cog.

Day 2

On day 2 I visited the “Museumshaus Mönchstraße 38” to see how a house of a hanseatic merchant looked like from inside. The house was built in the 14. century and documents about 600 years of residential history as it housed tenants until the 1970s. It still has the typical features such as multi-storey hallway after the entrance (Diele), a “Kontor” (office), a lift for the goods, as well as a cellar and 4 storage floors for the goods.

Left: Museumshaus; Right: Lift
Left: Kontor (office); Right: View on the first floor

Afterwards I went to Stralsund harbour. Exactly where the Hanseatic trading port used to be, there is now an harbour island with the Ozeaneum building, a modern exhibition space of the German Oceanographic Museum. The focus of the museum is on the ecosystems of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, the two main seas sailed by the Hanseatic League. The museum has a further focus on the conservation of marine ecosystems and for the protection of whales.

Fauna & Flora of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea

Day 3

As Stralsund acts as the gateway to Rügen, Germany’s largest island,  I made a half-day excursion to see the chalk cliffs on the east coast of Rügen. Day 3 connects cultural heritage with natural heritage as the Jasmund National Park not only protects the magnificent chalk cliffs but also the largest contiguous area of beech forest on the German Baltic coast (part of UNESCO’s World Nature heritage ancient and primeval beech forests). The hike includes a compulsory visit of the prominent chalk rock promentary Königsstuhl.

Natural World Heritage “Ancient and Primeval beech forests of the Carparthians and Other Regions of Europe”
Left: Chalk cliffs in Jasmund National Park; Right: Königsstuhl

The centre of Stralsund is surrounded by water on all sides and has a characteristic mixture of Hanseatic brick gothic houses and baroque houses from the Swedish period. To learn more about the old town which ist completely part of World heritage,  the World Heritage House was the first port of call. I visited the UNESCO coordinator of Stralsund Steffi Behrendt in her office right next to the main square with the town hall and Nicolai church. Steffi guided me through the world heritage exhibition, gave me tips for visiting the city and even opened the “Hackertscher Tapetensaal” especially for me, which is otherwise only accessible for guided tours. Many thanks Steffi for that warm welcome in Stralsund!

Left: Meeting Steffi Behrendt in front of town hall and Nicolai Church; Right: Hackertscher Tapetensaal
View on old town from St. Mary’s Church. The Unesco Zone is fully surrounded by water: On the one side the Strelasund which is part of the Baltic Sea and on the other side the artificial pond “Knieperteich”
Left: Wulflamhaus on main square; Right: Pitoresque residential building in Heilgeisthospital

 

#3: Washington D.C.

August 19-22, 2022

I left Regensburg last Friday and headed up to Washington D.C., where my US trip began. My flight from Munich was easy and the jetlag not as bad as expected. So I had enough energy to do some sightseeing on my first weekend in the United States.

A big plus in Washington is that all the museums in front of the Capitol are for free! What a pleasure! As a big fan of modern art I visited the Hirshhorn Museum and its beautiful sculputure garden. One highlight was the wish tree in front of the building by Yoko Ono. Furthermore, the museum hosted a nice exhibition of the well-known and Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama. This impressing lady worked primarily in sculpture and installation and it was such a nice experience to see her work. Afterwards, I went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History which was pretty crowded but worth the visit.

Before I left to Philly on Monday, I had the chance to visit the US Capitol. The guided tours there are also for free but you had to book a timeslot before the visit. The US Capitol is the national stage of the United States and the place where the country finds its common ground. Within the Congress American people are represented and even during the Revolutionary War the building continued to be built to make a statement of hope. This building is one of the landmarks of Washington D.C. and a symbol for the American democracy. Even if it is not a world heritage sight, it counts as a National Historic Landmark. The tour was really interesting and a great insight into the American history. The rotunda is the center of the building and the place where the dome can be found. There is also a painting showing the signing of the American Declaration of Independence which introduces my visit to the city, where it was signed: Philadelphia! (to be continued…)

 

August 18-19

Visby

Visby seen from Almedalen park

Day 1

Next stop on the list is Visby, a town with about 20,000 inhabitants on the west coast of the Swedish island of Gotland. To learn more about the history of the city, I met with World Heritage coordinator Louise Hoffman Borgö at the Gotland Museum. Starting the tour with the mysterious picture stones which were probably used as memorial stones back to 1400 years .

