Written by Hannah Roehlen
Once a week I replace my regular office clothes by wellies and a garden apron. I usually work for the Bamberg World Heritage Office (German: Zentrum Welterbe Bamberg), the central coordination body for all issues concerning the World Heritage Site “Town of Bamberg”. The town in southern Germany was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993 due to its unique representation of a central European town built on an early medieval layout and is comprised of three historic city districts – the City on the Hills, the Island District and the Market Gardner’s District. Our daily work at the office consists of multifaceted activities to protect the outstanding universal value of Bamberg – the draft of a new management plan and the development of awareness raising campaigns are only a few of our tasks. On Tuesdays, however, my after-hours stroll takes me away from the well-known landmarks of medieval Bamberg towards the Bamberg Heritage Garden (German: Bamberger Sortengarten).
Surrounded by historic gardeners’ houses, the Heritage Garden is situated in the very heart of Bamberg’s Market Gardener’s District. It forms one of numerous unique urban gardening areas used to cultivate local produce like potatoes, savoy cabbage, onions and licorice. Since the middle ages, the tradition of urban gardening has played an important economic and cultural role in Bamberg. Back then, more than 500 market gardeners families earned their money with local produce, their gardens even being marked in the oldest existing town plan from 1602.
In recent years, however, this urban gardening tradition has experienced a variety of developmental pressures that significantly threaten its existence. The cultivation of gardens within the historic district is time-consuming and cumbersome: Due to the layout of the fields modern machines cannot be used. Instead, cultivation and harvesting has to be done by hand. At the same time, promising building plots within the city center, such as the historic gardening areas, are highly sought after. As a consequence, large parts of the sensitive areas have lost their initial use, lie idle or are eyed as building plots and with the loss of these urban gardens, the traditional knowledge of cultivating local produce is endangered to disappear as well.
This issue troubled not only the Bamberg World Heritage Office, but also many locals. Thus, in 2011 the coordination body, supported by many volunteers, decided to take action. They started to recultivate one of the unused fields of the Market Gardener’s District into a flourishing show garden - the Bamberg Heritage Garden. The aim of the project was to preserve parts of the unique inner-city lands as an integral part of the World Heritage site by actively communicating the typical gardener’s culture to Bamberg’s local population, as well as by cultivating exceptional, nearly extinct local produce. Guided by local market gardeners, volunteers and schoolchildren dug up the soil in hours-long handiwork. They pulled up weeds, prepared vegetable patches and planted seeds until finally the garden bloomed in different shades of green again. In 2012 the plot, now home of more than 30 different local plants, was opened to the public. Different types of local potatoes, beans, onions or cabbages line up in row after row, displaying the wide local variety of plants in Bamberg. Amongst those local plants the so called ‘Bamberger birnförmige Zwiebel’ – the pear-shaped onion – forms the undisputable highlight of the garden, as it was nearly extinct prior to the project.
Today, five years after the first plant started growing, the Bamberg Heritage Garden has proven to be a great success. To maintain the garden volunteers, me amongst them, meet once or twice a week. Some of us are experienced gardeners. Most, however, are laymen with a passion for flowers, handiwork or traditional gardening. Our experience with vegetables is confined to weekly encounters at the supermarket. Working in the Heritage Garden therefore offers the rewarding and valuable experience to come into contact with local produce in its natural habitat. Guided by local gardeners, we learn how to seed plants, we are taught when and how plants are harvested, we study how to fight vermines and are able to follow the small seeds growing into huge plants.
Of course, there are drawbacks at times: sometimes the sun is shining so hard that we can’t stand the heat and the work in the garden becomes nearly unbearable. Other times it is raining cats and dogs and the earth turns into mud. And sometimes it happens that the carefully looked after plants don’t develop as planned. But all of this is made up for by this one magical moment, when, after hours and hours of work, we finally harvest our own, self-grown vegetables. It is exactly this rewarding feeling, mixed with the knowledge that by volunteering at the Bamberg Heritage Garden we are provided with the rare chance to gain insights into a century’s old tradition and contribute our part in cultivating and preserving the historical land that inspires us each week anew. And while there are still numerous unused garden plots, our work has already succeeded in reawakening the locals’ interest in these old horticultural traditions and will hopefully continue to do so for many more years to come.
