GreatPhotos: Blog en-us (C) GreatPhotos (GreatPhotos) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:42:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:42:00 GMT GreatPhotos: Blog 120 120 Auschwitz and Auschwitz Birkenau, Nazi concentration and extermination camp We visited Poland in the summer of 2013. After having arrived from Lithuania we first spend some days in Warsaw. In Warsaw we saw the completely rebuild city center after being bombed to pieces during WWII. From Warsaw we went south towards Krakow. Of course we enjoyed this wonderful very well preserved city with al its hotspots. 

In preparation of visiting Auschwitz, which is about an hour drive from Krakow we spend half a day in the museum of Schindler. Yes, this is the Oskar Schindler from the movie Schindlers List. The factory in Krakow still exist and can be seen in the movie and of course in real life in Krakow. Nowadays it is a museum on the Nazi occupation of Krakow. Here we saw what the nazi's did after having conquered Poland. Slightly but surely they brought there horror to the inhabitants of the Jewish getto. After having seen this we went to Auschwitz the next day.

It is located in the small town of Oswięcim, or Auschwitz in German. Many towns here have a Polish and a German name eg Krakow and Krakau.

Before we left for Poland we didn't realize that Auschwitz is not one concentration camp but actually two. Many will know the entrance gate with the words 'Arbeit macht Frei' or maybe the gatehouse through which the train enters the camp. These are two different sites.

Having read our guidebook it said that visiting the old camp is only allowed by guided tour, unless you would arrive very early. We decided to arrive very early and do Auschwitz without a guide. The site would show itself ....

First we went to the 'old' camp. This is the camp named Auschwitz, which in fact are former army barracks. Here you will find the 'Arbeit mach Frei' sign above the entrance. Of course everywhere is the barbed wire around the camp, but I never realized upfront that Auschwitz would consist of stone buildings. So at first glance it didn't give such a very horrible impression. This changed radically after having entered some of the barracks. Some filled with suitcases, some with human hair an other one is full of shoes. Pictures everywhere. Being from Dutch origin we spend some more time in the barrack dedicated to the Dutch victims. 

In het old Auschwitz we saw cells, execution sites, a swimming pool (in fact a water supply) and of course the (experimental) gas chambers with the cremation ovens. All in all we were very glad having been here among the first visitors of that day and not being part of a guided tour and stumble upon tourists.

After Auschwitz we took the car for just a few kilometers to visit Auschwitz Birkenau. This is the big camp were extermination was done at an industrial scale. This is the camp with the entrance gate for the trains. Upon exiting the trains some of the prisoners were send directly to the gas chambers, some stayed longer in the camps. The camp itself consist of many many rows of wooden barracks. No luxury here at all, here you will find the horrors of a death camp. Further away form the entrance you will find the remains of the gas chambers. Together with the cremation ovens they were demolished by the Nazi's at the end of WWII. But the scale of the remains of the building shows the scale of the horrors here. There were several of these buildings. 

In vicinity of the remains of the gas chambers you can find the monument. Here you will find signs in many languages. The text is something like 'let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, about 1,5 million people where murdered here'.

When we drove back to Krakow not one of us spoke. A Nazi concentration camp, a world heritage site. At first it may seem to be strange. But bearing in mind this remembrance I fully understand it an totally support it.

This month (January 2015) it will be 70 years ago since Auschwitz was liberated. Many celebreties will attend the moment, among them our King and I happily support it.

Any sales from photos of Auschwitz will be send to the Cancer Society in Holland.

]]> (GreatPhotos) 1940-1945 Auschwitz Auschwitz Birkenau Birkenau Concentratiekamp Oswiecim Patrimonio de la Humanidad Poland Polen Pologne Polska Unesco WWII Welterbe Werelderfgoed World Heritage World War II camp concentration extermination kamp lager Mon, 12 Jan 2015 11:39:08 GMT
Belfries of Belgium and France Belfries of Belgium and France

The belfries (belfry or belfort) are towers within the city centre of nearly all towns in Belgium and in the North West of France.  Unesco placed 55 of them on the world heritage list in 1999 (with an extension in 2005). In countries like England, Germany, France, Italy or Spain you will mostly find or donjon's of church towers as the highest building in the village.  The donjon's would represent the power of the landlord, the nobility and the church tower would symbolise the power of the church. Not the Belfort, they represent the power of the aldermen. The more power, the more money the greater the belfry in the town.

So you will find a lot of different building styles and sizes among these belfries. They were build from the 11th until the 17th century. The towers have been used as a watch tower (as being the highest building) for spotting a potential enemy at the gates or to watch over the town to spot possible fires.  These towers were always in the centre and are quite often combined with the town hall. The most important papers of the towns were kept in the belfries. The site should be considered as one although spread over two countries, the locations are quite close and this part of France has been under Dutch influence, many towns still have separate names in Dutch (eg Arras=Atrecht,  Gravelines=Grevelingen, Dunkerque=Duinkerken, Lille=Rijssel or Douai=Dowaai).

On the website you will find photos of all the listed locations of the belfries both in France (23) and in Belgium (32). You will find belfries which our authentic like eg the one in Amiens France or belfries which have been completely rebuild eg Ypres in Belgium. The Belfort of Ypres was destroyed in WW1 and has been meticulously rebuild and houses the great in Flanders Field Museum (

Some of the Belfries are rather small like eg Lucheux in France others are large, like eg the 97 meter high belfort of the wonderful town of Mechelen in Belgium. Quite a few are in combination with the city hall like eg Antwerp and others are even the tower of the church eg like the cathedral of Antwerp.  Some of the belfries are really old like Namen in Belgium or Boulogne, while other look like new eg the belfort of Lille. Most of the belfries are one off towers eg like the masterpiece in Douai in France whilst other were inspiration for another building like eg the belfort of Calais which was an inspiration for the architects of the Peace Palace (the International Court of Justice) in The Hague in the Netherlands (

Sometimes it is hard to find to tower of the world heritage site as sometimes there is more then one tower down town eg Roeselare or St Truiden in Belgium or eg Dunkerque, but the Dunkerque has two towers on the list. 

Some of the belfries are open for visitors and you can climb all the way up to enjoy the view, like in the 83 meter high Belfort in Brugge (a world heritage site, Many belfort still play an important role in the local community and some are the centerpiece of major events like eg the belfort of Oudenaarde in Belgium which is the start of the cycling classic Tours of Flanders (Vlaanderen's Mooiste) (

And there is one belfort which is a part of this world heritage site, the town hall of Brussels in Belgium. But then the Grand Place in Brussels is a world heritage site on its own, so this is also listed ( One might argue that one other belfort should be on the list and this is the belfort of the town of Sluis in the Netherlands. Sluis is very close the Belgium border and this very ( fine example of a belfort could be listed as well 

This is overall an world heritage site that might easily be overlooked but it is a site that really represents the area of Flanders and the north west of France.  On this website you will find photos of all the locations. As this website is organized by country you will logically find the French Belfries listed in France in the ones in Flanders in Belgium. 


