Saturday, April 12, 2014

UNESCO and Wiesbaden

Four years ago (2010), there started this campaign to identify Wiesbaden as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Generally, this means you get on a special United Nations list....with an exceptional reason....for having a historic and very significant reason to exist as a community or constructed place.

Yeah, it sounds like a bogus club that spends money to get more bogus attention than it deserves.  But, here in Wiesbaden....people believe in this effort.

So, it all started with some Hochschule (Freseniu) in town which got the students engaged on the topic, and the city council said to go full-speed ahead.

The logical gain for the city of Wiesbaden....if this tourist 'note' which goes out, and there is some thinking that it's like a magnet....drawing people to visit.  So, a silly notation by the city of Wiesbaden's name.....could possibly attract another 100,000 visitors a year....maybe 300,000.  Why would you not seek such a honor?

Naturally, all this means paperwork.  Forms.  Questions posed.  Standards put out....which you must attest that you meet those standards.

This week, the city council got around to asking the Lord Mayor of Wiesbaden about the status of the application.  I suspect they knew the answer already, but they wanted him to utter the problems.  Lord Mayor Sven Gerich uttered the phrase: "It's difficult".

Somewhere in the groups of decision-makers of the UNESCO World Heritage Site club.....there is the controlling authority of the Czech Republic.  Because they have generally more spas in the world, and this category that Wiesbaden went after was "spa" invites a more difficult process.

The Czech's put some interesting qualifiers into the mix.  It isn't so much the city itself that matters in the spa it is the buildings and urban "look".  For Wiesbaden, their application talked at length of the great and proud history of their spas.  Throughout the Roman ages....people flocked to the area for the warm baths, charm of the locals, food, and exceptional drink.  Throughout the 1700s and 1800s....Wiesbaden grew into a major spa resort, with a casino operation....numerous exceptional hotels (now mostly all gone), and entertainment draws worthy of kings, queens and princes.

What Wiesbaden is banking past history and glory.  It's a major sales on appeal that relates to present circumstances.  Czech stumbling blocks?  Yeah, and they know that there's no real spa draw in Wiesbaden why note it on a historical identifier?

From the dozen-odd magnificent resort hotels that existed in the late 1800s in Wiesbaden....there might be three still left today.  The casino?  Still in operation, but it takes state money to keep it looking 'grand'.  A place where kings and queens walked?  Today, there might be a couple hundred foreign tourists daily....staying in town and walking the streets.  They don't come for the spa deal, or status-tourism, or grand balls.  They simply come for the 'look'.

July is now set for a meeting and long discussion with the controllers of this status symbol.  Wiesbaden will send it's finest to argue the point.

The curve in this whole application process?  Well, it's an interesting side-story.  Several wind-power syndicates and consortiums have had planning episodes in the works for the past decade.  Wind-power growth is booming.  And yes, they want to put windmills in the Taunus region (the hills around Wiesbaden) and on the Mainz side of the Rhine River....safely outside of Wiesbaden claim to authority but certainly within site of the city and it's long-dreamed goal of UNESCO status.

This past week....the city authorities of Niedernhausen (the town on the other side of the hill from where I live)....did a vote, and declared that they would be wind-mill "free".  Within the city authority's control, there's to be no construction projects....which might interfere with both the appeal of their valley town, and the UNESCO status of Wiesbaden.

This anti-wind mill episode....helping to keep focus on UNESCO?  Or the UNESCO application helping to keep focus on the anti-wind mill agenda?  Take your pick.

So, when you hear Wiesbaden and 'weltkulturerbe''s all about spa status of an era long gone, and an environmental agenda....which denies wind-mills.  Yeah, I'll admit this humorous part of the story....the same crowd pushing the application....was the same crowd stuck in turbo-status a decade ago demanding wind-mills to be raised to replace nuclear power.  And now?'s a whole new agenda with the same guys.

A lot about nothing?  Yeah.  It's about a dreamed-up status symbol, about a bygone era, used to effectively fight an agenda item, and keep people busy on something of a marginal nature.

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