If you are interested to learn more about the Bamberg Heritage Garden or other projects initiated by the Bamberg World Heritage Office, take a look at the following websites and facebook profiles:
Written by Rui Maio
African vernacular architecture is an inspiring one-man project conceived by architect Jon Sojkowski, who saw a great opportunity of increasing awareness and attention to African vernacular architecture by taking advantage of the current communication technologies. These vernacular structures have been erected with local materials for many generations, being therefore a significant part of Africa’s cultural heritage. However, this massive heritage needs to be catalogued so that it can be internationally recognised, cherished and valued. Unfortunately, many negative connotations have been labeled to African vernacular architecture for its alleged temporary nature, substandard comfort conditions and old-fashioned-style. According to this project’s mentor, these connotations are far from reality. When interviewed by the YHE, he clarified: ‘I lived in a mud hut for 2 years and found my home to be quite comfortable. These villages and homesteads are not cultural monuments that need preserving, they are a way of life for the majority of people living in Africa. What needs to be preserved is an individual's belief in vernacular architecture’. From his field research and experience in Malawi and Zambia, he found out that people desire metal roofs and burnt bricks (as used in western constructions) that are often perceived as permanent, modern and a symbol of wealth. The lack of knowledge and awareness on the potential of vernacular structures was identified as the main cause for the abandonment of these ancient construction techniques and local materials.
Based on this framework, Jon Sojkowski decided to take action and build the African Vernacular Architecture database, a unique online source containing images from every African country. First, he started in 1997 as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Zambia where he had the opportunity to travel the entire country to document vernacular structures. More recently, in August 2014, he traveled to Swaziland with no budget for transportation to document those vernacular structures. In September 2014, he traveled to Malawi where he visited and documented over 300 villages and homesteads and interviewed several home owners.
When asked about the role of youth for the success of these types of projects, such as the African Vernacular Architecture database, he promptly answered: ‘It has been repeated many times that the youth brings a fresh energy, a new way of looking at things. But to be completely honest, what has the old guard (existing system) done for the documentation of African vernacular architecture? The answer is not much. There is no organisation dedicated to vernacular heritage documentation. No school of Architecture in Africa has any database or catalog of their own vernacular heritage. In this day and age of technology this seems pretty hard to believe. Thus, the youth engagement has been crucial for documenting this forgotten heritage’!
African Vernacular Architecture database has been growing thanks to extremely motivated people and volunteers that have been submitting their own pictures of African vernacular architecture. One of the most recent examples was Elao Martin, a student of architecture and member of the YHE, who has contributed to this database by collecting and submitting his personal photos about the Namibian vernacular constructions to the African Vernacular Architecture database. Hence, if you share the same passion for African vernacular architecture as Jon, you can also contribute for this project by submitting your photos on African vernacular architecture to firstname.lastname@example.org. Plus, you don’t need to worry about copyright issues, because you will naturally receive the full credit on your photos!
Written by Rui Maio.
By many, education is regarded as the key with which to unlock the stores of knowledge of individual’s from a determined community. It is also seen as an extremely useful tool towards development and behavioural change by increasing individual’s awareness and perception in a very wide range of matters. Even though this particular project may not seem directly related to cultural heritage issues at first sight, in fact, if you think deeper, you will understand how important this educational project is at helping to create the very foundations of dignified living conditions in an extremely needy community, as well as on promoting and valuing both cultural and intangible heritage that is deeply rooted within this community. Moreover, I found this story truly inspirational for all of us as young people, as a great example of how education and volunteering can contribute to the preservation of underprivileged communities, by ensuring better living conditions for children and future generations.
