Category: Germany.

Cathedrals to coal mines

Western Germany’s World Heritage Sites from A to Z


There are World Heritage Sites we’ve come to expect — magnificent cathedrals, resplendent palaces. Among Germany’s 33 World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO, there are four gems in the northwest that live up to that and more.

From A to Z — from Aachen cathedral, Charlemagne’s coronation place, to the terrible beauty of Zollverein, “the most beautiful coal mine in the world” — these sites can be described as breathtaking and completely unexpected.

In between are Cologne cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and the mini palatial gem Augustusburg Palace and its small rural folly, Falkenlust. No doubt visitors will be dazzled by historical grandeur. Now that says WHS.

But, prepare for a spectacular twist. Zollverein breaks the mould — it’s a completely new WHS concept.

Imagine a coal mine clean enough for a wedding reception, or funky enough for the innovative Red Dot Museum incorporating the structure’s industrial bare bones in its chic setting. It complements the largest exhibition of award winning, contemporary, worldwide design.

With the decline of iron and steel production in the once heavily industrialized Ruhr Valley, the community and former employees envisioned an incredible reincarnation for Zollverein’s haunting, abandoned site. Its impressive Art Deco architecture is today a completely reinvented industrial complex with concerts, art exhibits, contemporary installations, the newly opened Ruhr Museum and two restaurants.

Also nearby are other impressive transformations — a former massive steel mill, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord (their stylish restaurant serves a wicked Currywurst), and the Gasometer Oberhausen. Artist Christo presented his installation The Wall here in 1999. Both are awesome, vibrant industrial monuments and reminders of what once was.

Today these sites provide ziplining, cycle paths on an extensive Industrial Heritage Route, rock climbing, exhibitions, concerts, scuba diving and more.

The Ruhr Metropolis is the place to be this year. Essen has been chosen a European Capital of Culture for 2010. The region will be staging more than 300 spectacular cultural projects and 2,500 events. Zollverein will showcase the opening program.

Also, Germany will host the 2010 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships from May 7 to 23. Cologne will be one of the venues.

– AUGUSTUSBURG PALACE and FALKENLUST, in Bruhl, not far from Cologne. With extensive baroque gardens and a mere 120 rooms the palace is considered intimate. It is said that Napoleon regretted the castle had no wheels to take it back to France. When nearby Bonn was the capital, many guests of state were received here, including Queen Elizabeth II, and presidents Reagan and Carter. The oak floors, with their traces of spike heels, echo visits by ’60s female dignitaries. Also on the grounds is Falkenlust, a little pleasure palace. The hunting lodge has a museum dedicated to falconry. Built 1729, the property remains as the most beautiful and earliest example of Rococo architecture in 18th-century Germany.

– Cologne Cathedral is the reliquary of the Magi’s relics. UNESCO calls it an “exceptional work of human creative genius.” Also in the heart of Cologne is the extraordinary Kolumba Art Museum, a clever combination of sanctuary of ruins, and gallery/museum/exhibit hall.

– Zollverein, Essen, once known for coal, steel and beer is now a culturally dynamic Industrial Complex. Extra Shift, an all-night regional festival on June 19, is just one of the many colourful events of the new Ruhr. Zollverein is one of the venues. See

– Aachen cathedral. Charlemagne’s marble throne, below, in the great romanesque cathedral consecrated in 805. To this day some of Charlemagne’s bones remain here. His collection of relics are shown once every seven years — next showing, 2014.

Aachen’s four relics

n Cloak of Mary

n Swaddling clothes of baby Jesus

n Loin-cloth worn by Christ on the Cross

n Cloth on which the head of St. John the Baptist lay

Dogs are welcome in restaurants as the relaxing ambience at Am Knipp shows. A hint of Aachen’s signature gingerbread gives a surprising twist to the eatery’s classic sauerbraten. This traditional spot is a short walk from the magnificent Quellenhof Hotel.


Category: Germany
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