UNESCO World Heritage Sites

On the Europe trip we visited several places designated as “UNESCO World Heritage Sites” such as the Naeroyfjord region of Norway, The Jungfrau / Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, and the Cinque Terre in Italy,  but I was only vaguely familiar with how those designations come to be.     Here is the list of all 890 global heritage sites and more from UNESCO about the process.

I’m still wondering how much the process is political and subjective vs analytical and objective, but in general I do think it’s neat to designate areas in this fashion and encourage travelers to better understand and explore their world.

Here are the criteria:

Selection criteria:

  1. to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
  2. to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
  3. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
  4. to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
  5. to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
  6. to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
  7. to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
  8. to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
  9. to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
  10. to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Vernazza in Cinque Terre Italy 310

Vernazza in Cinque Terre Italy 310

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Not sure if I already blogged this picture, but the place I can’t stop thinking about on our Europe trip is Vernazza and the Cinque Terre. It really was a beautiful combination of scenery, solitude, great food, and old world charm that is hard to find, especially in the big cities where the frantic pace combines with the dirt and grime to make things interesting and stimulating, but not very relaxing.

I want to throw in a few tips for others travelling in Italy by train:

1. Italy seemed to have a greater number of late trains than other countries, so keep this in mind if you have tight connections. If there are frequent trains to your destination this won’t be a problem, but probably best to allow at least an hour transfer time if at all possible if you have “essential” connections such as for overnight trains.

2. Note that sometimes the “R” on timetables or other papers means “regional” rather than “reservation required”.

3. (NOT SURE ABOUT THIS AT ALL BUT….) Rail pass holders may be able to get on “Reservation Required” trains without a reservation if you are willing to stand up or sit in isles. Still not clear about this but some Canadians were doing this on a long stretch from La Spetzia to Rome after they were unable to get reservations.

4. In my opinion first class was generally not worth the extra fees we paid for those reservations. For example the wonderful X2000 trains in Sweden had a Eurail Supplement of 17 Euros for first class but only 7 euros for second class. This was nice and included free internet, fruit, coffee, and nicer seats, but for a 3.5 hour trip most people would probably be fine in second class and with the family this meant an extra 40 euros I could have better spent elsewhere.

5. Supplement fees will add up. Eurail passes do NOT cover reservation and supplement fees and you’ll run into a lot of those across the continent. Also, your cost for beds on overnight trains is not included with a Eurail pass. Expect about 3-10 Euros per trip reservation fees, and about 35 Euros per person for a “couchette” bed on overnight trains. More on train couchettes and overnight trains later.

Note: A special thanks to Eurail for the passes we used to take 26 trains from Norway to Italy and back on our amazing European Railroad Family Adventure.