World Heritage changes

World Heritage Site chasers rejoice: you now have 13 more destinations to add to your list. And one to remove. 13 additions to keep your eye out for include two natural sites and 11 cultural sites and make up the newbies. Here they are:

1.) The Wadden Sea (natural) - Coast of the Netherlands and Northwestern Germany

2.) The Dolomites (natural) - Italy

3.) Stoclet House - A “total work of art” in Brussels, Belgium.

4.) The Ruins of Loropéni - the first World Heritage site in Burkina Faso

5.) Cidade Velha, Historic Centre of Ribeira Grande - Cape Verde. The first European colonial outpost in the tropics.

6.) Mount Wutai, China - 5 peaks. 53 monasteries.

7.) Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System - Iran

8.) Sulamain-Too Sacred Mountain - Kyrgyzstan.

9.) The Sacred City of Caral-Supe - Peru. It’s the oldest centre of civilization in the Americas.

10.) The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty - South Korea

11.) The Tower of Hercules - Spain, at the entrance of La Coruña Harbour

12.) La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle - Switzerland

13.) Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal - Wales

However, there has been one subtraction as well. the German Elbe Valley near Dresden has lost its UNESCO World Heritage status, because they decided to build a four-lane bridge called "Waldschlösschenbrücke" through the middle of it, thus destroying the landscape.

The "King" is dead!

It was strange sitting up last night watching the news. I was just zapping through the programmes, until I stopped at CNN's Breaking News: Michael Jackson, the legendary King of Pop, has died!

At first, it was said that Michael was comatose but later fears were confirmed that he passed away. He had been in Los Angeles since May, preparing for his comeback tour which was supposed to start in London in July. He was declared dead on Thursday afternoon at 2.26pm local time in L.A. Michael Jackson was only 50 years old.

Most people in Germany learned of his passing while they were sat at the breakfast-table or driving to work. It was strange going through town. Michael's albums sold like never before. As if they are not going to be for sale for much longer! People on TV crying as if they lost a close family member.
Maybe, in a way, they have. Although I've never been an outspoken Michael Jackson fan, I knew his songs. A whole generation grew up with his music! "Thriller", "Beat it", "Billie Jean"... all songs most of us know the words to by heart. Some learned the moon walk, some got the red jacket from "Beat it". Everyone knows his name.

What exactly happened on his Neverland Ranch, and whether he was a child molester (as he had been accused twice) will probably never be fully solved. But even though the media slated him, his fans still supported him, maybe more than ever. It's sad that he passed - the official autopsy report is still outstanding, but cardiac arrest is rumoured as cause of death - but in a way, it's been quiet around him for a while. He kept to himself, hardly ever showed in public, wore masks. I was looking forward to his comeback tour, though. But then again, I doubt the 50-year-old Michael Jackson would have been the Michael everyone remembered from the 80's and was longing to see.
Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009
"The King of Pop"

"A man is a man"

Denis Goldberg spent 22 years of his life in a high-security prison in Pretoria, South Africa. In 1964, he had been sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage and conspiracy against the government, along with Nelson Mandela and six other men.

Today, he gave a talk in front of Year 12 students at Geschwister-Scholl-Schule in Solingen. "Especially in a school that carries the name of resistance fighters, it is important to let people tell their stories", says principal Ingeborg Friege. "You have to talk to young people. Get them to show civil courage", adds Goldberg.

As a white South African, he had all the freedoms he wanted in the 1950's and 60's. However, he decided to do something against the supression of the rest of South Africa's people. He became part of an underground-group called "Umkhonto we Sizwe" (Spear of the Nation) of which Nelson Mandela was also a member. This group was the military wing of the ANC, the African National Congress, Mandela's later ruling party. "We blew up some buildings, yes, but we never injured anyone! That was important to us!" Goldberg admits that he led some training camps. "I never told the judges they were military camps. They didn't need to know. But we were preparing for armed struggle." In those days, skin colour decided about what you were allowed to do. "Blacks always had to carry a passbook. Were they stopped by police and they didn't have it with them, they were arrested", Goldberg explains.

