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)

 

three – harlingen -nph

We wake up, we pack, and we say bye.
Elena left in the morning to get back to Italy and she had a terrible 8 hours trip awaiting her because of strikes and delays.
I sat in my cabin contemplating Elena’s health, my options, and the feasibility of the trip but still decided to continue Navigandum per hereditatem.
The rest of the morning a part of the afternoon were devoted to cleaning up the boat and contacting every young sailor and heritage enthusiast possible, as well as trying to reach out to Elena’s contacts in the Netherlands hoping to find a travel companion for the following weeks.
Later in the afternoon, I decided to take the chance of visiting again Harlingen to discover more about its heritage, and I decided to start with the City Council Museum het Hannemahuis which I have never had the chance to explore. The Gemeentemuseum is located in the major street of the village and I only needed to walk a few minutes under the bluest sky I had seen in days.

hannemahuis

After getting married to Liesbet Scheltema in 1744, the merchant Sjoerd Hannema moved into the house they had just purchased. He had a new front wall constructed. The right side of the building can still be identified by this bell gable. Another member of the Hannema family, Sjoerd Jacobus Hannema, was responsible for the construction of the left wing of the house in 1825. This wing featured a cornice. Leendert Jacobus Hannema was the last descendant of the Harlingen merchant family to live in this house. He was known as Jacobus. In 1957, he established a museum in a portion of his home that he owned. He passed away in 1964, leaving the house as a bequest to the city of Harlingen, which carried out the terms of the will by maintaining the museum in the residence. Objects that are closely related to the history and art history of Harlingen are collected and displayed. These objects include Harlinger tile and pottery, maritime objects, centuries-old paintings (such as Granida and Daifilo by Jacob Adriaensz Backer), photographs, silverware, various old documents, and furniture. In addition to that, there is a room named after Simon Vestdijk. In this section of the museum, in addition to a number of other items associated with the Harlingen-born author, visitors will have the opportunity to view his entire body of work in its first edition form.

on the visit

Entering the museum from the gift shop and passing into the original waiting room of the house suddenly made the reasons why I want to take this trip resurface. The meaningfulness of heritage sites and their impact on individuals and communities is invaluable, and the threat posed by climate change is real. Being Friday afternoon I did not manage to find a manager or senior employee of the Museum available to talk about its eventual adaptive strategies, therefore I simply enjoyed the visit.
The first room is devoted to the history of the city. Harlingen is one of the Friese elf steden, which are eleven cities in Friesland that received city rights in the 13th century and also serve as the name of the Elfstedentocht skating marathon. Harling is possibly the least Frisian of all of them, and few people speak Frisian as their native language. It is a charming little port town that became wealthy through fishing and trade. Numerous commercial boating routes continue to depart from here for Scandinavia and beyond. Some of the original fortifications, the canals, and a significant number of historic warehouses and mansions have withstood the test of time. Harlingen began to expand in the 12th century when monks from a nearby monastery dug canals to facilitate trade in the region. Harlingen was granted a city charter in 1234, as a result of the increased commerce. In contrast to the nearby university city of Franeker, the town remained of minor importance for several centuries. However, as the harbour expanded, so did Harlingen’s wealth and reputation. Today, the majority of shipping is associated with the transport of salt from the local salt factory, and the harbour (s) are the most vital part of the inner city. This information was displayed through physical historical artefacts and digital tools were accessible even to kids, sadly no English was available and it was the same for the whole exhibition.
After passing a beautiful garden containing statues by local artists, I reached the second room that was dedicated to a focus on the sailing traditions of the Netherlands and on their history in Harlingen. Skilled hands constructed ship models with fine ropes and miniature pulleys for both decoration and crew training. Shipowners also enjoyed having their vessels painted, preferably at sea with full sails. The ship portraits represent the owners’ pride. In addition to objects such as a figurehead and a foghorn, the maritime collection also contains stories such as that of Commander Klaas Hoekstra. According to his journal, he left for Greenland in 1825 in order to hunt whales. His brand-new galley ship shattered in the Arctic ice, but after a year filled with horrors, the crew returned to Harlingen despite being presumed long dead. Additionally, the merchant navy and admiralty are discussed, and sadly no information was available on the role of Harlingen in the slave trade.
Harlingen is the birthplace of the pottery industry in Friesland. This region has utilised the technique of tin glazing for over 400 years. The Hannemahuis provides an excellent representation of what Harlingen has produced in recent centuries, including loose tiles, tableaus, an earthenware colander with a harbour view, playful saying dishes, and much more. Harlingen was also one of the most significant centres in the Frisian silver tradition. I could see how much silversmiths had to offer in the silver room. Harlingen family Radsma served as “city clock players” for more than 250 years; they determined the daily rhythm in Harlingen. The museum’s clocks are true works of art: the dials are exquisitely crafted and painted, and the cabinets are glued with fine veneers, inlaid with flower and bird motifs, and topped by angels playing the trumpets.

