It’s hard to believe that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) only recognized three World Heritage sites in Switzerland just eight years ago. Now it seems like they simply can’t stop naming sites in our favorite little alpine country.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee convened in Quebec City, Canada on July 7th and designated two more World Heritage sites in Switzerland.
The first site, the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Cultural Landscape, brings together two historic railway lines that exemplify the outstanding technical and architectural achievements of Swiss railroading. Combined, the two railway lines cross almost 200 stone viaducts and bridges and pass through more than 50 tunnels.
I find these two lines fascinating because the bridges and viaducts are considered full masonry construction, meaning that they don’t use any reinforcing concrete or steel. They’re basically built the way the romans would build bridges. Even more, the engineers built many of the structures on curves and slopes which really takes this outdated and time consuming method of construction to it’s highest level. The best part is that the engineers did it all for aesthetics, to preserve the character of the hidden and isolated mountain cultures that the railroad now connects. This is why I love Switzerland and the people who actually care about the look and feel of their surrounding environment.
To quote a press release from Swiss Tourism, “The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It (Rhaetian Railways Albula/Berina) constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass.”
To read more about Rhaetian Railways:
The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, also known as the Glarus Overthrust, represents the second new UNESCO site in Switzerland, and it lies in the north-eastern part of the country on the cantonal borders of St. Gallen, Glarus and Graubünden The highlight of this region is that it reveals to the naked eye how the alps were formed.
This region has a been a key site for geologic sciences since the 1700’s because of it’s three dimensional representation of the structures and processes that characterize continental collision and mountain building. Normally, younger rocks are deposited on older rocks, but in this area rocks dating back 250-300 million years are found on top of rocks that are only 35-50 million years old, with the two layers separated by the “magic line” of the Glarus Overthrust. Particularly striking formations can be seen on the Tschingelhoren, including the famous Martin’s Gap between Elm and Flims, and on the Foostock in the Weisstannental.
This new heritage site covers a mountainous area of 32,850 hectares which features seven peaks that rise above 3,000 m.