It looks like an own goal for Liverpool — not Klopp’s team facing the wrath of The Kop but the announcement by Unesco that it could strip Liverpool of its World Heritage status.
The port city of Liverpool is currently one of 32 Unesco World Heritage sites in the UK. The area stretching along the city’s historic waterfront and onto St George’s Hall was granted World Heritage status in 2004.
Yet controversy has raged in recent years about a series of dockland developments, leading to Liverpool being placed “at risk” by Unesco in 2012.
The heritage body this week expressed further concerns about the Liverpool Waters regeneration scheme and plans for the new Everton football stadium in a former dockland site, citing the developments had resulted in
“serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes”.
The City Council hit back, saying some £1.5bn had been invested in upgrading Liverpool’s heritage assets.
The delisting would be a blow to the city, of course.
Post-industrial Liverpool has reinvented itself as a city of tourism, culture, and nightlife. Some 37m visitor arrivals each year contribute to an annual economic impact of £3.3bn for the city, according to pre-Covid figures from Marketing Liverpool.
The Covid-battered cruise industry has just set sail again with around 80 cruise calls planned this year, including Anthem of the Seas amongst other.
Liverpool has a proud maritime history, serving as a global port during the Industrial Revolution and a hub for transatlantic crossings at the turn of the 20th century. The city boasts 27 Grade I-listed buildings and is touchstone for Britain’s seafaring story.
In 1912, the Titanic disaster was even announced to the world from the balcony of what is now room 22 at the Signature Hotel, the former headquarters of the White Star Line company.
Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, says the Unesco debate is more nuanced than a simple heritage-versus-regeneration trade off.
“We want future generations to learn about the city’s maritime heritage, of course, but Liverpool is a living, breathing city. It’s about finding new ways,” she says, “of using heritage to evolve.”
So, can sites survive a delisting? Two places so far met that fate: the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany.
There are currently 53 locations on its heritage danger list, including the Bolivian city of Potosi and the Everglades National Park in the United States.
Unesco also warned that Stonehenge could be added to the danger list at its 2022 review if plans to reroute the A303 road in Wiltshire are not modified. Yet, Covid aside, these destinations continue to draw visitors.
Moreover, Liverpool has an innate ability to rise phoenix-like from the ashes.
As a teenager, growing up in the Northwest of England, I saw Liverpool through the wilderness years of the Eighties, bowed and monochrome.
I also witnessed the green shoots of recovery when the International Garden Festival converted a former household tip into the UK’s first ever garden festival in 1984.
And I watched from the crowd gathered in front of St Georges Hall as the former Beatle, Ringo Starr, played live on the roof to launch Liverpool’s transformative tenure as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.
I find the city reborn these days. Tate Liverpool will host a summer-blockbuster Lucian Freud exhibition from July 24, hotels are relentlessly booked out for Premiership home games for both city teams and Bold Street bars are buzzing again with post-pandemic revellers.
Liverpool has some fight in her yet.
There’s one month left to reach a compromise before the final decision. Joanne Anderson, Liverpool’s newly elected mayor, says heritage and regeneration are not mutually exclusive and has invited Unesco to see the developments first-hand. She wrote on Twitter:
The report recommending deletion of Liverpool’s World Heritage status will take time to digest, as its quite detailed.
A full response will be made via the @DCMS but our position is clear – we will be asking the committee to defer & review our case over the next 12 months. https://t.co/Vmj0TlzeDe
So, can Liverpool salvage its status as a maritime-heritage hub?
I hope so. It would be a shame for cruise arrivals, disembarking from the Cruise Terminal on the waterfront this July, to find that their gentle stroll through Liverpool’s Mersey-docked history, walking from the Three Graces to the Merseyside Maritime Museum in the Albert Dock, no longer gets the Unesco nod.
But I’m sure that Liverpool would rise again.
As Peter Colyer, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Tourist Guides Association, told me:
“Liverpool moves onwards and upwards. We would be saddened but the loss of status, but it would not impact significantly on visitor numbers.”
“The regeneration of Liverpool,” he added, “is an ongoing work in progress.”
So Unesco be damned. As any football fan knows, Liverpool may go one down at home sometimes — but they always fight back.
A weekend in North Wales then, copywriting a couple of tourism itineraries for This Is Wrexham.
First up was a family trip based around Llangollen to explore some of the attractions of a sometimes less visited part of North Wales.
Here’s a flavour of the story:
The next day we drive into Langollen to explore the Dee Valley market town guarded by the rambling ruins of Castle Dinas Bran.
We catch a ride on the Llangollen Railway, the only standard-gauge heritage railway in North Wales, where the steam engine huffs and puffs its way along a genteel 10-mile track through the AONB.
We finally steam into Carrog station [see above], whistle tooting, for tea and Welshcakes at the station café. An old railway carriage has been turned into a pop-up shop with Hornby train set pieces, railway jigsaws and well-thumbed copies of Heritage Rail magazine.
A nice touch on the return leg is when the conductor gives out souvenir vintage rail tickets, dating from the 1950s heyday of the railway.
