UNESCO is an interesting institution. Originally inaugurated to preserve and celebrate mankind’s achievements, there is some odd stuff on their lists.
Machu Picchu, Venice, the Palace of Versailles, the Serengeti, Stonehenge. These illustrious destinations are some of the world’s most spectacular sights and feats of human engineering – rightly designated culturally valuable and worthy of protection. In fact, UNESCO doesn’t just protect places but also ‘things’ like Belgian beer, Mexican food and traditional ceremonies.
But, there is some weird stuff on the UNESCO world heritage lists. Stuff that may be historically interesting and all but is genuinely perplexing as to why it’s on the list.
Here’s our favourite weird and random things from the UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage.
Remember the hymn, silent night? Maybe you hear it every year at Christmas still, but did you know it’s on the list of intangible cultural heritage? It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber in Oberndorf bei Salzberg, Austria.
Why is it on the list? It is held up as a message of inter religious and humanitarian peace. Fair enough I guess.
Why is paper on the world heritage list? Well, this particular type of paper has been made the same way since the age of the Tang dynasty in China (circa 618-907 ADE) and it is particularly well suited to the majesty of the Chinese script. Apparently it’s very smooth and resistant to mould and corrosion. Perhaps hipster restaurants will start using it for their menus…
Mongolian Camel Coaxing
Perhaps my favourite thing on the list (except Belgian beer) and my new main reason to book a flight to Mongolia ASAP. Mongolian nomads basically perform a very in depth singing ritual to encourage female camels to adopt orphan baby camels. There’s a lot of subtle nuances to it and apparently it’s dying out as a tradition as people prefer motorbikes and trucks to camels. Also you don’t need to coax a motorbike.
Berlin Housing Estate
I’ve seen some interesting architecture in my time. In fact, there are some spectacular villages and housing structures around the world. Apparently this housing estate in Berlin is one of them; showing novel approaches to town planning and architecture as well as garden design. Machu Picchu? Pfft… Wait til you see this!
Sand Drawings of Vanuatu
Those guys you see making sculptures out of sand at tourist spots the world over have nothing on Vanuatu. Although they may not look like much, the swirly patterns left in the sands across Vanuatu allow the locals of this linguistically varied country to share news, gossip and folklore. All without uttering a word. And they’re kinda cool looking too…
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump
For the name alone, this site in Alberta, Canada is one of the weirdest on the list. Why so weird? Well, trained herdsmen would coax migrating buffalo to get too close to the edge of these massive cliffs and fall to their certain doom. At the bottom, other tribesmen would literally smash in the heads of the buffaloes and process them for meat, hides and bone tools. A proper hive of industry, albeit pretty brutal.
Have you been to any other weird UNESCO sites? We’d love to hear of something obscure that you’ve found that’s a protected site so feel free to comment below!
Ready to head out there and explore some of the amazing (or not so amazing) UNESCO sites? Check flight prices on our handy flight widget below…