Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Two Year Report on the Road to 500

Two years after deciding to keep track of the World Heritage Sites, here I am trying to catch up… I should have done regular updates but never got to it. The previous blogpost has been at the top of this site, promising new posts but looking abandoned. How am I supposed to fix this? I should never let this happen again… How to summarize the extraordinary places we’ve seen or the things we learned? 

Stranded on Lord Howe Island, a remote and barely accessible world heritage site in May 2023

I started by counting, recounting and making a spreadsheet, I was at 149 out of 1154. And then we got going: we took a longer trip to Dallas driving 4400 miles instead of 3000 to visit several places in US that we should have seen long ago, Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Parthenon in Nashville… We had not known of the Poverty Point and they are justifiably proud to have a World Heritage Site in Louisiana. Since we were in Dallas, it made sense to come home through Wisconsin, we had to visit Taliesin. This is one of several sites connected with the WHS called “the 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright”,  which includes Guggenheim Museum (seen long ago) but Taliesin is special, because he built it for himself.


A hundred years ago they rebuilt the Parthenon in Nashville

Interior with very low ceilings at Taliesin

Interior court at Taliesin

Since then we took many different trips with the specific goal of visiting new World Heritage Sites. Ileana suggested that we should focus first on the most difficult and inaccessible ones, it would be harder when we are older. In addition I wanted to get the easy pickings. We went to Canada and Mexico. We went to Bermuda, Seychelles and Greenland. We passed through France or Italy on our way back from Romania. In short, in the last two years we took 15 different trips with lengths between two and 60 days, for a total of about 180 days. I now stand at 236 out of 1199. I visited 85 new sites, added two newly elected sites that we’ve seen some years ago and revisited a few.  Ileana is at 238. We will keep going.

Aldabra Atoll my last world heritage site

The first quick trip to Canada was to see Kingston and several places connected with the Rideau Canal, it is close to us, just 3-4 hours away. Two month later, we flew to St. John and visited three sites in Newfoundland. They are absolutely amazing. First, at Mistaken Point we walked (in our socks) on the oldest fossils ever known, the first biological complex organisms on Earth, dating from 580 million years ago. Less than 40 hours later, we made it 1200 km away at L’Anse aux Meadows, the place where human race “got back together”. The way they explain it, humans left Africa going East for 100,000 years and then in the 11th century the Vikings (going West) met the indigenous population that was made of descendants of those “African immigrants.” And to top it off, we hiked in the Gros Morne National Park, a WHS because this is where in the 50s they understood plate tectonics and we got to walk on an exposed part of the Earth’s oceanic crust, the upper mantle, almost equivalent to walking to the center of our planet. And, not a WHS, we saw the “living rocks,” called thrombolites, made of large clusters of micro-organisms that resemble the earliest forms of life on Earth, from 3.5 billion years ago!

Helping a bit on the Rideau Canal

Mistaken Point, Newfoundland

Next to a 580 million year old fossil

They rebuilt some of the thousand year old dwellings

L'Anse aux Meadows!

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

We went to Romania in September 2022 and spent a mini vacation with Ioan in Delta Dunării, a place where I’ve been a couple times since 1980. But it was Ileana’s first time and her 158th site. 

Danube Delta, Romania

I had a blast in Bulgaria in October 2022. It was probably one of the first countries to sign up to the UNESCO convention, so it got 9 WHSs approved in the early 80s, some of them would probably never make it right now. We also visited several tentative sites, these might be approved at some point in the future. We crossed the country from left to right and back and from South to North. I loved almost everything about it but funny enough, Ileana didn’t necessarily. We also visited Balcic, a former part of Romania where our queen had a castle in the '30s and where they speak Romanian and serve Romanian food for the tourists. We had some adventures, but they are now fading in the back of our mind. And we spent two nights at Nessebar! This is meaningful because someone could question the sanity of a program in which we go 12-15 hours per day, from a museum to a ruin to driving several hours to a new city, a new museum, a monastery in the mountains, getting lost in an impenetrable forest, getting stuck on a street narrower than the car and then repeating it all over again. 

Rila Monastery

Pirin National Park, Bulgaria

Bachkovo Monastery

Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis

Roman forum and odeon, Plovdiv

Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis, Plovdiv

Special mosaic in the Small Basilica, Plovdiv

Ancient City of Nessebar

Ancient City of Nessebar

Balchik Botanic Garden

Regina Maria Balchik Palace

Regina Maria Balchik Palace

Pobitite Kamani Stone Forest, a tentative world heritage site

The 1200 year old mystery of the Madara Horseman

The interior court of the Archeological museum in Veliko Tarnovo

A beautiful city with a rich history, Veliko Tarnovo

To get back home we stopped in France and took a very wide circle around Paris visiting 8 WHSs in three very busy days. We loved Amiens, Reims, Nancy and Provins!

Reims Cathedral

Believe it, still a world heritage site, the Taittinger champagne cellar 

The magic of Provins

Nancy, the temporary residence of a king without a kingdom – Stanislas Leszczynski, WHS

Place Stanislas in Nancy

A quick trip to St. George fortifications in Bermuda for Veterans Day 2022 taught us about the role that it played in the English settlements in the New World (it started in 1612!).

The Old State House in St. George's, Bermuda

The Unfinished Church in St. George

Then in February 2023 my scheduled 3 days meeting in San Diego turned into a 17 day trip through Mexico in which we saw 20 World Heritage sites. We had to go when we learned that it is the end of the monarch butterfly migration and it’s also the best time to see the grey whale babies in Laguna San Ignacio. And Mexico City has direct connection to Madrid which has cheap flights to Romania. 