The 76-year-old learned as a child to meet everyone with respect and dignity. "I remember sitting on my father's lap as a boy and reading the headlines about the War in Europe. They were going on about racism, and I kept wondering why they were fighting it abroad, while it was part of the daily life in our country." He never fought explicitly on the side of black South Africans. "It wasn't black Africans versus white Africans. After all, a man is a man. We were only fighting against white domination."

Who betrayed him and his friends in the end, Goldberg never found out. On the day they were arrested, Goldberg was supposed to go into town to buy everything needed to make grenades. "Iwas lazy, I didn't go. I can't imagine the trouble I would have been in, had I returned to the raid carrying weapons!" They could have been sentenced with the death penalty during the Rivonia Trial. "We got life imprisonment, and we were happy. We got to live!" However, he didn't make a lot of friends in prison. "They could understand, in a way, why Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned on Robben Island, fought for 'his' people, the black community. But everyone felt that I, as a white South African, had betrayed them when I started to fight for equality", Denis Goldberg explains. While he was in prison, the civil engineer returned to university studies and now holds two PhD's.

After he was released from prison in 1985, Goldberg joined his family in exile and lived in London for 18 years. Now he has returned to Cape Town, South Africa and is still politically active. "That's just me. I don't know any other way!"

Postcard from Shrewsbury

This postcard was originally sent at Easter time 2009!

When you think about England during Shakespeare's lifetime, you probably have a very distinct image in yiour head. It will include timber-framed houses in Tudor-Style, of which the upper floors lean into the street; towns, in which the river provides the livelihood for many of the residents and market places which are surrounded by churches and imposing structures. Whether you know it or not, you're thinking about Shrewsbury!

The city centre has almost entirely been kept in Tudor style and the city is surrounded on three sides by the river Severn. All the old pubs offer local specialties and locally brewed beer as well as a place to reflect on your trip to Shrewsbury. Many of the old alleys and back yards are still there, and you have the feeling that a horse-drawn carrige is waiting just around the corner!

A trip to Shrewsbury really feels like a trip back in time!

Postcard from Bangor

This postcard was originally sent at Easter 2009!

Once again I've been travelling around North Wales, and this time I went to Bangor. The small, old town is the link between the Welsh mainland and Anglesey. Being a university town, bangor is a bit more multi-cultural than the rest of the villages in the area - however, it is also in a region in which Welsh is still spoken on a daily basis. The old university building looks a bit like Hogwarts, but the university is well-known for medical research.

Next to an old cathedral and a Normad fort high above the Menai Strait, Bangor's main attraction is its Victorian pier. Especially children try their hand at crab-fishing, while others stroll along the pier enjoying some ice cream in the sunshine or scones at the pier tea rooms. Bangor is also a stop on the way from Llandudno towards Holyhead and the Ireland ferry. Places like Caernarfon can also be reached from bangor by bus.

Postcard from Blackpool

This postcard was originally sent at Easter 2009!

Blackpool has always been a British holiday hot spot and still is! Famous for Pleasure Beach and its massive roller coaster right on the shore, Blackpool has become a synonym for stag and hen night fun! I remember, in Year 5 when i properly started to learn English, one of the first places we talked about was Blackpool and it's roller coaster... how weird.

Blackpool's other landmark is undoubtly Blackpool Tower. The iron structure "looks like the Eiffel Tower", the Brits say, but really, it doesn't. Well, it's a tower, and it's made of iron, but that's where the similarities end. The Victorian building at the foot of the tower houses a circus, a restaurant and offers fun for all the family on several floors.

Tourists who aren't afraid of heights can climb high up into the top of the tower. Next to a covered observation deck, you can also reach two more outdoor floors via iron spiral staircases.

The observation deck includes the "Walk of Faith" - the floor in one corner has been replaced with thick glass. And you can even send postcards from up there! There's a post office which will stamp your cards and letter "Sent from the top of Blackpool Tower".