gedachten aan zee

The Museum, in conjunction with the City Council, is undertaking the project known as “Thoughts of the Sea.” At the top of the Zuiderpier in Harlingen is where you will find the city’s post box. Hikers are encouraged to share their own personal reflections, poems, drawings, and love letters by posting them in the red container. Anyone who wishes can write down their “thoughts by the sea” and place them in the former PTT’s red letterbox to share their thoughts (anonymously). The mailbox is emptied once a week. The initial idea was to create an annual booklet filled with beautiful, unique, or amusing letterbox contributions, but now some can be seen in the exhibition, which features a large number of very personal messages that, at times, can be quite moving.
I was very touched by one contribution in particular which talks of the sea and how they see it changing not only daily basis or following the seasons, but how much harsher and more dangerous it became since they were a child.

Zee, zee, die elke dag verandert, als ik me omdraai en als ik terugkom.
Zee, zee, die verandert met de seizoenen je verspilt nooit tijd aan vrouwen en liedjes.
Zee, zee, stijgt en daalt wat is er met je bewuste ritme gebeurd?
Zee, zee, nu ben je hoger en hoger en sla je de dammen met een geschud ritme.
Zee, zee, verdwijnt soms en laat de kust kaal en droog achter.
Sinds ik een kind was, speelde ik en ik zag in jou een vriend om te respecteren, maar
oprecht, zee, nu herken ik jou en de veilige bronnen van het leven niet meer.
Zee, zee, wil je de haven binnengaan en de oudste relatie ter wereld vernietigen?
Ik zou misschien hetzelfde van ons moeten vragen, mannen die huilen wat je niet meer bent.

Sea, sea, which changes every day, when I turn around and when I come back.
Sea, sea, it changes with the seasons you never waste time on women and songs.
Sea, sea, rising and falling what happened to your conscious rhythm?
Sea, sea, now you’re higher and higher, hitting the dams with a shaken rhythm.
Sea, sea, sometimes disappears, leaving the coast bare and dry.
Since I was a child I played and I saw in you a friend to respect, but
sincere, sea, now I no longer recognize you and the safe springs of life.
Sea, sea, will you enter the harbour and destroy the oldest relationship in the world?
I should perhaps ask the same of us, men who cry what you are no longer.

good prospects

After the visit, I stayed a bit longer in the quiet library annexed to the museum working on notes and pictures from the previous day. In the meantime, I realized it rained and the sky was back to its deep grey. Walking back to Tetide and Mosè I received a positive message from a friend, Allegra Grillo, who was just looking for something to do after her gradu  ation in Law. She told me she would let me know, after having properly thought it over, if she would have joined me in Navigandum per hereditatem.

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!

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#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. I experience the exact opposite. The weeks before I’m due to leave for a trip, I feel nothing short of domestic bliss. Neighbours who once got on my nerves are suddenly charming, chores which once seemed dull are suddenly effortless, and my belongings  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.

Of course, things could also go wonderfully, but in all likelihood something will come up that’ll force me to readjust my opinion about something or other, and that is about as terrifying 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 Joseph Roth’s little travel tirade: ‘We assure our readers that in spite of everything he says… our author spends very little time at home.’