]]> (GreatPhotos) amiens antwerp arras belfries of belgium and france belgium boulogne bruges brugge calais douai dunkerque flanders france grand place ieper lucheux mechelen oudenaarde roeselare ypres Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:00:35 GMT
Cemeteries and World Heritage in Europe, Skogskyrkogarden Cemeteries and World Heritage in Europe

Many cemeteries in Europe can be found within the borders of a World Heritage Site. There is only one cemetery which is a World Heritage Site on its own. That one can be found in Stockholm in Sweden. The name is Skogskyrkogården, or the Woodland Cemetery in English. The cemetery came from an international competition in 1915 for the design of a new cemetery in the south of Stockholm. The contest was won by two Swedes, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerenz. 

The architects used the landscape in order to create an extraordinary environment of tranquil beauty that had a profound influence on cemetery design throughout the world.

Besides a cemetery the grounds also house a crematorium with three chapels, Faith, Hope and The Holy Cross. In one of the pavilions the visitor can find an exhibition on Skogskyrkogården and World Heritage. 

Whenever you are in Stockholm this is wonderful excursion of the beaten track. It is easily to reach by Metro, the T-bana 18 and it has its one stop. Upon entering the grounds you will pass a wall of tears, a part of the wall has a small waterfall flooding along it. Visitor can walk the ground and enter the pavilions (provided no services at the moment) and see swedish design in its early years. The largest can be entered under a large roof supported by pillars and a wonderful bronze statue of an ascension. A lot of bended wood has been used together with large frescoes. The columbarium its besides the chapels and in the landscapes there are several other chapels. Some remote, some with large leading lanes to them. The most famous Swede the be buried here is Greta Garbo, she has a peaceful place in the woodlands.

Besides Skogskyrkogården one can find many cemeteries as part of a World Heritage Site. Just to name a few, the Josefov Jewish Cemetery in Prague (, the Bronze Age Burial Site of Sammallahdenmäki in Finland (, the Antakalnis cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania (, the royal tombs in Marrakesh (


]]> (GreatPhotos) altakalnis cemeteries cemetery finland josefov marrakesh praag prague saadien tombs sammallahdenmaki skogskyrkogården suomi sverige sweden vilnius world heritage Sat, 01 Nov 2014 12:28:14 GMT
Roland Statue and Knight of Charlemagne Roland Statue

In the German city of Bremen one can find the Roland Statue. A knight in Armour in front of the city hall. The combination of these two make up the World Heritage Site Bremen, City Hall and Roland Statue.

In this short blog I would like to take a closer look at Roland.  Statues of a knight were often found in cities all over Germany. Only a few remain. These statues were a symbol of the freedom of the citizens in the town. The one best known in the huge statue in Bremen. Another one as part of a world heritage site can be found in the city of Quedlinburg ( This one is much smaller and was lost for a long time, recovered in the town square and placed against the city hall. Another example of a Roland Statue can be found in Riga, the capital of Latvia.  Latvia has been under German (Teutonic) influence for a long time. The statue in front of the House of the Blackheads is a copy, the original is in St Peter's Church. (

But who was Roland. Roland was the best knight of Charlemagne (Charles the Great) and he can be found on other World Heritage Sites as well. This has to do with the spanish campaign of Charlemagne.  Roland fought a legendary battle near the small town of  Najera in the Rioja in Spain.  The army of Roland came across the moors and he was challenged to fight to morish leader. A giant named Ferragut. The fought for two days and two nights when the giants falls over Roland. Roland then realizes the weak spot in the belly of Ferragut and staps him with his dagger and Ferragut dies.  The moors leave Najera and this story added to the fame of Roland (

Roland sadly died in the battle of Roncevalles. The place were Charlemagne left Spain. Roland was part of the rearguard protecting the back of the army. He was attacked by forces from the local Basks (although the legend said he was overwhelmed by an army of hundred of thousands of saracens). When he and two other were the last men standing he finally blew his horn Oliphant to warn Charlemagne. But help came to late and Roland was killed on the Roncevalles Pass. ( When he was found dead he still held his unbreakable sword Durendal and his horn Oliphant.

The tale of his death has been retold in the epic eleventh century poem the song of roland. 

Both Najera and Roncevalles are on the Routes of Santiago de Compostela. The very same holy pelgrimage route to the grave of Santiago that Charlemagne wanted to defend from the moors. The Routes of Santiago de Compostela is a world heritage site. I have walked the entire way and photos can be found at

The horn Oliphant has been kept for many many years in the city of Bordeaux in France in the Basilique Saint Seurin. During the French Revolution the horn disappeared and was never found again. This basilique is part of two world heritage sites. The Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France and of Bordeaux, port of the moon ( . In France you can find four routes leading to the pyrenees. This basilique was located on the Via Turonensis (the route along Tours). Copper signs in the pavement are a reminder to Roland (

His Sword Durendal is said to have survived and is kept in the pelgrimage site of Rocamadour in France. This sanctuary for the blessed Virgin Mary is spectacularly located in a gorge about 160 km north of Toulouse. Rocamadour is also part of the World Heritage Site of The Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France on the Via Podiensis. This is the route that has Le Puy as the starting point. His sword is said to be placed in the rock just besides the chapel. (


]]> (GreatPhotos) Bordeaux Bremen Charlemagne Compostela Deutschland Espana Ferragut France Germany Latvia Najera Quedlinburg Riga Rocamadour Santiago Spain heritage world Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:29:25 GMT
Poblet Monastery I visited this Monastery in february 2014. After having spend the early morning in Tarragona ( I took the rental car and went to Poblet which is only a short drive.

Officialy it is called the Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet. It is called Royal because of the many many kings of Aragon that have been buried here in the church over the past. These tombs are quite peculiar as you can walk under them, they are a kind of bridge were you enter the altar of the church.  All of them are sculptured fine and are works of art. The crucifix in front of the altar is a small and modern bronze one which is remarkable well placed in this Cistercian Monastery. The work of building the monastery started around 1150 and sadly enough Poblet has had damage due to fires and plunderings one several occasions. 

Visiting the Monastery is only by guided tour I had the luck that I was on the first tour that day and it was at the start still rather quiet. The cloister one of the most beautiful I have seen in Spain and you can have a stroll in or above the cloister.  Especially the fountain is worth to take a closer look at.

The Monastery is a whole complex of buildings and the outer ring makes it feel like a castle. Large stone walls, entrance towers, space outside the walls, defenses. If you wouldn't know you would expect a large castle here.

The inside is not overwhelmingly rich as you might expect in a Royal place. But this a cistercian location. The cistercians followed up the benedictines. These benedictines had rules to live by, but this order grew richer and richer over the years and it could feel like preaching water but drinking wine.  So the cistercian order was established to live by the simple rules again instead of lavishly live in luxury. 

The serenity and simplicity inside is striking and I can really imagine that living here does not distract a monk from his believe and his work as monk. Just have a look at the photos of the eating room were the monks will have there meals in silence. 

The complex is surrounded by vineyards and the location of the monastery is well chosen. This is about a day trip from Barcelona and well worth a visit.