Blackpool has a total of three piers, all of which have different things to offer. When you arrive by train, the closest pier is North Pier. Stroll along, have a coffee or an ice cream. This pier is the one to go to to relax. Central Pier has shops, a game arcade and a ferris wheel. South Pier is probably the most famous one as it houses a theme park and is located opposite Pleasure Beach.

Unique is Blackpool's tram network. Most trams run between the piers and include double-decker carriages. If you had enough of the beach, roller coasters and heights (and you know how to dance), why not take part in the afternoon dance at the Tower Ballroom? The world-famous ballroom is open to the public daily, and many come there for some boogie woogie. Many practice there for competitions, other dance just for fun, but everyone can join in!

Lady Liberty's Crown

The New York icon will allow "all access" again.

Ever since 9/11, the crown on Lady Liberty's head had been off-limits for everyone. The US deemed it too dangerous, in fear of another terrorist attack. However, after careful planning, the narrow crown will open again for the public on Independence Day, July 4th.

It's what most tourists to New york have been waiting for, for nearly eight years. 22 floors above the ground, the tiny, narrow and warm room can only be reached over one spiral staircase - and 354 steps. The 25 windows overlook the New York harbour. However, if you're daring enough to lean forward a little and look to your left, you can even see a bit of the famous skyline. 10 people fit into the room, and it's not an ideal attraction for claustrophobic people, or those afraid of heights. The only way into the crown is via two intertwined iron staircases. in a case of emergency, people wouldn't be able to get out in time. Once you started your ascent or descent, there was no way back.

Although some rangers are not sure whether the crown was ever inteded to be a visitor deck, numbers of people admitted into Lady Liberty's head will be limited. Before it was closed in 2001, over a hundred people tried to get up there at once on a regular basis.

From July 4th onwards, tourists have to apply online - and groups of ten are picked at random. This is to ensure, that the visitors have a great experience on the Statue of Liberty.

High Line Park opened in Manhattan

Ten days ago, New York got yet another landmark that is set to be a tourist magnet: The High Line Park.

The High Line, much like Chicago's "L" (elevated train), originally ran 21 km between 35th Street and St. John's Park Terminal in West-Manhattan. Built in the 1930 to ease traffic congestion on New York streets, it also helped the markets and comapnies in West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. The railway tracks sometime ran through the second or third floor of store houses and factories. Yet, by the 1950's, trucks started to replace the High Line, rendering it pretty much useless. The last train ran in 1980.

However, citizens of New York spoke up against pulling the structure down. They suggested to turn the remaining part of the High Line into a park. Work started in 2006 and on June 8th 2009 the park was officially opened to the public. It runs on a length of 2,3 km today between 34th and Gansevoort Streets.

Tourist magnet collapsed in Australia

The famous Island Archway along Australia's Great Ocean Road collapsed today. The 25m high stone formation was part of the Twelve Apostles coast line. All that's left are too stone needles, the rest of the arch crashed into the sea.
A helicopter pilot spotted the broken archway early this morning. He notified the park rangers at Port Campbell National Park. "There was a lot of dirt in the water. The arch is gone, now we've got two islands instead", said Ranger Natasha Johnson. The formation, as well as the famous Twelve Apostles, is made out of very soft stone. Constant water and wind fasten erosion. The entire coastline is always changing, due to the stones eroding away. It shows how "dynamic" the coast is. Once the stone hits the water, it dissolves like sugar.

Although the rangers are sad about the collapse, they also admire the show of strength on nature's part. Island Archway will probably keep its name. However, they already plan to put up a board that explains why two stone needles are called "archway".

Buchvorstellung: NEON Unnützes Wissen

"Australien exportiert Kamele nach Saudi-Arabien!" Klingt komisch, ist aber so! Oder wusstet ihr, dass Tibbles, die Katze eines neuseeländischen Leuchtturmwärters 1894 eine neue Vogelart entdeckte - und sie auch eigenmächtig wieder ausrottete?

