UNESCO World Heritage Class of 2015 Map

UNESCO World Heritage Class of 2015

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has released its latest additions to the worldwide list of sites that are particularly important to the world’s cultural and natural heritage. This year’s inductees run the gamut from vineyards in Burgandy, to industrial complexes in South America, to ruins from the ancient world that you would have thought were already on the list. Oh, and one in our very own backyard. (We’re in Texas; we have big back yards.)

Places You Know by Heart

We’re going to start with the highlight closest to (our) home: The Alamo! Long recognized around the world (and by Phil Collins) for its role in American history, and throughout the Lone Star State as perhaps the most important landmark in Texas, the mission church in San Antonio is now recognized as a World Heritage Site.

Actually, the designation belongs to the San Antonio Missions, of which the Alamo is one, established by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century. The five missions, plus a ranch about 35 miles south, were built along the San Antonio River, and were cited for their place in local history and culture. The missions bridged Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures, combining Catholic symbols with Native American elements. Ironically, the missions also symbolize Spain’s efforts to colonize the northern frontier of New Spain; efforts which eventually led to the events the Alamo is most remembered for. The Alamo (aka: Mission San Antonio de Valero) is the most visited tourist attraction in Texas today, and the other Missions of San Antonio (Concepcion, Espada, San Jose and San Juan) comprise a National Historic Park.

Places You Thought Were Already UNESCO World Heritage Sites

And the answer is: Ephesus. If you haven’t been there, you have most likely seen pictures and may even have it penciled into your Bucket List for the Aegean. You know Ephesus for its stunning architectural ruins, which include the Library of Celsus, the Grand Theatre, St. John’s Basilica, and the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Home to Greeks, Romans, and Turks, since the 10th Century BC. Perhaps the city where the Gospel of John was written, and one of the Seven Churches of Asia cited in Revelations. Only one of the most important sites in all of modern Turkey, as well as ancient Greece and Rome, which has shaped global history, culture and religion. After a little more than 12,000 years, it’s finally a World Heritage Site.

Places You Never Thought Would Be UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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This category is really large, given that it could include the likes of Your Mom’s Kitchen. Though undoubtedly its impact on your personal, family, and possibly neighborhood culture was profound, most of the world has probably not been influenced by Your Mom’s Kitchen. Instead, UNESCO has seen fit to honor several industrial sites which have had tremendous impacts felt around the world, affecting culture, industry, technology, health, wealth, and more.

  • Germany’s Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus districts, and Chilehaus office building

Speicherstadt is a warehouse area in Hamburg. They were built on a group of islands in the Elbe River between 1885 and 1927, and partly rebuilt in the mid-1900s. Today, it’s one of the largest coherent historic districts of port warehouses in the world. Kontorhaus and the Chilehaus, meanwhile, are very large office complexes built in the first half of the 20th Century to house businesses related to the port and warehouses in the Speicherstadt.

  • Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution

In the 19th Century, industrialism swept around the world. The sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution signify the transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation as Japan emerged from feudalism. The sites also show how technology and industry was adapted to Japan’s deep social traditions, and used to meet the nation’s needs. In all, 23 locations feature coal mining, iron and steel manufacturing, and shipbuilding from the Meiji Era.

  • Norway’s Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site

Cited as an example of “a new global industry in the early 20th century,” the Rjukan-Notodden site is named for the towns built by Norsk-Hydro Company, and includes dramatic landscapes, hydroelectric power plants, factories, transport systems, and the towns themselves. The complex was built around the manufacture of artificial fertilizer to meet the growing global demand for agriculture production in the early-20th century.

  • Uruguay’s Fray Bentos Industrial Landscape

The industrial complex near the city of Fray Bentos was built to process meat produced on Uruguay’s vast prairies. The site includes buildings and equipment of the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, which exported meat extract and corned-beef to the European market from 1865, and represents the process of meat production on a global scale.

The UNESCO designation of these sites is a good reminder of industry’s effects on all other aspects of society. While not likely to be on anyone’s Travel Bucket List, they are important in their global impact and the roles they played in the development of local economies and cultures.

To wrap up on a related but far tastier note, two French industrial sites are in the Class of 2015. As the country has always been the acknowledged leader in wine production, it should be no surprise that both sites have played important roles in the wine industry. Also not surprisingly, these are two UNESCO sites that you probably will want to visit. Often, if possible.

  • Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars
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You are likely aware that Champagne was invented in France, but you may not know just how or where it was developed. These are the places: the historic vineyards of the Champagne Hillsides, and the cellars and Champagne Houses of L’Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. Together, they represent the entire champagne production process that has grown into a global industry.

  • Climats, terroirs of Burgundy

Burgundy is notable for two things recognized by UNESCO: Grape cultivation and wine production dating from the Middle Ages, and the development of the Climats system in Dijon. The Climats are precise vineyard parcels on the slopes of the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune near Dijon, which came to be recognized for the wine they produced, each one influenced by the natural conditions of the particular parcel and the vines cultivated there.