]]> (GreatPhotos) catalonia cistercian cloister monastery poblet poblet monastery spain Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:24:15 GMT
Historic Centre of Krakow The Historic Centre of Krakow

I spend several days in Krakow in the summer of 2013. This wonderful city with some remarkable monuments. 

On a hill towering the city you will find Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral. Consider several hours to visit the several sites here. The history of this hill is deeply intertwined with Polish history. It was the seat of the monarchy and a centre of christianity. A dark moment was during WW2 when German headquarters was set up in this castle. 

In the cathedral you will find many tombs of Royals and the most elaborate chapels. You can also climb the tower which gives a wonderful view (behind bars) over Krakow.

From here you can see the jewish district Kazimierz, which was the place of many atrocities during WW2. On the other side of the river I have visited the former factory of Oskar Schindlers (form the movie Schindler's List). You can really get an idea here how live was in Krakow in the 1940'. We visited first this museum and a day later we went to Auschwitz. It was a good thing to do the visits in this order.

Pride of the town in Saint Mary's Church on the market square. Especially the interior and above all the blue ceiling is not to be missed. The cloth hall is a wonderful market hall on the square from where you should make some small tours walking through this wonderful city. Don't miss the theatre, the city gate and take extra time to visit the Jagiellonian University and the statue of Copernicus. 

Also do remember that this was the seat of the cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the later pope John Paul II. You will find his portrait everywhere around town.

Our hotel had some bikes for rent and we took the bikes to explore the city. Which is an easy and good way to visit Krakow. 

In the area around Krakow you will find many other world heritage sites. The must see Auschwitz former concentration camp, the Wieliczka and Bochnia Saltmines, the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and the wooden churches and Tserkvas churches.  Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland2013_Krakow_0363Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland

]]> (GreatPhotos) Copernicus Factory Jagiellonian University Oskar Schindler Poland Polska St Mary Church Wawel Castle World Heritage Site krakau krakow Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:29:57 GMT
Camino de Santiago Camino de Santiago

I have walked the Camino de Santiago this summer. Starting in France in the little village of Saint Jean Pied de Port I walked the 800km pelgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the North West of Spain. 

Walking the Camino was one of the greatest things I have ever done. Of course you will encounter the physical part with fatigue and blisters. On the other end if you are open to receive you can get so much out of the Camino. The comradeship amongst the pelgrims, the numerous donativos of the local Spanish people, the cultural heritage which is everywhere, the feeling of fitness and peace.

I started in the worst weather since many many years and on the wrong site of the Pyrenees. The first stage was 20km up and then 12km down. I have seen the bull running in Pamplona during the San Fermin festivities, I saw the last of the festivities in Santiago the Compostela after the 25th of July. Walking through the Rioja was great. I have seen some of most beautiful landscapes here I have ever seen. The little towns you encounter are wonderful, villages like  Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Belorado to name a few. The towns of Burgos and Leon are great. I would have love to stopped here for a day but I didn't had enough time. A great point in the camino is the Cruz del Ferro, the idea is that you take a stone with you from home and this stone represents your troubles. Pelgrims leave this stone - and their troubles - at the Cruz del Ferro. The moments you spend on the Cruz del Ferro are moments that you will never forget.

During the Camino you can sleep in Albergues or Refugio's. Upon showing your Credencial (a card that should be stamped so you will receive your Compostela in Santiago) will give you access. Most of these have bunk beds and shared rooms from 4 till about 30 people. Some are quite old some are brand new. Some even have a swimming pool. Prices range from Donativo (you are welcome to give something) to about 10 euro for the night. Most Albergues don't do breakfast or dinner, so you will have to look for a bar after having started to have some breakfast. On some days I have walked 15km before I had breakfast. This also had to do with a very early daily start. In order to prevent walking in the heat of the afternoon, I left the Albergues not later then 06.00. Dinner is provided in restaurants in every village, mostly you will have to pay about 10 euro for a 3 course Menu del Dia with a bottle of local wine/water included.

After a days walk (mostly about 30km) and after arriving in an Albergue you will start with washing and drying your clothes, take a shower, take care of your feet, rest a bit, update a blog, do some shopping for breakfast and have some fruit for the next day and have a little stroll and sightseeing around the town. 

Life was simple along the Camino. All you have with you is your backpack and your clothes. I have never made a reservation so it was always the question where you would sleep. On the Internet you can find a lot of warnings about the Camino being crowded and changes that Albergues are full. I never had any problem with this. On one occasion only I had an Albergue that was full. Luckely this was in a town and the next Albergues wasn't far away.

I was one of the very few who carried a DSLR camera. Normally you pack as light as possible and a DSLR with two lenses (no tripod) is not as light as possible.  My backpack was about 14kg, a general advise is not to exceed 10kg. As a photographer I would normally choose my time of day to make a photo. That was quite something different on the camino. I started very early every day (often in the dark) and you pass these wonderful places at all hours of the day. I didn't stop to wait for better light. So you might find photos with blown out skies or on a high ISO number. 

My photos are ordered along the way like the Codex Calixtines. This is the oldest travel guide in the world and describes for pelgrims the Way to Santiago. Please feel free to browse through these folders.


]]> (GreatPhotos) Santiago de Compostela camino camino de Santiago espana spain world heritage Mon, 25 Aug 2014 09:41:44 GMT
Historic Centre of Vilnius in Lithuania The Historic Centre of Vilnius in Lithuania

We visited this wonderful town in the summer of 2013 and we stayed in a self catering accommodation right in the middle of the town (maybe 300 mtrs from the Cathedral).  This is town flooded with (recent) history.

You can see the old castle, of which only a wall and a tower remain, which will give you excellent views over the old city. Down from the Castle you will find the Cathedral with the tile in front where the human chain from Vilnius to Riga to Tallinn started back in 1991 (when the world looked at the first war in Iraq!) as an opposition against the sovjet union. Victims of the uprising in januari 1991 are buried in the Antakalnis cemetery. You can find this just outside the city centre.

When taking the walk form the Cathedral to the south you will pass  the wonderful buildings of the University, do visit these square / buildings and churches. If you walk on you will find the Gate of Dawn. The Chapel in the Gate of Dawn contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers.  For centuries the picture has been one of the symbols of the city and an object of veneration for both Roman Catholic and Orthodox  inhabitants.  You could end up finding pilgrims on their knees in the streets here.

Not far from here you can find the old bastion. A part of the old city wall which has been restored very fine. From here it is a small walk to Uzupis, an area of the town with it own constitution, laws, flags, currency etc. When passing a small bridge you will enter Uzupis. I was there early one morning and I didn't notice anything of the special atmosphere that should have been here. I read the constitution, written on plates on a wall and went on to the three crosses, another viewing point over the old city.

Just outside the centre there is a wonderful must see baroq church. The St Peter and St Paul Church. The richness of the baroque interior here is overwhelming and one of a kind. 

The atmosphere in the town in very friendly, with a warm hospitality. As our knowledge of Lithuanian has room for improvement the language can be a bit of a problem, not many people speak English / French / German / Italian / Spanish or Dutch. 