Im Neon-Magazin gibt es jeden Monat eine Reihe namens "Unnützes Wissen", die inzwischen sogar Kultstatus bei der Leserschaft erreicht hat. Das Buch "Neon Unnützes Wissen" beinhaltet auf 272 Seiten die 1374 skurrilsten Fakten aus den letzten fünf Jahren. Und eins ist sicher: Das Wissen ist zwar zu nichts zu gebrauchen, aber vergessen kann man es auch nicht!

Wer kennt die Situation nicht? Man unterhält sich und irgendwann geht der Gesprächsstoff gefährlich schnell zur Neige. Spätestens jetzt ist es an der Zeit, mit solchen Fakten wie "In New York gibt es noch Wasserleitungen aus Bambus" oder "Das Verbot im Parlament zu sterben wurde 2007 zum lächerlichsten Gesetz Großbritanniens gewählt" nachzuliefern. In dem Buch wurden viele witzige und absolut absurde Fakten gesammelt, die zum nachdenken und teilweise auch ausprobieren anregen: "Der Mensch kann sich nicht am Ellebogen lecken..." - gebt's zu, ihr habt es versucht!

Erschienen im Heyne Verlag, 8,95 Euro

Karl. on tour

Gestern war Japan-Tag in Düsseldorf, und die Karl.-Redaktion hatte beschloßen, diesen Anlass als Ausflugsgrund auszuwählen.

So versammelten wir uns am Nachmittag am Solingen Hauptbahnhof und sind mit der allseits beliebten S7 Richtung Landeshauptstadt gefahren. Schon am Hauptbahnhof in Düsseldorf kamen uns unzählige verkleidete Cos-Player und Manga-Fans entgegen, und wir wurden sozusagen von der masse in Richtung Altstadt und Rheinuferpromenade mitgerissen.

Zum Glück hat das Wetter mitgespielt, aber selbst ohne aufwändige und selbstgenähte Kostüme kamen wir schon ins Schwitzen. Wie muss es dann erst den tausenden Japan-Fans ergangen sein?? Ich bin immernoch überzeugt, dass meine beste Investition gestern €2 für einen japanischen Fächer waren!

Überall entlang dem Rheinufer fand etwas statt. Von Kapmfkunst-Demonstrationen, über Junior-Sumo-Ringen bis hin zu Kimono-Anproben und Kalligraphie-Unterricht war alles vertreten. Und natürlich war auch das Essen typisch japanisch. So gab es Sushi und Udon, sowie Tees und typisch japanische Getränke. Auf mehreren Bühnen sangen Bands, von denen einige sogar extra aus Japan angreist waren. Wobei ich mich frage: wer hört so etwas allen ernstes? Nägel über Tafel kratzen würd ich da vorziehen.

Ich war überrascht, wie unkompliziert alle waren. Jeder hielt an für Fotos, und natürlich für Lob für das gelungene Kostüm. Mit Mangas und Anime kenne ich mich überhaupt nicht aus, aber selbst ich habe Kostüme wiedererkannt: Sailor Moon! Die Serie, mit der damals alles angefangen hat! Ein Mädchen lief sogar als Picachu aus Pokemon herum - na wem's gefällt. Viele waren auch als Geishas unterwegs, in Kimonos und mit Sonnenschirm und, typisch japanisch, weißen Socken in Flip Flops! Und ja, das geht, tut nur höllisch weh!

Eigentlich wollten wir bis zum Abschlussfeuerwerk um 23.00 Uhr bleiben, aber das war uns dann doch zu lang. Und irgendwann hat man auch alles gesehen, wenn man sich nicht allzu brennend dafür interessiert. Zum Glück fand gleichzeitig der Bücherbummel auf der Kö statt, auf den Alex und ich uns dann verzogen haben. Einmal die Kö rauf und runter, auf der Suche nach Lustigen Taschenbüchern (Ducktale-Comics). und Düsseldorfer haben bewiesen, dass sie nicht immer unbedingt die hellsten sind! "Haben sie Lustige Taschenbücher"? "Wir haben Taschenbücher, aber ob die so lustig sind, weiß ich nicht!". *andenkopfschlägt* Das muss doch eigentlich wehtun, oder?
Zu abend gegessen haben wir im Louisiana, in der Altstadt. Dann haben wir uns auf den Weg zurück nach Solingen gemacht, denn schließlich ist Feuerwerk gleich Feuerwerk.

