UNESCO Plains and Routes

Sinaia, Romania

Stop #19

Wow! Wow! Wow!  This place makes you feel like royalty!  I’ve never been this intimate with such gorgeous woodwork (all walnut, which is by far my favorite), Murano glass, marbles, expensive artwork and tapestries.  If you visit one thing in Transylvania, this is your stop!


  • The beautiful Bucegi Mountains are in the background.
  • Sinaia is full of colored wooden houses that contrast with wgrander 19th century buildings.
  • The town was a summer retreat for Romania’s first king, Carol 1.
  • Pele’s Castle / palace has everything you would expect to see in a palace – hidden passages, fairy tale turets, galleries all over the place, and classical statues. It is by far the best castle I saw in Transylvania.
  • The Grand Reception Halls of the palace borrow from Moorish, Florentine, and French styles.
  • The only grander palaces I’ve seen are now the Hermitage and the Royal Palace in Madrid.

Maramures, Romania

Stop #12

Maramures is the most traditional region of Romania. With many Gothic wooden churches with steeples that rise to the sky, you feel like you stepped back in history as you ride through this region. Carriages pulled by oxen and horses pass by on the other side of the street. Farmers are dressed in clothes full of patterns you might never imagine worn together. People are hanging out by the street sharing the latest news of the village. It was fascinating to me.

It was said that Ceausescu encouraged the people of Maramures to maintain their traditional culture, contrary to the policies in place for the rest of Romania.

As for the story of the unique wooden churches, here is how it goes.  In the 14th century, Orthodox Romanians were forbidden by Hungarian rules from building churches in stone. So the carpenters of the region used wood to express spirituality. The churches have interiors have walls painted in biblical frescoes (which look like folk art quite honestly).  But the churches are quite unique.

Pinhão, Portugal

Stop #27:

In Pinhão, we stopped at the local train station to take photos of the 25 large azulejo panels depicting scenes from Douro rural life.  While Portugals buildings are often covered in these tiles, the scenes that were included at the train station tell a story about every day live in the Douro Valley, which is full of vineyards growing grapes for port wines.

The wines from the Douro region (Douro River means River of Gold) is transported to Porto for export.  We also spent some time driving through the Douro Valley through the wine quintas (estates) in the valley.  The patterns of grape vines and stepped designs of the hills made for interesting photos of the landscape.

Douro grows several varieties of grapes for wines.  Reds are usually made from a blend of the native grape, Touriga Nacional. Whites are dry, have a pale-yellow color.  Famous wines from Douro include the  “Douro Boys”— Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, Quinta do Vale Meão, Quinta do Crasto, and Nieport.  To be callsed “Port”, it must be produced in Douro under strict regulations.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Stop #26:

Santiago de Compostela, Spain is the main attraction along the pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago, the camino francés, which crosses the Pyrenees from France and heads west across northern Spain.  The city’s Cathedral is very impressive, although it was under construction/renovation when we visited.  Santiago de Compostela has more than 4.5 million visitors per year, and even more during Holy Years.


  • Casco Antiguo is the old section of town with stone-paved narrow streets.  There are many convents and churches.
  • Cathedral. Parts of the Cathedral date to the late 1100s.  An old Romanesque sculpture, the Pórtico de la Gloria is the original entrance with three arches having figures from the Apocalypse, the Last Judgment, and purgatory. Because of the renovations, we didn’t get to see this entrance.  St. James is the figure on the altar, and it is when his birthday falls on a Sunday that there are “Holy Years”.  The crypt under the altar has Saint James’ remains.
  • Hostal dos Reis Católicos (Hostel of the Catholic Monarchs). Next to the Cathedral is the Hostel, which was built in 1499 by Ferdinand and Isabella to house the pilgrims who slept on Santiago’s streets every night. It is the oldest hostel in the world.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Yellowstone NP

The Yellowstone Act of 1872 created the world’s first national park. It withdrew more than 2 million acres from sale, settlement, or occupation to be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Unlike Yosemite, the bill put Yellowstone under federal control because ceding it to either Montana or Wyoming as newly minted states would have likely prompted a high-noon-style duel. The legislation placed the park under the control of the Secretary of the Interior to “provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.”
Hansen, Heather (2015-10-20). Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service (Kindle Locations 389-392). Mountaineers Books. Kindle Edition.

From trapper Daniel Potts’s letters to his brother, the Gazette of the United States & Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia) printed, “The Yellow Stone has a large fresh water lake near its head on the very top of the mountain, which is . . . as clear as crystal. On the south border of this lake is a number of hot and boiling springs. One of our men visited one of these whilst taking his recreation— there at an instant the earth began a tremendous trembling, and he with difficulty made his escape, when an explosion took place resembling that of thunder.”

It didn’t take long for official talk of preserving Yellowstone to echo in the halls of Congress. Senator Samuel Pomeroy, a Republican from Kansas, got the ball rolling on an otherwise ordinary Monday in December 1871 when he addressed his colleagues, saying, “I ask leave to introduce a bill to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone as a public park. It has been ascertained within the last year or two that there are very valuable reservations at the headwaters of the Yellowstone, and it is thought they ought to be set apart for public purposes rather than to have private preemption or homestead claims attached to them.” The big idea was known simply as Senate Bill 392.
–Hansen, Heather (2015-10-20). Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service (Kindle Locations 377-381). Mountaineers Books. Kindle Edition.


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