Not far from Vilnius in the direction of Minsk you can find a measuring point of the World Heritage Site Struve Geodetic Arc.  You can find another Struve point in Lithuania north of Vilnius, not too far from Kernave (another WHS). 

When we left Vilnius heading for Warschau we passed the castle of Trakai and Druskininkai, a small town with an open air museum with statues from the Sovjet era.

]]> (GreatPhotos) Antakalnis Baltic Cathedral Gate of Dawn Historic Centre of Vilnius Kernave Lithuania Litouwen St Peter and St Paul Church Struve Three Crosses Uzupis World Heritage Mon, 30 Jun 2014 10:42:06 GMT
Elvas, the fortress on the Spanish border in Portugal Elvas is a small town and a fortress in the south of Portugal on the Spanish border.  

When I visited Elvas I arrived from Caceres (another World Heritage)  in Spain driving to Elvas.  The difference couldn't be larger. In Caceres the site was hard to find in the maze of small streets in dowtown. No signing to be found anywhere. Mind you Caceres will be Cultural Capital of Europe in 2016, they have a long way to go.

When arriving in Elvas you can't miss this town being a World Heritage Site. On the first round abound you will find the Unesco logo with an abundance of flowers. Elvas became a World heritage in 2013 and they are certainly proud of it.  The site consist of 4 great elements, first the old Aquaduct, the walled town of Elvas on a Hill and two fortresses on the hills north and south of Elvas. 

I first visited the fortress on the south, The Forte the Santa Luzia. This fortress is now a museum and is carefully restored. You can find showcase dolls dressed in military uniforms on the walls and near the guns. The views over the old town are great and it is easy to understand why the build the fortresses in this place.

The next place I visited was the aquaduct. This seems quite vulnerable to me if there would not be a separate well in the town. The aquaduct is long,  high and very well preserved.  The old town is a maze with small streets leading up to the top and the castle. Hardly any parking restrictions (sad), so you will see cars everywhere in the small streets. For me a took away a bit of the magic of the white and yellow streets. The views again are breathtakingly beautiful.

The last part I visited was the last part of the site, The Forte the Nossa Señora de Graca. The road towards the fortress is not signposted at all. The rusted military signs warning you to keep out are still there and this gives a spooky feel to the biggest of the fortresses. This fortress  is in decay and you are warned not to enter!.  The inside is really magical. The military parts are great but there is a real building in the centre with wallpaintings and views, receptions rooms, halls etc. The views from this fortress are the best. 

When visiting Elvas do go up the small road to this fortress, take very much care in where you walk and enjoy the grandness of one of the most beautifully fortresses of the 18th century.









]]> (GreatPhotos) Aquaduct Elvas aqueduct border caceres fortifications fortress garrison border town portugal world heritage Thu, 26 Jun 2014 08:41:54 GMT
The Old Church of Petäjävesi in Finland The Old Church of Petäjävesi in the heart of Finland is a remarkable World Heritage Site.

I have visited this church in the summer of 2013 on a trip through Finland. It is located in the heart of Finland some 300 km north of Helsinki and some 30 km west of Jyväskylä.  This town is well known for the architectural works of Alvar Aalto (who's famous Paimio Sanatorium near Turku is on the Tentative List of Unesco). 

The church of Petäjävesi is located just west of the town near one of the many many Finnish lakes. The parking lot is several hundred of meters from the church so you will get unspoiled views of the church. The church is relatively small but very charming and has its own approach from the lakeside.

It is beautiful to see the old woodwork both on the outside and the inside of the church. The belltower was added later on, which can be clearly seen as it is really separated from the church.  The woodwork on the inside is unfinished wood, remarkable that this will survive in the Finnish climate. The best part of the church for me are the angels on the pulpit. They look very simple but very real and are really something else compared the artwork in the great cathedrals of Europe. You can buy copies of these angels in the small boutique in the corridor.

As the only visitor at that time I was granted access to the top of the church and could see the church from the balcony. The woodwork is crooked and slanting, it is tiny and small and it gives you a wonderful view of the low-key beauty of this intimate old church.  The church dates back to 1763 and is on the Unesco list since 1994. It makes a great comparison to the wooden churches and Tserkvas in southern Poland. 

When in the region another World Heritage Site is not too far away. One of the measuring points of the Struve Geodetic Arc is located in Oravivuori,  near Korpilahti, it is signposted on the E63. The point is on the top of a hill and after climbing the tower you will receive an astonishing view over the Finnish lakes. 






]]> (GreatPhotos) Finland Geodetic Arc Petajavesi Petäjävesi Struve Suomi The old church of Petäjävesi angels church world heritage Tue, 17 Jun 2014 10:03:59 GMT
Stromboli, a vulcano and one of the Aeolian Islands Stromboli is a small island, a vulcano and part of the Aeolian Islands.

Stromboli is located just north of Sicily in the mediterrean sea not far from the vulcano Etna (another World Heritage Site). You can't take your car with you to the islands, you will have to leave your (rental) car in the dedicated parking spaces in the port of Milazzo.  Boats run frequently to the islands and the longest trip will take you to the island of Stromboli.  Stromboli is also a working vulcano with regular eruptions every 20 minutes.

Upon landing on Stromboli you will find the 3-wheeled scooters which are the only form of motorized transport on the island. We had a reservation for one the hotels on the island and we took a taxi/scooter to the hotel.  I had also booked a trip to the top of Stromboli for the same evening. 

After having bought some extra water and energetic candy bars for the evening trip I went up to the office of Magmatrek, they organize the guided trips to the top. With a guide and a group of about 30 we went up the slope, from sea level to 900 meters high! It is advised to make advance reservations and to only join the trip if you are fit enough. Indeed some of the group couldn't cope with the effort and they had to go back.

The climb is very steep and heavy but the views and the experience are really breathtaking. Just before we reached the top we received some extra information from our guide how to cope with the volcanic eruptions and what to do if the eruption would be more than the standard (safe) eruption. We reached the top in full darkness and it got colder and colder, so it is advised to take some extra clothes with you. 

The view over the vulcano is super, you will reach a height of about 900 meters and the vulcano crater is at approximately 700 meter, so you are looking down into the crater.  To see a vulcano eruption from so close is breathtaking and it really forces respect to nature. The regular eruptions can be watched closely and I would say it will go to about 800 meters. You can really appreciate the red/yellow eruptions and hear the wooosh sound and explosions in the full darkness of the night.  After having seen two/three eruptions we had to go down another slope back to the small village. We took a less steeper decent through loose lava, I was glad to bring a light with me.

Having seen a working vulcano from so close is something that still impresses me. 

Another possibility to see the vulcano is by boat and watch the eruption from the see.  Of course this is much less of an effort but the views are also much less as the crater can't be seen from the see.

The other day on our way back to Milazzo we also visited the island of Vulcano, took a sulfur mud bath and climbed to the top of Vulcano, another (non active) vulcano in the area, with great views over the Aeolian Islands.