Postcard from Liverpool

The author of this post does not encourage binge drinking in any way!
Please drink responsibly!

This city on the Mersey has more to offer than Albert Dock and its claim to fame as the Beatles' hometown. I'm not saying you should ignore the Beatles or Albert Dock - by all means, have a look around! But there are a few weird and wonderful places in Liverpool that travellers should check out!

The massive shopping centre Liverpool One (opposite Albert Dock) should satisfy all your designer label shopping needs. Restaurants, game shops and a cinema help entertain those who have to accompany the shopper. If you can't find what you're after and you're more into alternative fashion and music anyway, you should have a look around Grand Central. Formerly known as "Quiggins" before it moved to the new location, it houses loads of shops that sell alternative and funky clothes and accessoires of any kind as well as vintage clothing and vinyl records. Bear in mind, however, that many of the shops are run by students, and might not be open during semester breaks! There's a tattoo and piercing parlour as well, and everyone from punk to goth can find their perfect jewellery there.

In case you want to have a great but cheap night out after spending a day running around Liverpool and you're over 18 years of age, you should head towards CaVa Tequila Bar on Wood Street. The bar doesn't look like much from the outside, though once inside you have to admit that it's got its own kind of charme to it. It's a long, narrow and dimly lit place. Posters have been put up and torn down time and time again, the stereo is playing reggae. There are not a lot of seats - but what they're lacking in seats they even out with Tequila! There are roughly 20 different flavours - from dark chocolate to mint, banana and butterscotch, so there should be one for everyone. Shots are £ 1, and here's how I've been taught how to spend time in CaVa: Have a flavoured shot first - lick, swallow, bite - and then have a normal tequila and coke for £ 1,50.

Please drink responsibly!

Postcard from Portmeirion - La Dolce Vita in Wales

Who thought that La Dolce Vita was an Italian exclusive, couldn't be more wrong. A tiny and artifical village in Wales takes up the challenge and you really feel like you're on the shores of Lake Garda.

To show that architecture can compliment a natrually beautiful landscape instead of destroying it, Clough Williams-Ellis built the village of Portmeirion between 1925 and 1977, near the town of Porthmadog on the Sowdonia coastline. There is a hotel, kiosks, a restaurant and a bell tower all painted in bright and vibrant colours, but no proper shops. Portmeirion was built on Williams-Ellis' private land and has been intended as a hotel village from the start. Visitors can stay overnight in all buildings - if they have pre-booked the stay.

Portmeirion is hard to reach by public transport. If you have to really on public transport, the best way would be to take the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog and take the vintage Ffestiniog steam train from there. The second-to-last stop on the way to Porthmadog is Minffordd - however, there is no sign saying that travellers to Portmeirion should get off the train at this stop. From Minffordd station, it's roughly a 20 minute (1 1/2 miles) leisurely walk to Portmeirion - just follow the signs. This method only gives you approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the village, as you have to catch the last train back. To fully enjoy the village and its surroundings, you should consider hiring a car or finding someone to take you there as Portmeirion is open to the public from 9.30am to 7.30pm.

Many people will recognise Portmeirion from the 60's TV show "The Prisoner", which was filmed entirely on location. The producers had been looking for a surreal and italianate place and found it in Wales. A souvenir shop and a guided "The Prisoner" walk cater for the show's fans.

On sunny days, tourists can really feel like they are in Bella Italia when they stroll through the park (complete with water works and colonnade) and eat freshly and locally made ice cream.
So, if Italy is too far or too expensive for your liking - why not give Wales a try? You'll hardly know the difference!

Postcard from Chester

At a first glance, Chester looks like a small, old, English city. And yes, Chester is old and English but far from boring!

Founded by Romans and expanded especially during Tudor rule around the 15th to 17th century, Chester got it's very own charme.

