Tuesday, 9 July 2013


There is a little guesthouse, called the Schwendenschanze—the name itself, meaning a Swedish Wall, sort of a catch all folk etymology for defensive barriers and trenches constructed not just by that country's conquest of much of Germany (more in keeping with living memory) but also for much older fortifications built by the Celts and the Romans, like the mysterious Schrazelloch (goblin holes) to be found everywhere—that is set at the summit of the high road through the Rhรถn mountains.
I always like reaching this place because then I know I am almost home but I have not really paid much attention to the building itself, except for a bit of scowling at the out-of-proportion house number it bears—something oversized, green and white that makes the place look like a truck stop along the Autobahn and by this point, I've had my fill of trucks, as I creep behind them up the steep climb. I just realised, however, that it is not just some plaque but rather the UNESCO stele for the world heritage biosphere site of this region. It occurred to me upon seeing the marker at another site. Now I recall seeing them elsewhere too, although camouflaged. This design is practical, I'm sure, but to call it a stele, a cartouche (the belief that if a name was written somewhere, the owner could never disappear) I was expecting something a bit more classic and for the ages, although it is fitting as the United Nations awards this honour but sometimes also takes it away when not enough is done to preserve it. The English daily, the local, features a nice series of World Heritage Sites all around Germany.