]]> (GreatPhotos) Aeolian Islands Etna Italy Sicily Stromboli Vulcano World Heritage climb eruption island Tue, 10 Jun 2014 11:26:30 GMT
The city of Luxembourg, the fortress from many years ago The city of Luxembourg and its fortress from many years ago.

We visited the city of Luxembourg and its World Heritage Site in the spring of 2014. Remarkable in the city is that the oldest part of the city is not in the current city. I am referring to the Bock (Rocher du Bock and the Casemates).

This part of Luxembourg which looks like a ramp to enter the city is the oldest part. This Rock - the Rocher du Bock - is a rocky cliff surrounded by the river Alzette on three sides and on the fourth site a bridge was built towards the city.

The rock is hollow and the fortifications date back to the year 963. You will not see any remains of a castle, the fortifications are underground and openings were made on all sites to defend the positions. On the top of the rock you will only find a road leading over the castle bridge and some minor remains of walls.

Many years later these fortifications were extended to one of the most extensive fortresses in Europe. These are very clearly visible at the Fort Thüngen across the valley. The valley with the river was designed to operate like a water front. During a siege a dam could be made in the river so the river level around the rock would rise and rise. In the (Grund) valley you can find a house which indicates water levels far above 2mtrs above normal. 

After a siege in 1684 the old castle was flattened and the fortifications build around Luxembourg where designed by the French engineer Vauban. In France you can find the World Heritage Site fortifications of Vauban, with sites around France of the fortifications designed by Vauban. I would suggest that the fortifications of Vauban around the city of Luxembourg would make a great addition to this world heritage site. Not far from Luxembourg you can find the town of Longwy on the French Border, Longwy (upper town) is part of the Fortifications of Vauban site. 

During the time of Vauban the current castle bridge (Pont du Chateau) was build. This two story bridge with a relatively short span is a remarkable one as it has several passages to the other site, which makes it much harder to defend. There is the underground passage, the mid level passage, a spiral staircase and the top crossing (the current road). The fortifications of Luxembourg were among the strongest in Europe and Luxembourg was nicknamed 'the Gibraltar of the North'.  The fortifications were demolished under the terms of the treaty of London in 1867. The demolition took 16 years!

When in Luxembourg take a close look at this oldest part of the town. Not knowing it you will just pass over it by your car.





]]> (GreatPhotos) Bock Castle Bridge City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications Fortifications of Vauban Fortress Grund Luxembourg Luxemburg Pont du Chateau Rocher du Bock Vauban World Heritage Wed, 28 May 2014 13:03:52 GMT
The Cathedral in Roskilde, Denmark The Cathedral in Roskilde in Denmark is a highlight in the Gothic Brick Architecture.

We visited Roskilde during our stay in Copenhagen. Roskilde can be easily reached by train from Copenhagen and the Cathedral is only a short walk from the railway station in Roskilde. The cathedral is part of the Lutheran Church of Denmark and is located in Roskilde, 30 km west of Copenhagen on the island of Zealand.

The cathedral is unique in some ways. First of all it is made of brick. Most cathedral you will come across in the world are made of stone, the easily recognizable brickwork of Roskilde is copied all over the region and can be seen in many building in the Hanseatic league cities along the baltic.

Roskilde Cathedral is also the place where the Danish royalty are buried since the 15th century. It has been extended and adapted over the ages and you will  find many many burial chapels and graves in the cathedral. Some are serene in stonewash white (Frederick V chapel) others are far more opulent, like the Christian IV chapel.  One of the oldest is of Queen Margrethe of Denmark of 1412, she was laid to rest in a wonderful stone sarcophagus, (just behind the high altar).

The nave of the cathedral is beautiful and looking up give you a view of the wonderful ceiling. At the hour you will be able to see the carillon moving and ringing the bell,  near the front entrance. Do go upstairs and have a look down. Allow at least 2 hours to really appreciate this building and use the great guide books that are for sale at the reception desk. 

Outside the cathedral you will find the newly made burial chapel for Frederick IX. This newly made chapel dates from 1985.

The world heritage site also includes the bishop's house. It is on the back of the cathedral and provides a great view of this Gothic Brick masterpiece. Roskilde Cathedral makes a great afternoon out from Copenhagen and is a World Heritage Site since 1995.


]]> (GreatPhotos) Cathedral Copenhagen Denmark Frederick V Chapel Monarch Queen Margrethe Roskilde Roskilde Cathedral World Heritage chapel royal Fri, 23 May 2014 09:25:21 GMT
Malta, the city of Valetta The city of Valetta in Malta, a gem in the mediterranean. 

The city of Valetta with its harbor is a real gem in Malta. We had the best entrance you could imagine. During our combined holiday of Sicily and Malta, we left our rental car in Syracuse (Sicily), took a bus to Pozallo in the south and then we took the boat to Valetta. This harbor front with all its defenses surely can be seen from the land, but the best view possible is from the sea!

The Island always had a strategic important position in the mediterranean.  Once the crusaders, the knight of St John took refuge at Malta and build the major part of the defense works. Also in WWII it was an important island for the English and it suffered heavily. Valetta, as a city, was awarded, the St. Georges Cross (to be seen at Fort Saint Elmo). 

The city is full of interesting buildings and sites. First of all the defense works with Fort Saint Elmo. It houses one of the richest churches I have ever encountered, St John Co-Cathedral.  The exterior isn't too special, but the interior is extraordinary luxurious, gold and paintwork everywhere. This is a must see site here. Some of the other great churches are St. Paul's Pro Cathedral (full of English military stuff) and the Collegiate Parish Church St Paul's Shipwreck. Remember that the apostle Paul took a boat from Jeruzalem and sailed the mediterranean and shipwrecked on Malta.

The Grandmaster's Palace is another gem. With its long halls full of beautifully painted walls and ceiling, the staterooms an extensive armory and the guards at the front of the Palace.  Close by is the antique library which is a cool (literally) place in town. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed here at all. 

Another highland is the Opera Building, the Manoel Theatre. It shows some old costumes and you can stroll along this classical theatre, take a look from the podium and from the topseats. 

The Casa Rocca Piccola gives an insight of the house of the rich of Malta and also very special it give you the opportunity to walk around the ancient water storage rooms under the houses. These also served as bomb shelters during WWII.

Other places worth seeing are the longest room of Europe, the 12 o'clock salute at the harbor front and when in Malta, do look up to the wonderful painted balconies and verandas at the houses.

Valetta is a great city, it is the capital of Malta and it provides all the necessities that a town can bring to you. It has the highlight from the World Heritage Site, shopping, warm weather, hotels, an unmistakably English Heritage etc etc. In the vicinity you will also find the other World Heritage Sites of Malta like the Hypogeum (book upfront!!) and the megalithic temples which are among the oldest in Europe. 





]]> (GreatPhotos) Casa Roca Piccola City of Valetta Co-Cathedral Collegiate Parish Church of St. Pauls Shipwreck Fort Saint Elmo Grandmasters Palace Hypogeum Malta Manoel Theatre Palace St Johns Co-Cathedral Valetta Thu, 22 May 2014 12:14:51 GMT
Ait Ben Haddou in Morocco a monumental village The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou in Morocco is a small and monumental village. 