Picture stones which were found all over Gotland

Visby lies very centrally in the Baltic Sea and this strategically good location strengthened Visby’s position as an important trading port already during the Viking Age. As a gateway to trade with the east, Visby was also of great interest to the Hanseatic League and one of the first members outside Germany. The city profited greatly from the trade of the Hanseatic League, many huge buildings were erected for the time and Visby is referred to as the medieval Manhattan.

Left: Cityscape of Visby at the time of its heyday; Right: One of the huge medieval warehouses that still dominate the cityscape today

The museum also deals with the rapid decline in the town’s importance from the middle of the 14th century onwards: On the one hand, Visby was captured by the Danish King Waldemar in 1361, and on the other, improvements in shipping and navigation meant that the merchants of the Hanseatic League no longer had to rely on Visby as a stopover in the east. What may be bad for Visby at that time is fortunate for us: Due to the peace and quiet brought about by the loss of importance, the city has largely remained well preserved to this day.

Day 2

Next day started with a continuation of the guided tour through Visby, this time outdoors. Louise Hoffman Borgö, this time accompanied by her colleague Maria James, showed me around the UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited the Visby city wall which is one of the best and also most completely preserved medieval city walls in Europe. It was errected beginning in the 13th due to conflicts with the people of the countryside of Gotland as the Hanseatic League consolidated its monopoly and forbid the Gotland farmers to take part in trade. It is more than 3 kilometres long and 27 large and 9 small towers still remain.

Visby city wall and Kruttornet (powder tower)

Equally impressive were the many church ruins that characterise the cityscape. The wealthy inhabitants liked to invest in magnificent church buildings. However, due to the economic decline and the Reformation, the many churches fell into disrepair and are now only preserved as imposing ruins.

Left: Modell of the interior of a church in the medieval times; Right: Ruins of Saint Nicholas

Louise and Maria also told me a lot about their work and the Visby of our times: Today the pitoresque small town is well known for its sheeps which are the symbol of Gotland that can be found everywhere. Equally characteristic are the rosebushes planted in front of many buildings. Gotland is one of the most popular holiday islands for Swedes in the summer and Visby is also the venue for the political Almedalen Week, the “Stockholm Week” parties and the big medieval festival “Medeltidsveckan”. It seems that the Unesco World heritage zone today is quite a liveable place. Once again big thanks to Louise and Maria for showing me around Visby!

Left: Tour with Maria and Louise from Unesco Heritage Visby; Right: House with characteristic rose bushes
Left: Stone sheeps can be found everywhere on Gotland; Right: Visby cathedral
Left: Street in the historic centre; Right: Sunset in Visby harbour

 

#2: Regensburg

August 15-18, 2022

Not only Bamberg is compared to Italy. Regensburg is called “the northest town of Italy” – and when you stroll through the city on a summer night, you won’t disagree. Small beautiful streets, many restaurants, bars and a little bit of Dolce Vita. Fortunately the gorgeous old town wasn’t destroyed so much by World War II.

>> UNESCO FACTS <<

In 2006 the Old Town with  “Stadtamhof” (the district across the Danube) and its 1500 monumental buildings were added to the UNESCO List. Since last year, Regensburg even has its second World Heritage title. It is part of the Donaulimes which marks the part of the Roman military border along the Danube.
Anyways, the UNESCO title is very important for the sustainable development of the city. It not only serves to preserve the Roman-influenced old town, but also makes it attractive and worth living in. With a population of around 160.000, Regensburg is also a successful business location.

>> WORLD HERITAGE CENTER &  EXHIBITION <<

The Danube, as second longest river in Europe, divides the old town and “Stadtamhof”, while the Stone Bridge connects both areas. Before crossing the Stone Bridge, don’t forget to visit the World Heritage Center. It is located in the monumental building “Salzstadel” which has been the center of salt trade in the 17th century. (If you’re hungry afterwards, get a “Kipferl” next to the Salzstadel at the historic Wurstkuchl.)
With being opened as one of the first world heritage centers in Europe in 2011, it just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Therefore an interesting book was published that highlights the museum in a interdisciplinary kind of way. In cooperation with the FH Johanneum Graz, which has also been involved in the concept of the center, it highlights the trends towards world heritage transfer. Additionally the book is accompanied by an exciting exhibition designed by Elisa Wünschter. The young Austrian talent interviewed and focused on people in Regensburg and their thoughts regarding the history, present and future of Regensburg. This exhibition is definitely worth a visit!

A place I call home: Since I came back for this summer, I realized how many creative (and young) people are living in this historical city. I felt lots of energy and a vibrant creative and culture scene. It certainly won’t be boring in Regensburg!