By 2012 Marta was just a young girl about to graduate, like many of us. This is when she decided to leave the comfort of her home and daily life in Portugal to serve as volunteer in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, for a 3-month period. The experience completely changed not only her life but also the lives of dozens of children and respective parents. Therefore, shortly after this inspirational experience, Marta felt that she could personally contribute a lot more to help improve the lives of these children, and that is how the FROM KIBERA WITH LOVE project was born, from the will of a one young individual. Marta has started her project by ensuring and supporting a complete school year of education for sixteen underprivileged children, and today, she is responsible for the education and food of about 75 children. Thanks to her project, children have access to quality education, decent school materials and uniform, free medical services and products, two meals a day, dance and computer classes and even three study visits per year. Moreover, toys, birthdays, clothing and candies, are also provided to these children, so that they too can finally realize their right to a normal childhood. FROM KIBERA WITH LOVE also aims to help improve the living conditions of dozens of families, fostering awareness on hygiene and human health care.
All of this was achieved and guaranteed by Marta and hundreds of donors that fully believe and support this project. In November 2014, Marta moved to Kenya. Until then, she had only travelled there for a couple of months occasionally. This come-and-go traveling allowed her to promote her project and raise funds as well as goods for her children. At this moment, Marta has already set up a structure staffed by a few volunteers who are working with her in this project, both in Portugal and in Kibera. In September Marta found a large venue to host several cultural and educational after-school learning activities where children are invited to do their homework, or take advantage of additional tutoring, meals, dance classes, library and medical services. These are overwhelming signs that the project FROM KIBERA WITH LOVE is growing little by little but already has a great impact on the lives of those children.
If you would like to know more about Marta and her project click the following link. Here you will also find information on how you can contribute to this project, as a volunteer or as a donor, for example.
Written by Ulrika Björkman
Which is the LARGEST YOUTH MOVEMENT IN THE WORLD?
It has been around for 108 years, it has more than 40 million members in more than 160 countries. If your answer was the scouts then you were right. It all started with a man named Robert Baden-Powell and the first ever scout camp on the British Brownsea Island in 1907.
The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) describes Scouting as follows "The Scout movement is a voluntary nonpolitical educational movement for young people open to all without distinction of origin, race or creed, in accordance with the purpose, principles and method conceived by the Founder"
The movement rests on voluntary work done by people of all ages but one of the biggest groups is young adults. Although all scouts around the world follow the same principles there may be many different reasons why one would want to be a scout. I have been a scout for over 20 years and have seen many young people grow, on a multitude of levels, during their scout career.
One vital part of scouting is “learning by doing” and learning to handle responsibility by actually being given responsibilities. A young scout might get to lead their own little patrol (group of scouts) and plan their weekly meetings. A young scout might also be given responsibilities within their local group like keeping all camping equipment in good shape or be chosen to act as treasurer. Every time there is a scout event whether it is big or small, local, national or international there are assignments and tasks that need to be taken care of for the event to actually happen. These assignments are handed out to people who want to contribute and they either have experience within the given area or want to gain experience.
When given a responsibility within a group this signifies that you are important to the group, you are trusted and appreciated. This hopefully makes you value common rules of conduct and treat your fellow scouts with the same respect and appreciation you have been shown. For me this is something that can and should be applied to all parts of society, not only the scouts.
Nowadays the web of social interaction is extremely complex. There are websites, networks, profiles and communities both in the real world and on the internet. The rules for how to conduct yourself in social situations are being constantly rewritten. For a young person this can be very confusing and stressful. Add to this the constant input of information and ideals that the young are being force-fed by the media. The result is an immense pressure being applied on young people that are still searching for themselves and trying to find out who they really are. For me scouting is a place where you can be you, you will be accepted no mater your gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. You will have the possibility to get involved and learn in a safe environment and interact with people that hopefully will have a positive impact on your life and the lives of others.
I will leave you with a small part of the heritage that Lord Baden-Powel, or as he is more affectionately known by us scouts “BP”, left us all. This is an excerpt from his final message to the scouts but I think it is relevant for all of us, scout or not.
“But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.”