We went to Ait Ben Haddou in last days of 2013 and stayed for one night in a Riad. Crossing the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech is easy if you just follow the main road.  The road is ok and the views are great. When we arrived in Ait Ben Haddou, checked in and made a first walk around the Ksar (on the other side of the (dry) river) the first visitors with day trips started to leave. At the end of this first walk we had the town for ourselves.  In my opinion this is a great way to experience this ancient mud work village. Go slowly, experience it, have a look inside, without the hustle of mass tourism. 

It is a fortified city with several entrances. There is a newly build bridge from the old town to the ancient Ksar. At another entrance (in the mid, locals are asking for an entrance fee). As these houses and fortifications are made of mud they need constant upholding by placing new mud on top of older parts. This makes it a living World Heritage Site and not just an open air museum. 

I managed to take some beautiful golden hour shots and really saw the hole of Ait Ben Haddou, from down by the riverbed to up the hill to the grain storage room above. 

The next morning I went up very early and went up the hill again were I experienced the wonderful and colorful sunrise of Ait Ben Haddou.

After breakfast we took another stroll through the village and we saw other thing as well. We also went up the hill facing Ait Ben Haddou (East of the town). The panoramic views from this hill are really breathtaking. Don't forget to look down at the soil of this hill, you will find many chrystals embedded in the rocks here. 

Ait Ben Haddou has been a prime decor in many many Hollywood movies, you will see it in Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile, Game of Thrones and many many others.  

When we checked out from the Riad and left we saw the first busses with day trips crowding the Ksar….. On the way back we took another pas over the Atlas, this pass after Aoulouz and Takhochet takes you through the desert and the over a pass with a narrow bumpy road, which I would not advise for unexperienced drivers. The advantages is that you will pass the stunning ruins of the Mosque at Tin Mal (which is on the tentative list of Unesco) in the descent of the pass.


]]> (GreatPhotos) Ait Ben Haddou Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou Maroc Morocco World Heritage film location kasbah ksar mudworks open air museum road village Tue, 20 May 2014 10:09:51 GMT
Kutna Hora, Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republik The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora must be one of the most remarkable World Heritage Sites that I have seen.

When we stayed for a week in Prague, one day I took an early morning train to Kutna Hora, about 1 hour by train from Prague. Upon arrival I walked to the Sedlec Ossuary. This is a small church with graveyard and an exceptional human bone cellar. 

Kutna Hora was a populated town due to the silver found here. It competed with Prague from the 13th to the 16th centuries as one of the largest cities in the Czech Republik.  Also one of the crusaders brought back some earth from the holy land and sprinkled this on the cemetery of Sedlec (Sedlec is a suburb of Kutna Hora). Hence this cemetery became a popular burial site. Many thousands and thousand of people have been buried here. When around 1400 a new church was build here all the graves were unearthed and the bones were used and ordered. The bones were stacked and piled from the 16 century on. In the 19th century the bones were placed with the macabre result we see today. 

Human skulls and bones are ordered in the shape of chandeliers, monstrances, torches and the coat of arms of the Schwarzenbergs.  The number of skeletons used in the ossuary is somewhere between 40.000 and 70.000! You must have seen it to believe it.

It reminds much of the Capela dos Ossos in Evora in Portugal (another World Heritage Site). Although the skeletons are not used in the shapes found in Sedlec.

When in Sedlec do visit the city of Kutna Hora. It is about 30 minute walk to the town with its fountain, St. Barbara church, the Italian Court and some wonderful houses in the old town.



]]> (GreatPhotos) Czech Republik Kutna Hora Kuttenberg Schwarzenberg Sedlec Ossuary World Heritage bones cemetery ossuary sedlec skulls Mon, 19 May 2014 09:59:38 GMT
San Millan Yuso and Suso Monasteries in Spain The Monasteries of San Millan Yuso and Suso in the Rioja in Spain.

These two monasteries are a remarkable World Heritage Site in the Rioja Region in Northern Spain. 

The oldest one - Suso meaning 'upper' - can be reached by a small road from the village of San Millan de la Colgolla. A minibus is available and included in the ticket price. This monastery dates back from the 6th century and is devided into 3 spaces. The first is an open one with arches and a wonderful view over the valley. You will find some (empty) sarcophagus here of royals. The large space is build directly on the rock behind and has the tomb of the Saint Millan.  This church/monastery is rather basic, but do remind it dates from the 6th century.

The Yuso - meaning 'lower' - is something completely different, it is also known as the Escorial de la Rioja. It is a rich and enormous monastery with the oldest parts from the 11th century. The monastery is best known as the birthplace of the spanish language. In the first room you will find books with some text written to the side in Spanish and in ancient Castillian.  It has a wonderful peaceful cloister and the chapel is one of the finest I have seen.  Do take a special at the paintings of San Millan killing moors. 

In the library several painting can be seen with the miracles that San Millan is sad to have performed. A great thing to see is the enormous collections of ancient books. Each weighing about 30kg and made of the finest leather. Finally some of the holiest items can ben seen in ivory and silver boxes.

The staircase down is a wonderful piece of engineering.

The monasteries are a small detour from the Way of St James or El Camino de Santiago (another World Heritage Site). Pilgrims take the detour from Najera to San Millan de la Colgalla and the back to the Way at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. 

You need to buy separate tickets for both monasteries at two different places (on top of each other)! When I visited the area I had booked  a room in the hotel in the San Millan Yuso Monastery. Shortly before I arrived I received an email that the hotel was closed. 


]]> (GreatPhotos) Monastery Rioja San Millan San Millan de la Colgalla Spain Suso World Heritage Yuso Wed, 14 May 2014 12:21:22 GMT
The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre in Belgium The four lifts on the Canal du Centre in Belgium is a remarkable World Heritage Site and a great industrial accomplishment. They are located near Charleroi, La Louviere in Wallonia, just north of the French border.

These lifts are made to transport boat to a lower or higher level. Lifts were used instead of locks due to the altitude in a short distance.

The lifts date back from 1888. They were needed in this poor area of Belgium in the time of the industrial revolution. Coal mines were exploited in the area of Charleroi, roads weren't very special and people needed a means of transport for the coal. A canal was build and the lifts were designed to overcome the differences in hight. Over the 4 lifts the water rises 66 meters.  The lifts are industrial heritage and the iron joints are quiet common for great buildings from this era. They reminded me of similar structures in Petersborough in England or the much more modern Falkirk Wheel between Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland.

The operations of the lifts seems quit easy. The vessel enter's  a large container. A similar container - also full of water - is on a counter balance and after a switch of button the high container lowers and the low container rises. After this movement the container is opened and the vessel can continue its journey.

I have visited these lifts early one morning, you will find beautiful blue hour and golden hour photos in this gallery. They were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1998.  The usage of the lifts is now strictly recreational. In the area near Thieu you can see a modern boat lift that replaced the four lifts by one gigantic lift.


