On an earlier entry I said “don’t trust UNESCO” for choosing what to visit. Someone pointed out that their list is not for tourists, but to recognize places that are cultural treasures that deserve special care. Yes…I was just tired of people promoting their places with me based on this list.
Someone else asked which UNESCO World Heritage sites I thought were overrated. I couldn’t remember. I went to their website, reviewed the list, and found these, which I feel are not worthy of special praise. They are all important cultural treasures and fine sights…just not particularly better in my estimate than other competing sights for a sightseer’s priorities.
Americans have the shortest vacations in the rich world, and my responsibility as a travel writer is not to just rave about everything, but to help overwhelmed travelers sort through the superlatives and smartly allocate their precious and limited vacation time. When someone from the tourist board in one of these places brags, “We are on the UNESCO list,” I sing, “That don’t impress me much”:
Historic center of Telc, Czech Republic (fine, well-preserved ring of buildings, but thin)
Jewish Quarter in TrebÃc, Czech Republic (poorly presented compared to other historic Jewish quarters)
Grande Ã®le, Strasbourg, France (Colmar beats anything Strasbourg has to offer)
Tokaj Wine Region, Hungary (why?)
San Gimignano, Italy (like Obidos in Portugal, a fine and touristic shell — great towers, after that…expensive ice cream and no parking)
Vicenza, Italy (yes, nice city, but only if you’re into Palladio)
Botanic Garden in Padua (wonderful historic garden…but not likely to connect with travelers)
Villa d’Este, Tivoli, outside of Rome (fine old park, but run-down and doesn’t make the cut for a best week in Rome)
Etruscan Necropolis, Cerveteri, Italy (impressive Etruscan tombs but not worth a journey)
Alto Douro Wine Region in Portugal (no better than wine regions in Germany and France)
Old Town of Ãvila, Spain (thunderous walls, but the town itself is not unique)
Old Town of Segovia, Spain (not unique…Salamanca is better, with more life)
Ramparts of Bellinzone in Switzerland (I love ramparts, but they’re a dime a dozen)
Giant’s Causeway in North Ireland (impressive geology, but I don’t believe in giants)
Derwent Valley Mills in England (why?)
Having stuck my neck out to say all this, I must add that it is fun to reassess opinions I once held and change them. First impressions can be too powerful. On many occasions I am saddled with a first impression from a generation ago…and with an opportunity to reconsider…I realize I missed a place’s charm at first glance. Still, overall…there are too many superlatives in the travel-writing business.