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Posts from the ‘UNESCO World Heritage Sites’ Category

The Ruins of Pergamon

The ancient city of Pergamon, just outside modern Bergama, is not necessarily on the “tourist trail” in Turkey, so I made a special point to visit.  From the garden behind my guesthouse, I shared a bottle of Raki with the other travelers and watched the fading sunset and twilight dance across the ancient ruins on the mountain above us.  My mind wandered back and forth between imagining this once magnificent capitol city and contemplating the quiet, emptied ruins present today.  That ancient Pergamon exists at all today in Bergama, Turkey is a wonder and a testament to its phenomenal and multi-layered history.

Part of the Palace complex, Pergamon

Part of the Temple of Trajan, Pergamon

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The Byzantine Art Experience – Hosios Loukas Monastery, Greece

Secluded on Mt. Helicon in Greece, just south of Delphi, is the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (Holy Luke).  A triumph of Byzantine art and architecture, it is no surprise that this church is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Decorated with a combination of mosaics and frescoes, I made certain to stop at this church.  While its difficult to capture the feeling of being in such an amazing place, hopefully the images and music in this post will help transport you that beautiful place of marble and holy Byzantine faces.

Byzantine mosaic - Jesus Washing the Disciples Feet

Jesus Washing the Disciples Feet from the Narthex of Hosios Loukas

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Inside Mont Saint Michel

So after walking to and around Mont Saint Michel, you’re probably wondering what is inside this mystic fortress.  While strategically important, the site was first settled as a religious community and so it contains an extensive and historic abbey.  The Romanesque style Abbey Church, Cloisters and support rooms are incredible.  After the French Revolution, the site was used as a prison but was reclaimed in the late 19th century as a historical landmark.  The stone architecture underwent several waves of restoration to reveal the original medieval complex (with the exception of iconic steeple topped by a St. Michael statue).

abbey church, Mont Saint Michel Read more

Outside Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel has always seemed liked a mystic place.  Totally isolated, the massive religious fortress seems to rise from the sea.  Settled by a hermit saint in 8th century on a tidal rock, kings and commoners alike have sought out this place continually ever since.  One of the most recognizable places in France and a UNESCO World Heritage site, you better believe I was going to spend some time exploring Mont Saint-Michel!  So in the spirit of those medieval travelers who made the pilgrimage to the Romanesque Church of the Abbey crowning the mountain, here’s how I approached and climbed Mont Saint-Michel.

Mont Saint-Michel sunshine Read more

Byzantine Fort City of Mystras, Greece

Monestary of Pantanassa, Mystras

Looking up from the ruined domestic buildings of the lower city, you can see the active Monastery of Pantanassa further up the mountain in the the Upper City of Mystras, Greece.

So many European cities are jumbles of art and architecture, a testament to the evolving history of the urban area.  Beneath these modern cities are fractured layers of a Renaissance, Gothic and Ancient past, but you have to try hard to imagine how things looked during any one period.  It’s truly amazing to find a city that retains its character from one specific age.  The abandoned Byzantine city of Mystras in the mountains just above Sparta in the Southern Peloponnese, is one such frozen city.  You can walk through the ruined streets and largely intact religious buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and be right back in 1350 AD.

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