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Germany gets 25th World Heritage Site
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Germany gets 25th World Heritage Site
  Cologne Travel News ( Press Release )

Retired Industrial Site Receives Coveted UNESCO Designation, Joining Potsdam s Sanssouci Palace, Cologne Cathedral and Charlemagne s Coronation Cathedral in Aachen

At its December 2001 meeting in Helsinki, Finland, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee announced the newest additions to its list of 721 World Heritage properties in 124 countries. Germany's latest, her 25th site admitted to this distinguished group is the closed-down and recently redeveloped Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen, 50 kilometres northeast of Dusseldorf, in the heart of North-Rhine-Westphalia's Ruhr Valley.

In 1999 and 2000, four other places in Germany received World Heritage Site (WHS) status, first Berlin's Museum Island and the Wartburg fortress in eastern Germany, a year later the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Worlitz, an hour's drive north of Leipzig, and the Monastic Island of Reichenau, on southern Germany's Lake Constance. Earlier WHS designations in Germany include the octagonal Romanesque cathedral in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), on the Belgian border, where on Christmas Day in 800 A.D German Emperor Charlemagne's coronation took place (WHS in 1978, Germany's first designation); the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (WHS in 1990, the year of German reunification), and Cologne's twin-spire Gothic cathedral on the banks of the Rhine river (WHS in 1996).

According to the UNESCO committee's December 2001 statement appraising Germany's newest Heritage Site, "the Zollverein industrial landscape consists of the complete installations of a historical coal-mining site, with some 20th-century [Bauhaus-inspired] buildings of outstanding architectural merit. It constitutes remarkable material evidence of the evolution and decline of the coal industry over the past 150 years." Zollverein's mining operations shut down in 1986. The premises have since been restored and turned into a remarkable museum about the region's so-called black gold.

Until some 20 years ago, the Ruhr Valley was known around the world as Germany's foremost coal mining and industrial centre, overshadowing the cultural treasures and natural beauty the region always had to offer as well. Environmental and economic developments of recent decades, though, led to the all-but-complete demise of its once mighty hard-coal economy. As a result, much of the Ruhr Valley has had to reinvent itself. Its various communities have made creative use of old structures worth saving, turning the inside of a gigantic gas storage tank into a lofty modern art exhibition hall, for example, a closed steel mill into a hi-tech entertainment complex, old factory buildings into trade show facilities, etc., with the highest international accolade now awarded to one of these conversions, Essen's Zollverein.

The four German UNESCO locations designated in 1999 and 2000 fall within the more traditional definition of World Heritage Sites, similar to Quebec's historic Old Town (WHS in 1985) and Nova Scotia's Lunenburg (WHS in 1995). The five museums dominating Berlin s Museum Island (one of them the Pergamon Museum with its priceless antiquities collection) were built between 1834 and 1930. In their contained urban setting, they illustrate the evolution of modern museum design over the century, with each of the buildings conceived specifically to showcase the art it houses. Wartburg Castle, on the other hand, blends into a natural landscape of forests surrounding its hilltop site and is a fine example of a feudal fortress at the peak of its military and seigniorial power. It was also home to Martin Luther for his years of exile, when he translated the New Testament into German.

The island of Reichenau, on Lake Constance, holds the remains of a Benedictine monastery of the early Middle Ages, founded in 724. With additional churches built in the 9th and 11th centuries Reichenau vividly illustrates early medieval monastic architecture in central Europe, its churches' monumental wall paintings representing great artistic achievements of the era. Dating from 1000 years later, the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Worlitz was designed in the 18th century in the spirit of the English landscape movement, as perfected by its master, Lancelot-Capability Brown. Following the Age of Enlightenment's democratic philosophy, this park was meant from the first to delight and educate both nobility and the common public, and to this day it carries out that mandate.

For more information on Germany's 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a map of their locations, please refer to www.germany-tourism.de or use the internet links provided at www.unesco.org

For more information on Germany in general, please contact the German National Tourist Office's toll-free number, 1-877-315-6237, send an e-mail to gntony@aol.com, or visit GNTO's Web sites at www.germany-tourism.de, www.germany-wunderbar and www.visits-to-germany.com

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