This is just a sampling from the 24 global sites gaining UNESCO recognition this year, each of which is worthy of a visit. While most are not iconic, breathtaking, or even picturesque, all played significant roles in shaping the history and culture in their regions if not around the world. For many, the very reason we travel is to seek out places and stories just as these, to better understand the world and our place in it.

You can see the entire list of 2015 New Inscribed Properties, and the entire inventory of UNESCO World Heritage Sights, at UNESCO.org. Have you been to a UNESCO World Heritage Site? We’d love to hear about it in the Comments!

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21 comments on “UNESCO World Heritage Class of 2015

  1. One thing about UNESCO sites: They are rarely a disappointment. Truth be told, that’s the reason I often begin planning a trip by looking at the list to see which sites are nearby.

    While I was surprised to see Ephesus hadn’t been included before now, I was even more surprised to see an industrial area of Hamburg on the list. Seriously? Obviously they know something I don’t. I’m more a fan of history than industry, so perhaps a visit would increase my appreciation.

    • That’s funny – I thought the same thing! But then, I suppose the elements that influence our history and culture can’t all be picture-perfect ruins and gorgeous temples. And where would we be without that Industrial Revolution? I’m glad those sites are recognized, and I appreciate their impact…but they’re pretty low on the Must See list. Well, except for the French wine region… 😉 Thank you so much for stopping by the blog!

  2. We love visiting UNESCO sites. These are some great additions. I’ll need to look at the full list and add to my travel wish list. I have wanted to visit the Alamo and San Antonio Missions for awhile now but those French additions would be great visits too.

    • I’ve never been to Ephesus, so that’s way up on my Bucket List. But yes, the Champagne region? I think that’s a Must See! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Mary!

  3. Thank you for linking up on Travel Tuesday. Very insightful! And serious? Ephesus was never a heritage site till now? And since we are on the topic of UNESCO World Heritage sites, I want to brag that my little country, Singapore, has a world heritage site (Singapore Botanical Gardens) just added recently!

    • Hi there, Bumble Bee Mum! We are loving #TravelTuesday! We couldn’t believe Ephesus was not already a UNESCO site, either. A couple years ago, Mt. Fuji was just added, and that surprised us also! So Singapore Botanical Gardens has great company on that list! Thanks for visiting the blog!

      • Oh yes yes, I remembered travelling to Mount Fuji at the time when it was listed as a UNESCO site and there were banners celebrating it all over the region. And they waived admission fees for all the nearby attractions during that time.. Lucky us!

  4. (my comment disappeared … try again …)
    I didn’t know the list had been released so thanks for drawing my attention to it. I’m always surprised, like you said, when I see the additions that I thought would have already been ont he list. Can’t believe I haven’t been to Champagne yet!
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust and sorry for the slow visit this week.

    • Hi Malinda – Thanks for stopping by! I was only vaguely aware of the Champagne Hillsides, but after reading the list I thought that should become a priority! 🙂 Those champagne houses look so regal – and surely they offer samples?

  5. Thanks for the educational post! I had to look up with UNESCO sites I had visited and didn’t realise there were so many! Fraser Island and Opera House in Australia; Diocletian’s Palace in Split; Plitvice Lakes; old part of Dubrovnik in Croatia; banks of the Seine & Pont du Gard in Paris; historical centre of Salzburg…gosh so many more! Interesting to see the types of places that make the list.

    • Hi Natalie – You’re right, there is such diversity in the sites that make the list every year. And there are so many of them now. After reading through more of the list, we discovered we have been to many more World Heritage Sites than we knew! But we have not been to Croatia – can’t wait to see the rich heritage and beautiful sites there. Thanks for the comment.

    • Hi Allane – Glad to be part of #MondayEscapes, and glad you stopped by. I love looking at the UNESCO list every year – it renews my sense of wanderlust and my appreciation of the great cultural histories around the world. And I always learn about places I never heard of before! Thanks for your comment!

  6. Indeed I thought that Ephesus would already be on the list!! I happened to see the list once and it is sooo long! Being Greek means that I’ve visited many places without knowing that they’re on the list!! Have to go through the list though (for the countries I have visited) and see which ones I’ve crossed off!

    • It is a long list, and so far the places I haven’t been to outnumber the ones I have seen. Good inspiration to pack my bags and get going! 😉 Thanks for the comment, Anna!

    • Hi Corinne – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I get an odd joy out of seeing this list every year – I’m sure it’s the same part of me that enjoyed it when dad ordered the new World Book. 🙂

    • Mmmm…pies. 🙂 I didn’t know the Fray Bentos brand (as opposed to city) is more than 100 years old! See that? Learned new stuff. And I suppose that’s partly what the UNESCO list is meant for!

    • Hi Sally – Thanks for stopping by! I think UNESCO does a good job of reminding us of the many roots of our cultural heritage, not all of which are dusty old ruins. 😉

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