]]> (GreatPhotos) boat lift Belgium Charleroi Industrial Heritage La Louviere The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre Wallonia Wallonie World Heritage coal. Tue, 13 May 2014 12:46:49 GMT
Churches of Peace in Swidnica and Jawor in Poland The Churches of Peace in Swidnica and Jawor in Poland.

Think of an impossible assignment and look at the two remaining churches. It is the impossible made reality. These churches date back to the mid 17th century and are located in the south west of Poland in Silesia. 

After the peace of Westphalia the Lutherans were allowed by the catholics to build 3 churches in the area with some rigid constraints. The building materials, the materials allowed were straw, wood and loam. Steepels and bells were forbidden. Furthermore the construction period was restricted to one year. Just compare this with building times of hundreds of years of some of the great cathedrals in France/England/Spain/Italy etc.

Two of the three churches have survived the centuries and are world heritage sites since 2001.

The churches are relatively dark and both have extensive paintwork and beautifully detailed woodwork. The construction of both churches is in Timber Framing. 

I have visited the churches in the summer with all the trees in the gardens full of green. As all these trees are relatively close to the churches this also means that the churches don't really stand out in the environment. 

As these buildings are really something special and it is hard to find a similar building in the world, visiting these churches is highly recommended.



]]> (GreatPhotos) Jawor Poland Pologne Silesia Swidnica Westfalia World Heritage churches of peace timber framing Mon, 12 May 2014 14:16:09 GMT
Riga, the versatile town in Latvia Riga is a very versatile town for the heritage enthusiast. The Historic Centre of Riga has several interesting parts. 

The old town centre of this member of the Hanseatic league with its cobbled streets, the Riga cathedral with a beautiful closed cloister with remains of the old town. St Peter Church with the original Roland Statue and the elevator to take you up the tower for a wonderful view. The square with the painstakingly rebuild House of the Blackheads and also to mention the museum of the occupation of Latvia, this museum will give you an insight of the more recent history. Smaller but must see locations are the three brothers (three old houses), Riga Castle, the swedish gate and the small guild (do go insight, it is not very well known but a little gem, see the photos).

Then of course Riga has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. Just walk along the streets and enjoy these outstanding buildings in Art Nouveau / Jugundstil style. This really must be unparalleled in the world. One of the great architects of these buildings is Mikhael Eisenstein (his son was the famous movie director Sergey Eisenstein (Pantzerkreuzer Potemkin)). Look at the plaster sculptures with faces, animals, creatures etc.

The Academy of Science is housed in a skyscraper in Sovjet style. There is a wonderful viewing platform high up the building (elevator!). The skyscraper was build in the fifties and was paid for by the Kolkhozez in Latvia. See the decoration with the hammers and sickles as well as the Latvian folk ornaments and motifs.

Down by the skyscraper you will find the old market housed in buildings used to house zeppelins from Germany.

​Take a look up the freedom monument at do visit the orthodox church with its golden roof.

Riga in Latvia is a very versatile town indeed. Although not a part of the World Heritage Site it is worth the trip to go to Jurmala, the beach resort of Riga.




]]> (GreatPhotos) Academy of Science Art Nouveau Jugendstil Latvia Small Guild St Peters Church historic centre of Riga house of the blackheads Wed, 07 May 2014 10:12:28 GMT
Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia The old town of Tallinn in the Baltic state Estonia is a wonderful example of a medieval city that has been saved through the ages.

We arrived by boat from Helsinki and this is a wonderful approach of Tallinn. It is clear to see the skyline of the old town and the modern town, nicely separated.  We stayed in Tallinn for about a week in the summer of 2013 and we rented an apartment in the cobbled streets of the old town. There are plenty hotels and apartments, only parking is a few blocks away. We were astonished by the western looks of the town, everywhere Wifi and a modern atmosphere in the old town.

The old town has several highlights like the old city walls which have been preservers beautifully. The city hall on the great square is a must. One can visit both the city hall itself and the tower (separate entrance, separate fee). The town hall is a wonderful old structure with great halls and wonderful wood carving, the top floor gives an idea of the restoration. The view from the tower is great and a must see. 

Toompea is the higher part of the old town and has the wonderful Alexandre Nevski Cathedral, an orthodox church with some resemblance of the red square in Moscow. Don't forget stroll along Toompea, sea the Estonian government buildings and do visit the various points were you have a beautiful look over the old town.

Three churches are worth mentioning. The St Olaf's church, this used to be the highest building in the world. St. NIcholes Church with its wonderful interior and painting of the Dance Macabre.  A little gem is the church of the holy ghost. Another remarkable tower in Tallinn. In the old town you will also find a House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, also to be found in Riga Latvia.  You will find two modern monuments in Tallinn, the first is a monument for the ferry that sank in the Baltic Sea, the greatest is the monument on the freedom of Estonia. 

Also worth mentioning, although it doesn't belong to the World heritage Site is the Kadriog Palace. 

]]> (GreatPhotos) Estonia Tallinn Toompea city walls dance macabre st nicholas church Mon, 05 May 2014 12:55:21 GMT
Berlin, Modern Housing Estates Berlin, the Modern Housing Estates.

We all know Berlin as the city of the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag Building, the Gedächtnis Kirche, Museum Island and all the other famous sites. The Museum Island is a World Heritage but who know the other World Heritage Sites within the city boundaries of Berlin.

These Modern Housing Estates are scattered over six different places in the outskirts of Berlin. At first sight they don't look very special, they look like ordinary modern houses or flats that could have been build yesterday.  But this is exactly why these sites are so special, the oldest are nearly one century old and much of this is the basis for house building in western Europe. When these subsidized house were build they must have been quit a shock, modern, spacious, improved living conditions, integrated (communal) garden design and available for inhabitants with low income. 

To me the two most outstanding of the six sites are the Hufeisensiedlung (horseshoe settlement)and the Weisse Stadt (white town). 

The Hufeisensiedlung is a very large residential area in the shape of a horseshoe. Large gardens, large pont everything is integrated. Even from Google earth the site looks great. The size is that big that even with a wide angle lens it was very hard to give an overall view.

The Weisse Stadt - as the name suggest -  is white in color. The lines are straight and it has been build in the Bauhaus style. The most prominent feature is a building that crosses the street (see photos).

Some great and famous architects have been involved in these sites. Walter Cropius, Bruna Taut and Martin Wagner draw some of the houses. It reminded me of some modern estates in Paris by Ricarda Bofill.

This is a world heritage sites that is less obvious to most of the sites. But bear in mind that by building these houses the modern house as we know it has been revolutionized. 




]]> (GreatPhotos) Bauhaus Berlijn Berlin Cropius Deutschland Duitsland Gartenstadt Falkenberg Germany Grosssiedlung Siemensstadt Hufeisensiedlung Modern Housing Estates Siedlung Schillerpark Weisse Stadt Wohnstadt Carl Legien Thu, 01 May 2014 09:39:58 GMT
The Acropolis in Athens Greece The Acropolis in Athens Greece,

We visited Athens in march 2013. It wasn't too hot and we had a hotel opposite the Acropolis. When opening the curtains we could see the Acropolis in its full glory. It must be one of the best known buildings in the world. The Acropolis dates back from the 5th century bc. The hilltop is strategically located and many temples and other buildings were erected here.  The name Acropolis refers to the hilltop, the Parthenon is the well known temple on the Acropolis that inspired so many architects through the ages. 

