Category UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Unfinished Chapels of Batalha: architecture shocks sky

There’s a monastery in the town of Batalha that looks as it is carved from crystalized honey.  One of my finer life choices was to spend an entire day looking at it. (Okay, full disclosure, I probably would have crammed in at least one other monastery in our itinerary that day had the bus schedules […]

Draw your family: prehistoric rock art of the Côa Valley

Arriving at the site of the 22,000 year old rock art in northwestern Portugal was uncomplicated—too uncomplicated.  I enjoyed getting there so much that I was hoping to drag the experience out more.  After sharing jeep ride with our guide from the Museu do Côa and another couple, we hiked a short distance through a […]

Jerónimos Monastery: first person to spot the phallic gargoyle wins a free corn dog

Do yourself a favor and go see Jerónimos Monastery, a Manueline-style UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside of Lisbon.  Do yourself another favor and get there early.   HOB and I did arrive early, though not early enough to avoid a giant line.  While this was annoying and the catalyst of predictable marital discord (why, […]

Porto: you can skip ahead to the sardines

Every country has what I call “the circuit.”  The circuit is the travel itinerary most tourists follow (Rome-Florence-Venice-eat lots of gelato-fly home).  When I put together our Portugal itinerary, I stuck to the circuit much more than I usually do.  HOB was having problems with his foot and I couldn’t anticipate if he’d be able […]

The gods at Shuanglin temple are caged panthers

Before visiting someplace I’ve never been, I need to first project myself there in my imagination.  I do this by picturing one essential cultural experience.  It could be seeing an artwork, walking through a cathedral or listening to a particular sort of music.  Without this initial mind-travel, I can’t conceptualize doing something so strange as, […]

Pingyao: a dozen boring museums and one magical city

Pingyao, in the Shanxi province of Northern China, combines two of my favorite things: a walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Normally we don’t go walking around on city walls because HOB has a fear of heights.  However, Pingyao’s wall, which was built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, is low with a […]

Bracket envy and an introduction to traditional Chinese wooden architecture at Pingyao’s Zhenguo Temple

1000 years ago, back when Europe was clawing its way out of the dark ages, China already had a well established system of building standards.  The Chinese consulted manuals to standardize the building process and did so with remarkable success considering the enormous size of the country.  The basis of their traditional architecture was modular:  […]

The ratio of children to gingerbread in Torun is more than acceptable

Our guidebook lied about Torun. Oh, it didn’t lie about Torun being lovely—it is a gorgeous medieval Polish town.  No, the lie was that it is somehow an undiscovered destination, free from tourists. Torun, at least when we visited, is loaded with tourists.  And 95% of them are children.  Children are streaming through gates of […]

There may be teeth in the walls of the wooden churches of Southern Małopolska

The region in Southern Poland called Małopolska has several UNESCO listed wooden churches. These churches are scattered through six different villages which aren’t reachable by public transportation and, since HOB and I don’t drive, we were in quite a pickle.  I mean, it’s not like I would ever want to miss out on a UNESCO church […]

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: shrines in the mist

Imagine it’s the early 1600’s, you live in Poland and pilgrimages to the Holy Land are all the rage.  Oh man, do you ever want to go to Jerusalem.  But it’s not going to happen: you don’t have the money, your health is poor, and your boss won’t give you enough vacation time.  Hey, don’t […]