Written by Nevena Djakovic
I love volunteering for many reasons. I would like to share two of them that are most important for me. First, when you volunteer, you help someone or help with something – you do a good thing, improve your environment and community. What is also important for me are feelings that you get from volunteering, joy, fulfilment and fun. I believe that volunteering can be really fun a since there are so many places where you can volunteer and everyone can find a way to help according to their field of interests and knowledge. Recently, I have had an amazing volunteering experience that connected my passion for preservation of heritage and my love towards volunteering.
As a part of the Young Experts Forum that took place from June 15th to June 30th 2015, prior to the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Germany, I had a chance to help with the restoration of roof windows on the historic building in town Kaub. Five participants of the Forum: Pagna from Cambodia, Aime from Rwanda, Edwin from Malesia, Nam from Vietnam and myself (Nevena from Serbia) joined local staff in this volunteering event organized by European Heritage Volunteers.
During three days of activities we learned about different techniques and materials that can be used for restoration. One of the materials we used was linseed oil which is organic and even eatable. We went through the whole process of restoration. The windows were taken out, glass was removed and frames were cleaned. We cleaned and oiled the wood that surrounded the window and after a day of drying we painted it in light green color in order to fit the entire building. The windows were painted too and glass was cut and put in the frames. Interesting thing was that glass we used was not new, it was glass from this building. This shows how important is to use original materials and sometimes original techniques because many steps that we did, we did by hand or with a traditional tool instead of using modern technology.
Finally, the windows were back in their place on the roof and we were all amazed how well they fit in the whole exterior. We had a huge support of the local staff who explained us every step and helped us in doing them in practice. Everyone in the town was very kind and even Mayor came to visit us few times showing great hospitality.
I enjoyed volunteering in this action. I know that I learned so much and that I made some improvement regarding heritage preservation, no meter how small that improvement is, this is the way to start, I believe. After all, I had a lot of fun and met amazing people.
Written by Felipe Gutiérrez & Claire Oiry
To spiti tou Pappou is a Mediterranean story about family, friends, and nature that gather all around every year trying to keep history and tradition alive.Pappou used to live in a small island in a far corner of Europe, a small island whipped by winds, sculpt in rock and clay, a land full of thyme and juniper – Gavdos. One day, just like his neighbors, Pappou left Gavdos taking a boat to Crete, leaving behind the almond and olive trees. He left his tiny stone house that has fallen asleep together with the rest of the village... for more than half a century.
Many years later, Gelly, his grand-daughter, came back to the house to awaken it slowly. With the help of friends, she began the first works. People from all over the world who wanted to learn about the forgotten building techniques - the ones that require the use of local materials like earth, wood, sand and stone are invited to come. That’s how the To spiti tou Pappou project was born.
When Gelly arrived to Ambelos, her grandpa's village, restoring the house was just a personal project, a family story... until she met Claire, a young Architect, in October 2013. They both decided to extend the project – the house was much more than a family story, it was meant to share human and ecological values with the biggest audience. To Spiti tou Pappou has become a manifesto project.
The main idea was to make all the restoration work in the house through workshops opened to everybody, the perfect place where the participants would learn the traditional building techniques using natural materials. In that way they will spread the knowledge and take advantage of working in this beautiful place. Beautiful but fragile: the idea is to make each one of the participants understand the fragile beauty of the island of Gavdos and the whole Mediterranean; the organizers believed that everybody has to be aware of it and must take action accordingly.
THE TO SPITI TOU PAPPOU WORKSHOP OF JULY 2015
After 3 years of working in the house, the workshop of July 2015 was the opportunity to finish the main room of the house. The main idea was putting the last layer of the natural plasters based on lime, earth and sand on the walls and the floor.
In this opportunity people from Colombia, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, and Tunisia got together to contribute to the restoration and put all their positive energy and vibes into this house.
I arrived there thanks to the two organizers of the workshop, two good friends and colleagues from my actual formation in France, a Masters in Earthen Architecture. The techniques we used there were not new for me, but for many of the other participants it was their first time working and building with earth. So the three of us used this chance to explain the basics about what is the earth, the test we used for identify its quality and the formulations designed by the organizers to mix the different natural materials in order to get the best possible earth for each of the activities that we would do.
