4. World Heritage

If you think about World Heritage Sites, you probably think of places associated with ancient art and culture, historical buildings and monuments. And of course, many of these are on the World Heritage List.

Remains of ancient cultures, like Cuzco in Peru, Angkor in Cambodia, or the famous rock city of Petra in Jordan. Or old city centres, such as Rome in Italy, or Sana`a in Yemen. Or places of artistic or cultural significance, like the Stonehenge stone circle in England, or the Tsodilo rock paintings in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. But The World Heritage List contains a lot of sites that are not so obvious. Some of them are well known. For example, the Galápagos Islands, which inspired Darwin`s theories of evolution, or the Victoria Falls waterfalls in Africa, and the Grand Canyon in the United States.

Let`s look at a few of the more unusual sites on the World Heritage List and why it is important to preserve them.

Citadel of Haiti

These monuments were built at the end of the nineteenth century when Haiti became independent and the many thousands of black slaves in Haiti were free for the first time. These ex-slaves built the monuments, which The World Heritage List (WHL) describes as `a universal symbol of liberty`.

Robben Island in South Africa

This island was used through the centuries as a prison, a hospital and a military base. But it`s probably most famous as a maximum-security prison for political prisoners in the twentieth century. Nelson Mandela was one of its most famous residents. The WHL says it represents `the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism`.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India

This railway was opened in 1881 and is still operating today. It crosses a difficult area of mountain landscape and it is a great example of railway engineering. The WHL says that it is `the first, and still the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway.   

Is geography important? Here’s a question for you to answer.

What have the following countries got in common: Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Madagascar?

Quite easy if you can picture them on the globe--they are all islands. Australia is so big that it’s almost a continent by itself, so you don’t think of it as an island, but of course all of these nations are surrounded by sea.

Now how about this question...

What have these five nations got in common? Slovenija, Botswana, Kazakhstan, Paraguay and Liechtenstein. A bit more difficult to answer, but of course you’ve already read the title of this article. Yes, they are all landlocked. In other words, in contrast to the first five countries whose coastline forms their border, the second five have no coastline at all. If you are a Slovenijan or a Paraguayan, you have to pass through somebody else’s country if you want to go to the beach.

Liechtenstein is even more of a geographical phenomenon; it is ‘doubly landlocked’ because the countries that surround it--Austria and Switzerland are also landlocked. Lucky old Liechtensteiners. There is only one other country in the world in a similar position, Uzbekistan, which is surrounded by five other landlocked countries. Go and have a look at the map if you want to know which.


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