World Heritage: Secular

Click here for the background on my World Heritage Sites roundup.

Secular

Or otherwise known as none of the above

7 sites

8

Museumsinsel

Last visited: June 13, 2011

The complex is made up of five separate museums. Of the five, I had visited the Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum and the Bode Museum. They cover different topics and together I find them to offer some of the best museum-going experience anywhere.

6

Classic Gardens of Suzhou

Last visited: June 5, 2009

Of the three classic gardens I visited, Humble Administrator’s Garden (HAG from here on) most resembled my expectation of how a classical Chinese garden should look like. HAG is large by Suzhou garden’s standard, but still it feels crowded because almost every square inch of the garden is used. Unlike the classical gardens in Japan, where a sense of spaciousness and simplicity is valued, an almost complete opposite is true for Chinese gardens. Empty space is treated as being wasteful, and every corner is delicately designed. While I personally prefer the simplicity of the Japanese style, I must say HAG’s attention to detail trumps anything I have seen in Japan. I am especially impressed by the many different angles in the maze like garden, when you can often find up to three to four layers within a single point of view.

5

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

A quick walk and we were on the next tram to the Shinkansen station. The memorial did nothing for me, but I am sure grateful that such kind of weapons have not been deployed since. Peace.

Last visited: June 15, 2008

It is difficult to find the proper mood to visit a place like this. I understand the symbolism of the memorial and the magnitude of what happened here, but I didn’t share the same overwhelming flow of emotions many people said they felt at this place.

This place isn’t an attraction. It is a somber reminder of the consequence of war and the profound destruction of atomic weapon. My feeling about this issue is the same, no matter seeing the Atomic Bomb Dome in person or first reading it in a textbook.

Maritime Greenwich

Last visited: February 12, 2013

This London suburb’s quaint appearance belies the great contributions it has once made in the fields of navigation and astronomy. Take a look at a world map – at the centre of the earth is the Prime Meridian, based at Greenwich’s Royal Observatory. Ever wonder why your time zone comes with a +/- sign? That’s because all time zones are benchmark against the Greenwich Mean Time.

With only a morning, we weren’t able to see too much. Instead of scattering our scarce time all over the place, we focused on the Queen’s House, a former royal residence designed by Inigo Jones. The house’s main draw, the Tulip Stairs, is the first geometric self-supporting spiral stair in Britain. Also worth a look is its substantial collection of maritime-themed paintings.

4

Bauhaus in Dessau

Last visited: June 10, 2011

For many architectural buffs, a visit to the Bauhaus Dessau is a pilgrimage of sort. Since I am not one of them, I didn’t share the same adrenaline rush. We walked around the campus in a lazy early summer afternoon when much of the school was on summer holiday. As a direct tribute to the success of the Bauhaus movement, the school’s once revolutionary buildings appear rather ordinary today because its style has been copied across the globe. The surprisingly meager exhibition at the basement of the main building also didn’t provide much insight to the Bauhaus movement or the Bauhaus Dessau. In comparison, the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar gave me a much better perspective on what Bauhaus stands for and the turbulent era that defined the movement between the two World Wars.

3

Statue of Liberty

Last visited: December 28, 2007

The best part about visiting the Statue of Liberty is that you get to visit Ellis Island as well. Otherwise there is no point in taking the ferry from Manhattan to Liberty Island. Without the New York Harbour in the background, looking at the colossal bronze sculpture at its base is one of the least interesting angles possible.

No matter the angle, unless you have special affection for the statue, it is no more than a very famous photo background.

1

Skogskyrkogården

Last visited: February 26, 2014

This World Heritage Site quest occasionally brings me to some unexpected situations. Case in point – I found myself alone at a cemetery one late afternoon in Stockholm. An inspiration for cemetery design, without the adequate knowledge about the history of cemetery design I have a hard time differentiating this admittedly beautiful cemetery from hundred others.

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