The fortifications around the place were huge. It even had walls from the Acropolis to the seaport of Piraeus, about 5km.

We went up the Acropolis early one morning, luckily we were the only tourists visiting this monument at that time. This gives the photos a unique touch and it made our visit a very special one.  One hour later the place was crowded. 

Seeing the Parthenon in so much detail makes you appreciate the qualities of the builders. From a distance the lines seem straight but take a closer look and you will see that the lines of the temple are slightly curved. This must have been a tremendous effort is those days. You can see how the pillars have been made. At first they were stacked on top each other, later they chiseled the curves out of the marble.

It is typical to see how the restoration is taking progress. I really wonder what they are doing with the Acropolis. It seems as if they are rebuilding the temple as the use same marble, but it looks like new when placed in the temple. It is odd to see these new parts along the century old marble columns.  

Apart from the Parthenon there are many more very fine examples of Greek architecture on the Acropolis, the best known is probably the Erectheum with its famous porch of the Caryatids. 

When in Athens do take a look at the Acropolis from different viewing points in the city. Eg the view from Filopappou Hill is super, climb up the hill and then go forward to the edge of the hill. I have taken some blue hour photos from there.

Also do visit the parts down from the Acropolis such as the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora (with the tower of the winds), the temple of Hephaestus. The Acropolis museum is a must see. Especially the top floor with the exact measurements of the Parthenon, this really gives an extra dimension to your visit of Athens.




]]> (GreatPhotos) Acropolis Athens Caryatids Erectheum Greece Hephaestus Parthenon agora Tue, 29 Apr 2014 09:20:42 GMT
Val di Noto, Sicily Italy The country with most World Heritage Sites is Italy.  Some very special sites can be found on Sicily. One of them is de Val de Noto in the south east of Sicily.

A destructive earthquake hit the region in 1693 and most buildings had to be build from the ground up. The architecture style used was the Sicilian Baroque. The earthquake gave them the opportunity to build the cities according to these ideas. Straight lines, special focusing point for churches and squares, great perspectives.  In 2002 8 old towns were inscribed on the world heritage list, Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Ragusa, Palazollo Acreide,  Noto and Scicli.  

Noto is probably the town were the Sicilians succeeded best in their new town planning. The Cathedral is very special. Take a good look at the dome, it collapsed in 1996 and was reopened in 2007. Do visit the town hall with its oval room, the opera, look up at the decorated balconies and don't forget to have an ice-cream in one of Italy's best in restaurants.

Caltagirone is more inland and is renowned for the staircase decorated with ceramic tiles, a specialty  to be found everywhere in the town.

Pallazollo Acreide has apart from its Baroque Architecture also a Greek history. The Greek Theatre with tomb chambers in the nearby necropolis.

Ragusa is a special city as well with its upper and lower town. Ragusa has been used many times as a film location.  Modica is close to Ragusa and a worth a visit as well.

The towns Militello in Val di Catania and Scicli are more remote and subsequently are more quieter town. 

All in all a remarkable has been made here and the region is well worth a visit.


]]> (GreatPhotos) Caltagirone Italy Militello in Val di Catania Modica Noto Palazzolo Acreide Ragusa Scicli Sicily Val di Noto world heritage site Mon, 28 Apr 2014 09:40:32 GMT
Beemster Polder in the Netherlands Beemster Polder in the Netherlands

Imagine a lake roughly the size of a very large city like the area of the inner ring Amsterdam or inner ring Paris and replace yourself in the 1600's. The Dutch were prosperous and the wealthy town of Amsterdam was flourishing. The rich wanted to leave the town with its odor and bustle of a large town and they also needed agricultural land for grain /potatoes etc to feed its inhabitants. 

They layed eyes on the Beemster lake and decided to dry this lake and reclaim the land. The man in charge was mr. Leeghwater (in Dutch 'empty water'). A dike with a length of 35 km was build around the lake and they needed 2 years with about 50 purpose build windmills to pump the water out of the lake.

When the work was nearly done a storm caused problems with a dike breach and this resulted in flooding the lake again. After repairs and another two years of pumping the land was dried and available for the investors. 

The land was devided into rectangular shapes which are still very good visible from the air or e.g. google earth. These sizes are Dutch measurements and were also used when the Dutch took Brooklyn in the USA. These same measuremens can be found in the street pattern in New York City today. The land proved to be very fertile and the return of investment came within a year for these venture capitalists.

Nowadays some of these windmills survive, most of them have been replaced by pumping stations. The pattern of the streets is still clearly visible and something completely different form the surrounding land outside the Beemster Polder.

The Beemster Polder also features several fortresses form the Defence Line of Amsterdam (another World Heritage Site). 

Creating the Beemster Polder was a tremendous achievement and it is a great, unique and very Dutch World Heritage Site.





]]> (GreatPhotos) Amsterdam Beemster Leeghwater Netherlands Polder Reclaimed Land rectangular Fri, 25 Apr 2014 09:16:57 GMT
Naval port of Karlskrona in Sweden Naval Port of Karlskrona in Sweden.

This is an extensive World Heritage Site spreaded over a large area. It is located in Blekinge, the south east of Sweden.

This port was made newly in the glory days of Sweden. The harbor of the capital Stockholm was frozen in winter times so the Swedes needed a harbor that was free of ice all year round and closer to Denmark, the enemy in those days. 

The choice was made for the archipelago of Karlskrona.  The city was build with extensive naval buildings, e.g. the harbor itself, barracks, cranes, dry dock, rope factory, fortresses to defend the archipelago etc. 

The see entrance of the harbor is defended by two fortresses, one of them featuring the round harbor, the other one is on the island of Aspo.  During our visit we stayed in a stuga in this Island. It took several days to really explore this extensive site and to visit the several parts. Some parts are still in  use by the armed forces and you will need to show your passport to get access to these parts.

Some of the must see parts in my opinion are:

  • the main square (Stortorget),

  • the churches Trefaldighetskyrkan (this holy trinity church resembles the Pantheon in Rome) and Amiralitetskyrkan (the admiralty church, the largest wooden church in Sweden).

  • ​The repslagerbanan (ropewalk), the longest wooden house in Sweden were the ropes for the naval ships have been made.

  • The Kungsholm Fort (the king's fort) with its round harbor

  • The Drottningkärs Kastell (the queen's fort) on the island of Aspo (opposite to the Kungholm Fort)

  • The ancient harbor Crane used to place a mast on the sailing ships

  • And although not a part of the WHS, do visit Brändaholm, a small island with all the houses in swedish red.


]]> (GreatPhotos) Drottningkärs Kastell Sweden blekinge karlskrona kungsholm naval port of karlskrona repslagerbanan stortorget Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:59:48 GMT