A sentinel at the San Ignacio Laguna where the grey whales come to mate

A pod of dolphins

Pirámide de la Luna, Teotihuacán

Xochicalco an amazing World Heritage Site

Cerro Pélon, Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

Billions of monarch butterflies doing what they do

Monarch butterflies still drying their wings


Guanajuato at sunset

El Tajín

La Gruta, restaurant in a cave at Teotihuacán

Casa Louis Barragán World Heritage Site

Grand Hotel Ciudad de México

Instead of spending a few hours in the new Madrid airport we went to Alcalá de Henares, the world’s first planned university city, a city that seems to be made for storks and famous as the birthplace of Cervantes. 
In front of Cervantes' old house

During our first trip to Milan in 2012 we couldn’t get in to see the Last Supper. Then in the winter of 2022 I read Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Since there was no direct flight from Romania to New York and we had to see the Last Supper we stopped five days in Italy in March 2023 and saw 12 WHSs.

Capella degli Scrovegni, with Giotto's fresco cycle, Padova

Arena di Verona

Santa Maria delle Grazie, church with Da Vinci's Last Supper

Teatro alla Scala Milano,  Ileana is there, in yellow

Sacri Monte di Varese

Another thing that we are interested in, total solar eclipses, might be the exact opposite of what I just described. Somebody else makes the schedule, and chooses the time and the location. If we want to see it, we don’t get much choice. We live in upstate New York, the furthest away point from us is the Western coast of Australia. And this is where, on a tiny sliver of land, 1300 km away from Perth, there were 52 seconds of totality for the “big” 2023 eclipse! That led to a 43 day trip around the world in which we were able to visit 15 WHSs (13 new) in Australia and which deserves a much longer description!

We returned after 11 years


Perth, Western Australia

After many days, we got to the opposite side of the world

A couple of little sharks playing in the shallow

Kurrajong campground, Cape Range National Park

The Southern Sky

The Total Solar Eclipse of 2023 on an iPhone

Cape Range National Park, Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Site

Having fun in Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia

On top of Mount Wellington, overlooking Hobart, Tasmania

A monument to those extraordinary people who saved the Franklin River and the Tasmanian Wilderness, including UNESCO...

We only tried it for  a few days...

On Gordon River in Tasmania

Ocean Beach outside of Strahan, the end of the road in the Tasmanian Wilderness

The famous Apostles

Lake Surprise on Mount Eccles, Budj Bim WHS

Outside Alexandra Cave, Naracoorte WHS

Willandra Lakes WHS

Wet Tropics World Heritage Site

Kuranda Railroad, Queensland

Sunrise at Cape Tribulation, where the road ends in Queensland

Lamington National Park, Gondwana Rainforest WHS

Lake McKenzie, only rain water, on K'gari WHS

A hundred years ago this was the fastest and most luxurious ship ever made

The famous Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains WHS

A World Heritage Site revisited

Mutton Bird Point on Lord Howe Island

Like I said, we managed to visit Greenland! We did it the long way around Alaska and above Canada as we had to see first one of the most hard to reach WHS there is, SGang Gwaay, in Haida Gwaii. That 60 day trip, again, deserves a much longer summary. We visited 8 WHS, including the Olympic National park in Washington State, the Kluane/Glacier Bay in Alaska, the Illulissat Icefjord in Greenland and Red Bay Whaling Station in Labrador.

Sgang Gwaay in Haida Gwaii
Olympic National park

The epitome of stupidity 

Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka

A magical forest in Kodiak

Fort Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak island, Alaska

Stuck for a couple of hours watching whales playing outside Dutch Harbor, Unalaska

Who doesn't love Devon Island? Croker Bay, visiting the glacier

Ilulissat Icefjord, it is truly as special as they say

It was a busy 2023, but it wasn’t meant to be over. We’ve never seen an annular solar eclipse, and there were a couple WHSs in New Mexico that we didn’t see. So we flew to Albuquerque in October, saw  the annular eclipse of October 14 and went to Taso Pueblo, Mesa Verde National Park and the Chaco culture sites.

This is an annular eclipse, is a total one in which the moon doesn't fully cover the sun, so it's not total...

Mesa Verde National Park, Cliff Palace

The truly unbelievable Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

We didn’t have much planned for 2024 except the visit to Aldabra. We didn’t know about it two years ago, but shortly after, as we learned about it, we had to see it. It was an expedition cruise through Seychelles, expensive and too luxurious for our taste, but a fantastic experience that was worth it. It also involved flying half way around the world, visiting the only WHS in Qatar, Al Zubarah, and another one in Seychelles, Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island.

Al Zubarah World Heritage Site, pearl divers, Qatar

Coco de mer, Vallée de Mai, Praslin Island, Seychelles

Curieuse Island, Tortoise Sanctuary

Everything is special on Aldabra

Aldabra Atoll, is this the most special world heritage site?

Aride Island, where we have now adopted a tortoise, Portale

Visiting the Venn's Town mission Lodge, tentative world heritage site, where the Queen had tea in 1972

To close this brief update, the longest and “best” solar eclipse in North America just happened six weeks ago. We were smart to choose to go to Dallas, and we were lucky to get a break in the clouds:

too hard for the iPhone to capture everything

Total solar eclipse 2024 with some orange spots

It's over... next one in United States is in 2045, I will be back sooner than that...

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