In the bathroom we wanted to make something different, special and waterproof natural materials, so we did the plaster with lime (perfect for the humidity) but using a very old and traditional plaster technique that comes from Morocco, the TADELAKT. With this technique you can get a natural, shiny and colorful final layer of plaster in a place where you normally won´t use earth. It takes a lot of time and a lot of preparation, and once you start, you can´t stop until it’s done. It is a very precise work done with some special stones and vegetable soap that gives the shine and impermeability. After several hours of work you get a great, soft and beautiful plaster.
At the same time we had one day training in ceramics: a well-known ceramist from Crete, Giorgos Kokovlis, came to teach us how to use some special paint for the ceramic and cook them inside a paper kiln (volcano) of paper and earth.
And we can´t forget that we were working in the middle of the Mediterranean and in the Southern point of Europe in summer, so the heat could be so high that we had to make breaks and run to the nearest beach. After all, we worked so hard ;)
This stage of the restoration works was very important, because it was the opportunity to finish the main room and the perfect way to show how it is possible to build and restore with the traditional techniques respecting the local context.
Workshop organized by:
Architect specialized in building with natural materials and earthen architecture.
Architect specialized in natural plastering (earth and lime) for traditional and contemporary buildings.
Owner of the house in Ambelos.
Written by Aleksandra Kozieł
As Young Experts we had an amazing opportunity to experience Volunteering in UNESCO World Heritage Site. All four groups had a chance to contribute, in a minor level, to maintenance of an extraordinary site - Upper Middle Rhine Valley. During hands on work, we had a chance to deal with only a few of the many struggles the site managers have to solve in their daily work.
My group was assigned to help with construction research at the remains of a Gothic chapel from 14th century in Bacharach. The remains of St. Werner’s chapel are visible from a distance and dominate the view on the Bacharach. The chapel itself, built in 14th century, was left abandoned for years and re-discovered in 19th century, during Romanticism period. The Gothic monument is still missing proper documentation. That’s why eight of YEF participants joined forces with eight students of architecture and eight history of art students from Univeristy of Applied Science and Gutenberg University in Mainz, and with the help of their professors worked on proper documentation.
For three days we measured each and every stone and brick in the remains of St. Werner’s chapel with the use of tachymeters, then carefully drew the bricks, grout, stones, all defects, changes in the structure of the walls, statifications and marked all the elements that are originally from 14th century. What seemed to be quite an easy task, was however very precise work, that demanded our focus and full attention. In the groups of three, so one YEF participant, one student of architecture and one student of art history, we prepared proper drawings and descriptions of our sectors.
The weather wasn’t helping though. It was cold, windy with rain showers, so it was difficult to draw. But the effects were worth it. We also had an exceptional opportunity to meet with the mayor of Bacharach, and with the site managers. Together we tried to discuss threads, solutions to the gradual destruction of the form of the monuments, our ideas how to stress out the remarkable substance of the chapel and figure out how to improve tourist infrastructure and highlight the meaning of the chapel in historical landscape of Bacharach. It gave us a possibility to present different perception of monuments and methods of preservation used in our countries.
I personally enjoyed every second of that experience. Having some background in this field I was able to learn many practical things, like how to use tachymeters and I could discuss the problems that every site manager has to struggle with. Although the weather might have made us a little less enthusiastic, the views, atmosphere and the sense of achievement made the whole experience unforgettable.
Written by Laura Roman
During the Young Experts Forum, the participants had a wonderful opportunity to experience the scope and complexity of preservation of a World Heritage Site by engaging in a hands-on workshop of their choice. Four different workshops took place from June 20th to June 22nd and were organized by the NGO European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the site management of “Upper Middle Rhine Valley”, a cultural landscape inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2002.
Workshop A focused on the preservation of precious ecological areas and it took place in two locations close to the town of Oberwesel. The group divided into two smaller units; the first one worked in a former wine yard that had been abandoned for a long time and needed to be cleared of bushes and small trees. The second group traveled a bit further, to a slope two kilometers away from the town, situated directly above the Rhine valley. This area needed to be maintained by mowing grass to allow rare plants of this precious ecological area to grow.
I joined the sub-group going to the slope, and each day we would take a scenic 15 minute drive around the area to get to our workplace from the center of Oberwesel. Surrounded by good company, heavy tools, magical views and local experts who taught and mentored us, the working atmosphere was amazing. The passion with which the locals who had been engaged in preserving the site by tending to these precious ecological fields was astounding. They welcomed us wholeheartedly and even if some of them occasionally had troubles conversing in English, they managed to pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm to all of us. If there was a rare plant they had found or a story of the area they wanted to share, they would call us over and explain so we could understand the significance of the work we were doing.
Even though the workshop took place in late June, the weather did not follow the calendar and it was quite cold. Later on we realized this was better than working in the fields for hours in the summer heat. However, the last day of our workshop we came to the slope as heavy rain started pouring down on us. As we all hurdled under one tarp, we were told stories about the nature that surrounded us and were shown plants and learned about their properties and uses. But one of my favorite moments of this whole experience included coffee and cake. The second day of our work, the group from the wine yard had come to help us in the big field. We were called up to take a break and help ourselves to coffee and cake which we were rewarded with during the whole three day workshop period. We sat there, on the slope overlooking the magical Rhine Valley, covered in grass and sugar, proud of our work and contribution.
During this workshop experience, we’ve learned the technicalities – how to use the big mowing machines, which plants we need to take special care of in that area, the importance of this work for the ecosystem. But, more importantly, we’ve learned valuable lessons about the importance of volunteering, teamwork, and working towards a common goal. We’ve been shown the scope of activities that have to be undertaken in order to preserve a complex and big Heritage Site such as the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, and we’ve learned that any contribution, even as small as our own, is essential for the mission of saving our common heritage for future generations.
Written by Rui Maio
This group worked on the restoration of dry shale masonry walls at the privileged location nearby the town of St. Goarshausen, famous as the "town of the Loreley". For those who are not familiar with it, Lorelei is the most famous place in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and played an important role in the 19th century, during the time of Romanticism. Our work was carried out at the former path between the town and the Loreley next to the Rhine river. These slopes are characterized by dry shale masonry walls that enabled their use as vineyards over the past centuries, which embellish the surrounding landscape. However, in the beginning of the 20th century, a significant part of the vineyards was infected by a vermin and had been used since back then for the cultivation of fruit trees. The poor accessibility of this very steep area has contributed to the abandonment of those farming or cultivation activities during recent years, and therefore, the knowledge about traditional techniques of construction and reconstruction of dry shale masonry walls got lost gradually. Hence, our mission was restoring these walls from the very foundation up to their original level, always under the crucial guidance of experienced local masters in dry stone techniques Mr. Ehmann and Mr. Peter. It is also expected that this initiative will contribute for promoting a future mid-term volunteer project for the step-by-step reconstruction of the complete dry stone masonry walls alongside the path between the Rhine and the Loreley, in order to comply with all the security requirements for re-opening this famous path in a few years.
Personally, this workshop was very educational taking into consideration my professional area. I learned more about these ancient and traditional techniques, which recall me to the famous quote “the simpler, the better”, because that’s how I see myself as a young civil engineer. Moreover, it was really impressive how those three local masters are committed to volunteering, how they chose to spend their weekends up there in the hills preserving and taking care of our common heritage. Their sense of social responsibility was truly inspiring! We have experienced there the purest condition of living and respecting nature and our heritage, developing at the same time very important soft skills such as the sense of responsibility and cooperation, facilitating a good working environment and the communication between local non-English speakers, team spirit and the sharing of knowledge.
According to Mr. Ehmann’s words: “For us, you have been really an unforgettable group. We rarely had volunteers like you who formed a solid working team so quickly, assuming the responsibility for each other and the working team “stone by stone”. You have shown a great capacity and talent for building walls and, what might be equally important, the required patience. This and especially your personal approach I will treasure.”