Earlier this morning, a friend of mine commented that a place we had recently visited , the historic center of Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, was a UNESCO World Heritage site, and wanted me to write some about the history of this place. Although Paramaribo is fairly obscure as far as culturally important sites go, it does contain a large amount of mostly well-maintained wooden structures dating to the colonial period that show an admirable and aesthetically pleasing mixture of the Dutch and indigenous architecture . It should be noted that many of these colonial buildings that date from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries are used as government buildings, but by and large they are attractive in the way that they demonstrate a blend of different architectural styles in the way that Suriname as a whole is a blend in terms of its population as well as its cuisine of many disparate elements as well. Yet while I did not feel it would be a sufficiently large draw to write about a place that few people have heard of and even fewer people have visited, although my friend and I and our parents are definitely among both categories of people, looking at the UNESCO World Heritage list of sites reminded me that I have long been a traveler to these sites without being aware of them, and that is something that I believe to be of wider interest.
For those who are not aware, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization designates various buildings and cities and natural areas as being of particular importance as a way of encouraging the preservation of these sites for the benefit of present and future generations. My own thoughts as to the United Nations are mixed to adverse, and I am not generally a fan of its operations or by the biases it demonstrates because of the way that it sometimes makes a mockery of its ideals through its irrational hatred of Israel or the abject weakness of its peacekeeping missions or the way that corrupt and wicked nations are routinely on various important committees, and so on and so forth. That said, as far as UN behavior is concerned, the marking of beautiful and culturally significant places on earth is one of the least objectionable aspects of their behavior as a whole, and so I am not irritated that I have visited quite a few sites without having been aware or being particularly concerned about the fact that UNESCO had recognized them as well.
It so happens that the organization and I have similar ideas in mind when it comes to determine places of interest to visit. Striking aspects of creation, like the Everglades and St. Lucia’s glorious Pithon mountains, for example, are places that both the UN and I recognize and places well worth visiting. Likewise, having enjoyed historical Tallinn as well as the downtown of Chile’s famed port Valpariso, I have happened to visit quite a few places that are viewed as historically significant. To be sure, there are arbitrary aspects of both the UNESCO list and my own travels. Most of my travels have been related to my attendance of the Feast of Tabernacles or my acts of service for brethren abroad, such as my travels to Ghana (where I saw historical Ashante structures and visited the slave fort of Elmina, both on the UNESCO list of site). It just so happens that when I am in an area I like visiting areas with old and beautiful buildings, as well as parts of God’s creation that are immensely lovely and striking. At times, UNESCO sites have been a major draw in going to places–like visiting Tel Megiddo and Masada in Israel, Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan, and historic Istanbul, Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Aphrodesias (among other locations) in Turkey. I have not been aware, necessarily, that such sites were recognized by the this UN organization, nor would I have been more motivated to visit it knowing it, but it is nice when a UN organization and I have similar tastes.
Perhaps more of interest to me are cases where I have clearly seen a place as worthy of interest that has not (yet) drawn the attention of UNESCO. For example, my love of visiting American fortifications like Ft. Augustine, Ft. Vancouver, Ft. Pulaski, Ft. Sumter, Ft. McHenry, precolumbian sites like Tulum in Mexico, and historical downtowns like Bogota and Montreal are all places that have not yet been recognized by UNESCO, and neither have the beautiful and ancient ruins of Chaing Mai and Chaing Rai, both of which I have enjoyed visiting myself. Do places such as these need to be recognized in order to be worth visiting? No. Does putting a place on UNESCO’s list mean it will be protected? Not at all. The Taliban and ISIS did a great job destroying much of what was significant about places in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, including some cities like Palmyra that I would have wanted to see in their well-preserved form. Even in Western countries where there are no terrorist organizations seeking to destroy all trace of a pre-Islamic or early Islamic past that contradicts their own religious worldview there are places like the Florida Everglades that are in danger in our present world. Although swamps are not generally my favorite aspect of creation, I admittedly have a soft spot for the Everglades and for its quirky and sometimes dangerous fauna. The world would be a worse places without its swamps and bogs and pestilential rain forests, as unpleasant as those places can be at times to visit. Let us not confuse culturally important with easy to see, after all.
 See, for example: