Tag: Cultural Heritage

The Historic Centre of Graz and Schloss Eggenberg

The UNESCO World Heritage site in Graz has two components: The historic city centre and Schloss Eggenberg, which is located within the city, but a little further out. Apart from World Heritage status, Graz has another major claim to fame, as it has been a UNESCO City of Design since 2011, being part of the Creative Cities Network. On top of those UNESCO accolades, Graz is not only capital of Styria, but also Austria’s second biggest city, behind Vienna. I’d say those are reasons enough to visit!

I was in the lucky position to spend a whole week in Graz in September 2017, as I had been granted EU-funding to participate in a staff mobility scheme to visit a partner university. Naturally, I also made time to discover the city and the World Heritage here.

“The City of Graz – Historic Centre and Schloss Eggenberg reflects artistic and architectural movements originating from the Germanic region, the Balkans and the Mediterranean, for which it served as a crossroads for centuries. The greatest architects and artists of these different regions expressed themselves forcefully here and thus created a brilliant syntheses.”
(from the UNESCO website)

Discovering the historic centre is quite easy, as everything is in easy walking distance. The tourist office has several maps on offer for free, which depict different walking routes through the centre, and they are all excellent. Graz really is a charming city – walking through the lanes and courts with their buildings from different eras, you can’t help feeling transported back in time.

 

Another big plus are the many cafes, restaurants and pubs to revive you from your excursions through town; not to mention the friendly locals. To top it all off, there is also a funicular right in the middle of the city (the Schlossberglift), to take you up to the Schlossberg. Views from the Schlossberg are quite amazing, though I wasn’t very lucky with regards to the weather when I went up. (You also have splendid views over Graz from the restaurant on the roof of Kastner & Öhler department store.) I also really liked the many parks and gardens. The Kunsthaus, a museum of contemporary art, certainly seems a little out of place among the beautifully restored town houses – small wonder it is called the friendly alien.

 

Even though I usually quite enjoy discovering a city on my own, taking part in guided tours often offers great experiences, which you otherwise wouldn’t have. In Graz, I participated in a culinary tour of the Lend district, which was excellent. Our group learned a lot about the history of this part of town and we sampled food and drink from both traditional places and new ones. What struck me most was the number of cafes, shops or eateries run by people who had given up their former careers to pursue something they love. This really struck a chord and I got the impression that Graz really is a rather openminded and innovative place, despite the traditional looks.

 

Schloss Eggenberg leads me to a linguistic problem: The German term “Schloss” is generally translated as either castle (German: Burg) or palace (German: Palast), but in many cases, neither quite fit (at least as far as I’m concerned). A palace immediately brings to mind places such as Versailles, Schönbrunn, the Taj Mahal or Topkapi, which are famous for their size, beauty and intricate detail, whereas a castle is generally associated with a defensive structure (either original or faux), such as the Krak de Chevaliers, Burg Eltz or Conwy Castle. A Schloss, however, is often something inbetween the two: not quite as defensive and practical as a castle, but neither as insanely beautiful as a palace. Schloss Eggenberg, to my mind, is a good example of that linguistic problem.

It seems, at first glance, like a building from the baroque era, but its beginnings actually date back to the late Middle Ages.

 

Schloss Eggenberg belonged to the Eggenberg family, apparently once the most important noble family in Styria, with several members of the family taking high-ranking political offices under the Habsburgs. Extensive building works were carried out in the 17th century with the aim of showing off the social status through the family seat, so that nowadays the medieval origins aren’t quite obvious. For the 17th century extension, nothing was too expensive and a number of famous architects and artisans planned and carried out the works over several decades. Everything was based on a time-related symbolism, from the amount of corner towers down to rooms, windows, doors, paintings and so on. The Schloss underwent another major change in the 18th century, going full-blown Rococo, and in the 19th century the garden was transformed according to English landscaping designs. Due to the fact that the Schloss was uninhabited for a long time, during which no further extensions or changes were carried out, it is now one of the best-preserved and significant baroque palaces.

Unfortunately, it isn’t allowed to take photos inside – I highly recommend taking part in a guided tour of the state rooms. The paintings, especially within the Planetensaal, are breathtaking. What I found most striking, though, was how an old chapel was incorparated into the building. Even though I quite like the exterior and the park-like gardens, they seem rather unspectular in comparison with the baroque grandeur of the interior. On the other hand, you do get a nice surprise upon seeing the lavish interior decór.

 

In sum, Graz is a great place to visit, even if you aren’t as keen on UNESCO World Heritage sites as I am.

Further Information

Location: Graz, Styria, Austria (47° 4′ N, 15° 26′ O)
Tourist information: https://www.graztourismus.at/en
UNESCO website for this WHS: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/931
Cities of Design website: http://www.designcities.net
Nearest airport: Graz (https://www.flughafen-graz.at/en/home.html)

 

Related Posts:

The Canals of Amsterdam

The canals of Amsterdam – or the grachten, rather, as they are called in Dutch – are an amazing sight and I love walking around Amsterdam trying to find the nicest houses and details.

Naturally, it isn’t only the actual waterways that are so pretty, but the combination of beautiful town houses, canals, houseboats, quaint little cafés or pubs and shops.

 

The World Heritage Site is limited to the ring of canals built in the 17th century, namely those reaching out from the old town centre up to and including the Singelgracht. The area was granted World Heritage Status due to the amazing city planning and necessary engineering works to carry out the plans: The area is reclaimed land, land that has been claimed from a previously uninhabitable swamp. What I find astonishing, is how the architects and engineers not only built a city from swampland, but also made the results look pretty. They could have made do with a not-so-nice, but practical solution – but instead they chose to put a lot more money in and build a lovely new district. Though, in all fairness, the money was actually put in by rich merchants, who wanted pretty houses… A success all round, I’d say.

 

According to the offical description by UNESCO, ‘this urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century’. The description continues to state that

‘It is a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering, town planning, and a rational programme of construction and bourgeois architecture.’

Definitely a Must-See!
I like visiting Amsterdam any time, but it is especially charming around Christmas, with an ice-rink in front of the Rijksmuseum and christmassy food stalls and lights everywhere.

Related Posts:

The Beemster Polder

The Beemster Polder is one of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites that you could easily visit without realising its special status and I am happy to say that I, for once, didn’t make that mistake. Beemster is a large-ish area in the province of Noord-Holland, situated to the North of Amsterdam. It was created by draining a large lake in the early 17th century, thus reclaiming land for agriculture.

The Beemster polder is a lovely area – green, with lots of canals and bordered by rows of trees and farms with sheep and cows everywhere – and basically a byciclist’s heaven. The landscape is shaped like a checkerboard, with straight lines for canals and land and even though I would never have expected it, this is one of the reasons the polder holds heritage status: the geometrical layout of the reclaimed land is, apparently, an example of Renaissance landscaping principles.

 

I highly recommend exploring the area by bicycle, as you get much closer and get to see much more than just driving through in a car. Combining parts of different cycle routes, I spent a whole day cycling through Beemster and neighbouring areas – thus also taking in the famous cheese town Edam and the old fishing village Volendam. As the area is quite flat, you don’t need to be super fit to spend a day cycling, it is actually quite relaxing. There are cycle maps available for free at the tourist centres (VVV), which are perfectly sufficient – but there are also more detailed maps on sale. The Dutch also have a genius system of signage for their cycle ways, namely the knooppunt system. There are signs at frequent intervals and you can follow the knooppunts (points) and basically make up your own route, if you like.

 

Compared to some other World Heritage Sites, the Beemster polder may seem a little unspectacular, but the calming effect of spending a day or a few here should not be underestimated. It is a perfect spot for spending time outdoors and simultaniously having the chance of taking in Dutch culture and learning about watermanagement, cheese or fishing, and if you crave a little more urban action, Amsterdam is only about an hour away.

Related Posts:

The Windmills at Kinderdijk

Whenever I think of the Netherlands, the first image that comes to my mind is of flat, green country, divided by countless canals and dotted with windmills. In truth, there are only a few places left where you actually have an abundance of windmills, and one of them is the World Heritage Site Kinderdijk. 

At Kinderdijk, you find a network of a staggering 19 windmills within a relatively small space and the sight is amazing. The Dutch may be sick of hearing this, but in the eyes of tourists windmills are quintessentially Dutch and they’re quite mad about having their photos taken with one.

Much more than just looking pretty in an old-fashioned sort of way and making for a sufficiently touristy photo opportunity, windmills are evidence of Dutch engineering genius. If it wasn’t for windmills, quite a large chunk of the Netherlands might still be uninhabitable swampland or covered by water entirely. Rather than just be used to grind grains, windmills in the Netherlands are, or were, used to pump water and help make the country habitable.

According to the official description,

‘the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout is an outstanding human-made landscape that bears powerful testimony to human ingenuity and fortitude over nearly a millennium in draining and protecting an area by the development and application of hydraulic technology.’

I was utterly amazed to find out from the above mentioned description of the site that the windmills ‘function as fall-back mills in case of failure of the modern equipment’ even today. From one of the volunteers on site I learned that most of the Western part of the Netherlands would be underwater in case pumping should stop for three months. Let’s hope all those pumps and hydraulic systems keep going!

 

At the pumping station at Kinderdijk, you can watch an interesting, hands-on display, as well as a film on the history of the site and how water management with the help of windmills works. There are also two museum windmills, which can be entered and explored. All the other windmills can be viewed from several walkways. For the ones further from the entrance, little jetties have been built to provide better photo options – towards the end of summer, the reeds on the edges of the canals grow very tall and if it wasn’t for those wooden platforms, you’d hardly be able to see some of the windmills. There are also benches at frequent intervals, so you can have a rest or even a picnic. When I visited, you could buy pancakes and ice-cream from stalls near the first museum mill – I don’t know if they are available all the time, though.

 

Although the area isn’t too large and can easily be explored on foot, I would recommend renting a bicycle from the cafe/gift shop. However, you should watch out for tourists who apparently haven’t ever ridden a bike before, have hardly any control over it and go here, there and everywhere across both lanes. If you see one of those, take cover. On the whole, cycling through the lush, green countryside with canals on both sides and windmills seemingly everywhere is a wonderfully relaxing pastime.

In case you visit in summer or generally when it is warm and sunny, you may want to bring a cap or sun hat. I didn’t, because I thought it wouldn’t be that warm at the beginning of September and quickly regretted it. There is hardly any shadow to be found along the paths and cyclelanes connecting the windmills and if the sun is out, it will burn down on you relentlessly. I paid for my foolish misjudgement with a splitting headache.

 

There are several ways of getting to Kinderdijk, which lies roughly within a triangle between Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Utrecht. You can visit by car, of course, but public transport is also an easy option, with bus connections from the three cities mentioned above. From Dordrecht and Rotterdam, Kinderdijk can also be reached by means of the Waterbus, i.e. by boat. It takes about half an hour and is a nice change to sitting on a bus or going by car.

I absolutely loved this World Heritage Site, as it allows you to experience a typically Dutch landscape, learn about the history of the area and the underlying engineering methods and also to either walk or cycle around in the open air. A definite must-see!

Related Posts:

Detour: The Palaces of King Ludwig II

When visiting World Heritage Sites in Bavaria, King Ludwig II’s two palaces Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee and the castle Neuschwanstein offer a nice detour. Many tourists actually believe one of those to be a World Heritage Site, but wrongly so. Equally wrong are those who consider it a copy of Disney’s Cinderella castle. But let me start at the beginning…

Ludwig II lived between 1845 and 1886, and ascended to the Bavarian throne in 1864. He was a generous patron of the arts and initiated and financed many architectural and artistic projects. The older he became, though, the less he bothered with matters of state and was considered to live in a sort of dream world, hence his nickname ‘Märchenkönig’, or fairy tale king. He was considered mad by many contemporaries and eventually declared insane and deposed as king. Shortly after, he was found dead on the shores of Lake Starnberg, but the initial explanation of suicide by drowning did not hold when it was discovered that there was no water in his lungs. The mystery probably won’t be solved any more, and whether Ludwig II truly was a little mad or just a misunderstood eccentric, Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee make for excellent sightseeing destinations.

Neuschwanstein probably is the most famous of the three, and often mistaken for either a World Heritage Site or a copy of Disney’s Cinderella castle. The amount of misinformed drivel you are confronted with by accidentally listening in on tourists’ conversations could make your blood freeze. But don’t let me get carried away by this, one of my pet peeves.

What Neuschwanstein Castle certainly is, is one of the most photographed castles in the world. I have visited Neuschwanstein Castle twice so far, and both times I was more than a tad frightened of being trampled underfoot by the hordes of visitors. The sheer number is mindblowing; 1.5 million visitors per year, according to Wikipedia. But then Neuschwanstein really does offer everything people look for in a castle:
It is situated in a lofty spot in the mountains (though not so high up you couldn’t reach it), it has lots of towers and turrets, and nooks and crannies, and once you have made it up, there are spectacular views across the foothills of the Alps and the Allgäu region. Not to forget the legends that still keep popping up of a deranged king trying to build an idealised version of a castle, only to committ suicide (or be killed, rather) before it was even finished.

Despite having visited the castle twice, there is much more to see. I would especially recommend taking some time for longish walks in the area, because those would provide stunning views of the castle from different viewpoints – and the landscape itself is beautiful and makes for a perfect holiday destination, especially if you’re into hiking, biking or paragliding.

 

Building works on Herrenchiemsee – or more correctly, Herrenchiemsee New Palace – were begun in 1878 and, as with Neuschwanstein castle, never finished due to Ludwig II’s death in 1886. The palace is located on Herreninsel island within Lake Chiemsee and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and especially towards the Alps mountain range. Despite the rather large number of visitors I encountered, the island offers quiet and tranquility. You can walk through woods and fields, or take a trip on a horse-drawn carriage. I even saw several young deer when I was there. Due to the size of the island, visitors aren’t all lumped together all the time, except for the waiting areas for the boat transfers to the Fraueninsel island and the mainland.

Most remarkable about Herrenchiemsee palace is that it was planned as a copy of Versailles. I think that similarities in the garden’s layout are certainly there, but it would take a lot more to even come close to Versailles’ grandeur. Notwithstanding, Herrenchiemsee palace is striking, and in my eyes it gains most through its situation: If I had a chance to build myself a palace, I would definitely enjoy a location surrounded by woods and water.

 

Linderhof palace is perhaps the most extravagant of the three building projects, and shows Ludwig II’s eccentricity best: It sports a hermitage, grotto, Moorish kiosque and Morroccan House, as well as lavish interior design inside the palace. Linderhof is also the only building project that King Ludwig II saw completed. The palace grounds are situated within the Ammergebirge Nature Reserve, which makes for beautiful surroundings, and the palace was actually built on the site of an old hunting lodge. To be honest, though, I believe I would have preferred the unspectacular hunting lodge over the overwrought style of the new palace…

 

All three palaces are easily accessible from Munich, though not in one day. As they are each located in beautiful surroundings, I would recommend at least an overnight stay for each rather than just going for a short trip from Munich. Neuschwanstein is located close to the World Heritage Site Pilgrimage Church of Wies (or Wieskirche), which I’ll soon write about, as well.

 

I would like to thank the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen for granting me a photo permit for exterior photographs at the three palaces and for providing additional photos (see captions above for details).

Related Posts:

Würzburg Residence with Court Gardens and Residence Square

Built between 1719 and 1744, with the lavish interior finished by 1781, the Residence in Würzburg is a superb example of a Baroque palace. The team of artisans and artists from Germany, Austria, Italy and France surpassed themselves here and created a variation of the Baroque style called Würzburg Rococco.

The Residence in Würzburg is a breathtaking example of the Baroque style and was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981, together with the Court Gardens and the Residence Square. I couldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Baroque architecture or art, but I admire the craftsmanship and detail, nonetheless.

In my opinion, the style was taken a tad over the top here, but even if you don’t like the style or just consider it all a bit too much, the overall effect cannot be denied. Even I was left gobsmacked on entering the huge hall with the staircase – there is just so much to see that you can’t help stopping in your tracks and craning your neck while trying to take it all in. The ceiling and overall décor within the court church had much the same effect. I don’t think I have ever seen so much gold and marble in one and the same place.
The Bavarian Palace Department kindly provided me with the following two photographs to showcase the amazing interior:

 

Apart from the architectural design and built-in features, there are many artefacts to be viewed, chief among them paintings and intricate furniture, but also an indoor carousel for the children who lived in the residence. Curious to see were also the many rooms or even flights of rooms that were designed to follow a common theme. As we’re talking about a palace here, this wasn’t merely done through a little colour-coordinating for pillows and curtains, but basically everything in those rooms is matched, from colours over carved furniture to paintings, mosaics or murals and whatnot.

In all honesty, though, I have to say that I enjoyed the Court Gardens even more. This may, in part, be due to the fact that it was an absolute scorcher of a day when I visited. Luckily, there are many benches througout the gardens, so that you can stop and rest and just take in the views inbetween strolling around. Despite the Court Gardens having a rather artificial feeling to them (which is typical of the Baroque area), there are enough huge trees to make the layout bearable. Admission to the gardens is free, by the way.

 

Unfortunately, there is a disappointing aspect, as well: The large car park in Residence Square is quite an eyesore and rather blemishes the front view of the Residence. The Residence is a definite must-see, though, despite the flawed car-park situation.

 

I would like to thank the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen for granting me a photo permit for exterior photographs of the Residence and the Court Gardens and for providing two photos of the interior (see captions above for details).

Related Posts:

Bamberg

Bamberg is a splendid example of a central European city with a medieval centre. Located between Würzburg and Bayreuth in northern Bavaria, it offers well-maintained historical buildings, water in the form of the river Regnitz and countless nice places to stroll around, eat or drink.

When I visited Bamberg, I was extremely unlucky, weatherwise: It was raining cats and dogs and just wouldn’t stop. Not the best conditions for sightseeing or taking photos, so I will definitely have to undertake another visit at some stage.

I learned that Bamberg was a very important town in the medieval and early modern eras, due to its links to the Slav peoples and – with growing prosperity and massive building projects – its architectural influence on other central European countries. I definitely wouldn’t have expected this, before coming here – to my shame, I had somehow always thought of Bamberg as just another example of a medieval town. How wrong one can be!

The criteria for Bamberg being a World Heritage Site are as follows, according to the UNESCO WHS website:

‘The layout and architecture of medieval and baroque Bamberg exerted a strong influence on urban form and evolution in the lands of central Europe from the 11th century onwards.’

It continues to say that

‘Bamberg is an outstanding and representative example of an early medieval town in central Europe, both in its plan and its surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings.’

In the 18th century, Bamberg became a centre of the Enlightenment and was home to such famous figures as the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. I was in for another surprise, there.

The World Heritage area in Bamberg is distributed over three parts of the city: the Bergstadt (hill city), the Inselstadt (island city) and the Gärtnerstadt (market gardeners’ district). In addition to the architectural heritage, Bamberg houses three documents which are part of the world’s documentary heritage. Information on those can be found in the entrance hall of the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg (i.e. the state library).

 

Due to the never-ending downpour, I couldn’t leisurely stroll through the historic centre as planned, but very nearly jogged through it. Despite the lack of fun in that, the special atmosphere of the historic centre still shone through. I hope that the few photos I managed to take can actually convey what a pretty city Bamberg is.

Apart from the very well maintained historic buildings, Bamberg has a number of cafes and restaurants on offer, so it is possible to intersperse sightseeing with breaks. I imagine this to be especially nice on a sunny day, when you can actually sit outside. Another definite bonus in my eyes is the proximity of water in the form of the river Regnitz.

One thing annoyed me immensely, though: I cannot for the life of me fathom why city planners would situate huge, ugly parking lots in front of some of the most beautiful historic buildings. I know that space is hard to come by in cities, but surely there has to be another solution, rather than have all those cars blemish the views of the historic town centre?

 

Even though I couldn’t enjoy my trip to Bamberg as much as I had hoped due to the poor weather and the necessity of catching an early-ish train, I can say that it is well worth visiting.

 

I would like to thank the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen for granting me a photo permit for exterior photographs of the New Residence and the Old Court and for providing two photos of the New Residence (see captions above for details).

 

Related Posts:

Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne are yet another example of my stumbling onto World Heritage Sites completely unawares. Don’t let this poor habit of mine diminish their worth, though. The actual building is very beautiful and the surrounding gardens are a welcome spot for a break after sightseeing in Melbourne.

Located just north of the city centre, the exhibition building was built in just 18 months in 1879/80, in time to host the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Designed by architect Joseph Reed and built by David Mitchell, it is said to be based on various European buildings, such as the cathedral in Florence. The Exhibition Building went on to house several other exhibitions and major events, chief among them the centenary celebrations of 1888 and the opening of the first Parliament of Australia in 1901; but also several events during the 1956 Summer Olympics (I kid you not). The royal title, however, was not bestowed until 1984. Unfortunately, vast parts of the building were either demolished or lost to fire.

 

Nowadays, the remaining part of the building – the Great Hall –  is still used for commercial exhibitions and there was one in full swing when I visited. Sadly, I therefore do not have any decent photographies of the amazing interior. The exterior is also quite stunning, though, and reminds me of a cathedral much more than a building I’d envisage for commercial shows. This outlook is clearly different to that of the organisers of the famous international exhibitions, and UNESCO states the following as a criterion for the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne being a World Heritage Site:

“The Royal Exhibition Building and the surrounding Carlton Gardens, as the main extant survivors of a Palace of Industry and its setting, together reflect the global influence of the international exhibition movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement showcased technological innovation and change, which helped promote a rapid increase in industrialisation and international trade through the exchange of knowledge and ideas.” (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1131)

I am quite grateful for the people in charge to have built something so beautiful, and for the building to have survived. If you have a chance, you should visit the Royal Exhibition Building at a time when there isn’t a major event on, as that would make it much easier to visit and enjoy the inside.

 

In case you would like to enjoy another beautiful relic of times gone by, you should travel on the lovely retro tram No. 35 – it has two stops on the edge of Carlton Gardens and circles the city centre, making sightseeing a little easier on your feet. If that doesn’t convince you, yet, it is also free of charge.

 

Related Posts:

Zollverein Coal Mining Complex (Zeche Zollverein)

When I was growing up in a small, leafy municipality near the Dutch-German border, the German area known as the Ruhrgebiet was still the epitome of ugly. The snooty inhabitants of better-off areas left no doubt about the industrial Ruhrgebiet’s shortcomings, its ugliness and dirt, impoverished inhabitants, and a certain university taking first place in students’ suicide statistics. Getting older, however, I heard more and more differing voices. It seemed that the inhabitants of the Ruhrgebiet actually took pride in their working class background, its rough charms  and underdog status. This is a little simplified, naturally, as the Ruhrgebiet isn’t a small area (4.435 square kilometers with 5.1 million inhabitants, according to Wikipedia) and the landscape, people and traditions do vary. On the whole, this label of a rough, but ultimately warm-hearted place and people still sticks, though.