Probably the city's most striking features are "The Rows". The houses in the city centre have - next to the shops on street-level, a linked balconies on the first floor, which also feature shops and cafés. "Doubledecker Shopping" is what they call it, and it is a rather fitting description. Even in pouring rain, people can shop without getting soaked. Most of the inner-city architecture is Victorian, although it is made to look much older. The Rows are established in nearly every building along Chester's four main roads Watergate, Northgate, Eastgate and Bridge Street, which were already laid out in Roman times. The style of the houses has been called "black-andwhite-revival", as it returns to half-timbered walls. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants in the Rows, like The Rows Café which offers burgers, to the fancier restaurant/bistro Mezes.

Chester is also home to the Eastgate Clock, the second most photographed clocktower in Great Britain after Big Ben. Eastgate Clock is on the city wall - Chester is the British city with most complete city walls.

Those of you, who have ever wanted to try a really wicked milkshake, should head to Purely Wicked Milkshakes on Bridge Street. From KitKat flavour to popcorn and mango-strawberry red Bull smoothies, the menu features about 90 different flavours/ingredients. Chances are, there is one flavour that takes your fancy as well.

Stroll along towards the river Dee and enjoy a pint at the Boathouse pub. Or head into town for a drink and a meal at the Coach House Inn!

Chester also offers the chance to encounter a Roman Centurio in full armour on the way to the Roman amphitheatre - in the middle of a medieval and Victorian style city.

Postcard from Llanfairpwll

„The next stop is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch“. Come again?? Yep, that's right! This place really exists and it's pronounced „Chlanweirpuchkin-gichgogerisch-worndrobuch-chantisilio-gogogoch“. That's Welsh for „The church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave“ – and yes, this name has been made up.

Llanfairpwll (or rather Llanfair P.G. as the locals call the village) is located on Anglesey peninsula (which is called Môn in Welsh) in North Wales, but it doesn't have much else to offer than a touristy shopping centre the longest place name in the United Kingdom. A business man invented the name in the early 19th century to attract tourists to the village - and he was successful. Even today, busloads of tourists stop there every day to have their photo taken in front of the long town sign. However, Llanfairpwll is only worth the time when it's a coffee or cigarette break on the way to Holyhead and the ferry to Ireland in the east, or going west towards Llandudno in North Wales or Chester in England.

Although they like to tell everyone that is is so, Llanfairpwll is not the longest place name in the world! Current record holder is: "Krungthepmahanakornamornratanakosinmahintarayutthayamahadilokphop- nopparatrajathaniburiromudomrajaniwesmahasatharnamornphimarnavatarnsa-thitsakkattiyavisanukamprasit", which is the full and official name of Bangkok, Thailand (in Thai it is shortend to Krung Thep). "Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokai-whenuakitanatahu" (Taumata) in New Zealand comes to second place. And if L.A. would return to its full former name of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula", there would only be one letter missing for a tie and shared third place with Wales!

Postcard from Llangollen

The Welsh town Llangollen has far more to offer than just the stop of the vintage Llangollen Railway line.However, if you do arrive on the steam train, why not enjoy the views of the vintage railway from across the river? Opposite the railway station on the other side of the river Dee is the Corn Mill Pub. Enjoy a cold beer and great views from it's beergarden above the river!

Do you like to read? Why not stroll into town and have a coffee or scone at "Café and Books" on Castle Street? It's the café with the yellow front on the left hand side of the street. While the downstairs room is a café, the entire upstairs is a second hand bookstore. Some rare and antique items can be found there. Though the shelves are quite narrow, the store has this "bookstore feel" to it. It smells of old paper, the wooden floor makes noises when you walk on it and there are cupboards full of books on the stairway!

Plas Newydd, 1/4 miles outside town, was the home of the two eccentric ladies of Llangollen. They built the house as their new home and retreat. The gardens are especially nice in summer.

But you can also enjoy going on the canal, and having your canalboat towed by a horse from Llangollen Wharf. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is just a few miles outside town.
If you are up for a walk, you can also visit Dinas Bran, the ruins of a castle high above the settlement. You should take good walking shoes, though and enjoy the views of the surroundings of Llangollen in good weather!

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