It takes me the rest of the journey back to Llangollen to explain the price — eight shillings and three pence — to the girls who regard the 1980s as ‘the olden days’.
Prince Charles doesn’t get much good press these days.
In Romania, however, he is regarded as something of an eco-avenger.
Ever since, at least, plans to build the kitsch Draculaland theme park outside the UNESCO-listed town of Sighisoara were shelved after the personal intervention of our very own Prince of Wales.
HRH is a regular visitor to Romania and a patron of The Mihai Eminescu Trust, an ecotourism project based in Viscri, Transylvania, which won Best for Innovation at the 2004 Responsible Tourism Awards.
He is also given to secrecy-shrouded visits to remote outposts of the country to see for himself the complexity of preserving Romania’s Saxon heritage against a backdrop of a burgeoning tourism industry.
While a groundswell of small tour operators is championing more sustainable rural projects, the mass-market, get-rich-quick schemes that have traditionally blighted Romania’s Black Sea coast, remain the preferred hobby horse of back hander-hungry local officials.
Things are changing for Romania. The country is emerging from the shadows to claim its share of the current Eastern European tourism boom.
But for the frontier folk of Maramures, a rural outpost on the northern cusp of the Carpathian Mountains, such talk is meaningless. Life in these unspoilt villages has remained relatively unchanged in centuries.
Life is simple: work in the fields, church on Sunday and horse and cart the preferred medium if you’re racy enough to consider venturing to the next village. Wander tranquil country lanes and you’ll encounter women wearing traditional skirts above the knee and men in dainty hats – even when it’s not a saint’s day.
My base was Botiza, a rustic village in the Izei Valley edging east from Sighetu Marmatiei, the region’s rail hub for the sleeper trains from Bucharest, and located just a few kilometres from the Ukrainian border.
Housed with a local family at their farmstead cum B&B, I had a bed, slap-up meals, hot, wood-fired water for washing and a chance to watch in awe at mealtimes as the sturdy mother of the household downed shots of horinca, the local double-distilled plum, with theatrical aplomb.
For a day’s exploration we hired a cart and driver for equivalent of £8. The dusty dirt drag of Botiza’s main thoroughfare gives way to a potholed, stone-grooved track leading west from the edge of the village and within minutes we were out amid cornfields and haystacks.
While his two sons played in the cart behind, driver Vasile, regaled us with shrewd observations of local political machinations.
“Many villages the elect the same corrupt mayor twice,” he laughed.
“Round here we say the first time they are corrupt but, the second time, having already filled their pockets, they’re better than someone new.”
After two hours clip clopping along country lanes, we arrive in Poienile Izei, where the village church, built 1602 and dedicated to Saint Paraschiva, is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage-Listed churches in Maramures inscribed in 1999.
The social fabric of these village communities revolves entirely around the Orthodox churches, many of which date from the 16th century and remain remarkably well preserved today, having escaped the bulldozers of the Communist years thanks to the region’s enforced geographical isolation.
But, unlike the external frescoes on the facades of the seven, better-known churches in northern Moldavia, these churches, constructed from wood to a Byzantine pattern, have internal frescoes – bold and simple daubed in reds, yellows and whites.
The church at Poienile Izei is particularly striking as it’s the only one in Romania with frescoes of hell, depicting fiery visions of eternal damnation with a large, hungry-looking bird about to swoop down on unsuspecting sinners. Elsewhere there are images of the various torments the devil will administer to those failing to live by the church’s moral code.
Even today the ritual of worship remains untroubled by notions of modernity with men taking the pews in front of the altar and women banished to the rear. The latter are not allowed at the altar at all.
Of course, before you can actually enter the church, you have to find the man with the key. And, in rural Maramures, that can prove a tricky business.
While Vasile goes off in search, he invites us to his uncle’s house on the fringes of the village.
When Ana and Gheorge Sabadi realise they have a foreigner in their midst, they insist of making lunch and we end up sitting around their kitchen while a bowl of broth bubbles excitedly on the hearth, feasting on pig fat, raw onions, salt and bread – all washed down with lashings of horinca, the moonshine that cements any new friendship in Romania.
When Vasile returns with the keeper of the keys, they have clearly also been on the horinca and are liable to be found drunk in charge of a horse and cart. There’s nothing for it, I tell them, I’ll drive.
“It’s much easier than a car,” said Vasile, handing me the reigns.
“You pull the reigns to move left or right, say ‘Whoa” to stop and make a clicking sound with your teeth to go faster.”
Guest of honour
Puicariu Gabor, the 83-year-old keymaster and official church singer, is evidently a man of few words – and even fewer teeth.
But as we finally step through the church’s heavy wooden door, he becomes positively animated remembering the honour he felt as key keeper on the day that Price Charles came to visit.
“He was with a big group of people all in cars. When I showed him around the church, he didn’t ask any questions but he did,” he said, indicating a thick, leather-bound tome by the altar, “sign the guest book.”
Sure enough, as I flick through the pages I come across a flowery signature in a bold, black felt tip.