What a lot of people, including myself, have not or have only slowly realised, is the fact that the “ugly duckling” has started transforming itself. Nowadays, there are many huge, green areas throughout the Ruhrgebiet, offering lovely local recreation areas, which twenty-odd years ago nobody would have expected to remain alive and green in this part of the country.

The coal mining complex known as Zeche Zollverein, located in the city of Essen, is a good example of such re-purposing. Zeche Zollverein was active between 1851 and 1986, oftentimes the most productive German coal mine per annum and generally offering up millions of tonnes of coal each year, and employing up to a thousand workers. Although the buildings and remaining machinery naturally look industrial – how could they appear any different? – the surrounding area at Zeche Zollverein is… green.

 

I was dumbstruck on finding out that the former mining complex now offers a recreational area for people living in the vicinity, who go there for walks or cycling. I can’t even say how many parents I saw pushing their prams or walking toddlers and dogs, something I wouldn’t have expected at the site of a huge former industrial complex. There even is a small swimming pool, which I already wrote about. Dotted throughout the site, you will also find sculptures and other arty installations. You can enter the grounds (and pool!)  free of charge, making the site even more accessible to locals; if you want to visit exhibitions or take guided tours, there are fees to be paid, however.

When I visited, I participated in a guided tour of the coking plant, which was extremely interesting, and also highlighted the dangers faced by the workers, even in modern times. I then visited the Ruhr Museum, which showcases not only the cultural and industrial, but also the natural history of the Ruhrgebiet. The museum is situated within the former coal washing plant, providing a fascinating backdrop to the exhibits. People interested in product design are bound to love the Red Dot Design Museum. In winter, you’ll find an ice rink in the old coking plant and stalls with all sorts of christmassy food. In case you get tired of walking, there is a bike hire station on site and a shuttle bus service is also provided.

 

In sum, I have to say that I will need to visit again: Spending a day or a couple of hours will give you a good first overview over the heritage of the coal mining industry. The whole of the former coal mining complex, however, is so huge and offers so many facilities, exhibitions and guided walks, that one day just didn’t suffice.  To me, the site is especially fascinating through its mix of industry and nature and art – and even food, by way of several restaurants. The former industrial site has been thoroughly incorporated into modern life, blending the past and the present and allowing for the history to be experienced and touched, not just looked upon. What more can you ask of a heritage site?

 

 

Related Posts:

Taking a Dip in a Colliery

The swimming pool at Zeche Zollverein in Essen just has to be the craziest pool I have ever visited – if there is one place I wouldn’t expect a pool, it has to be a colliery.

Zeche Zollverein (or Zollverein Colliery, as it is also known in English), is a World Heritage Site that depicts the tough working conditions which could be found in collieries throughout the Ruhrgebiet (or collieries anywhere else, come to think of it). And smack in the middle of the former coking plant, there sits a small swimming pool. To keep in line with the industrial heritage, it has been fashioned from disused freight containers, but it seems a little out of place, nonetheless.

 

The pool was created by Dirk Paschke und Daniel Milohnic in 2001, and has since become something of a fixture, being open to the public every summer, free of charge.

There is a lifeguard on duty, and when I visited the pool was crowded with local kids – they obviously enjoyed the pool and I think it is a marvellous idea to combine a heritage site with everyday life. After all, heritage sites and historic monuments have become just that because of the impact they had on peoples’ lives – so why not fuse old and new?

If you happen to be visiting the area in summer, take your bathers along and take a dip at this fancy pool!

Do you know of any other World Heritage Sites that happen to have their own pool?

 

Please note that this blog post was first published on my previous blog ‘Inside Chrissie’s Mind’ on November 12th, 2015.

Related Posts: