Kuldīga hopes for September UNESCO boost

The Latvian city of Kuldīga will be watching the news from Saudi Arabia keenly in September, reports Latvian Radio.

In the middle of September the admission of Kuldīga to the UNESCO World Heritage List will be decided upon at a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Saudi Arabia, hopefully bringing a decades-long process to a successful conclusion.

Starting from 1997, Kuldīga has purposefully carried out work aimed at the inclusion of the old town of Kuldīga on the World Heritage List.

In the office of Jana Jākobsone, head of the Construction Department of Kuldīga county municipality, there are various books and publications related to Kuldīga's efforts to get on the UNESCO World Heritage List, some of them written by her herself.

Jana Jākobsone explains: "One part is scientific research in various aspects – architecture, urban planning, landscape, and history of the Duchy [of Courland], one part is practical research, in which we visualize and write how and what to do in traditional construction, as well as with renovation, and energy efficiency, and one part is exactly the nomination file, which very concentratedly summarizes the work of the last twenty years. This is it "Nomination for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List"! It is in both Latvian and English. It is important for us to use locally, all of it is also available on the Internet, it can be seen and used by anyone who lives and works in Kuldīga."

When asked what exactly distinguishes Kuldīga from other objects included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, Jana Jākobsone emphasizes that in the context of the world and Eastern Europe: "Kuldīga is the only place in the world that can represent the multi-layered nature of culture, architecture, urban planning in this region from the 13th century to the 20th century – the most perfectly preserved place. The reason for this excellence is the state of preservation, which distinguishes this city from all others, because others, affected by wars and social aspects, do not have such a state of preservation and concentration."

Kuldīga's restoration center is one of the things done in Kuldīga as part of the UNESCO process, educating the public and involving people in window restoration. Several restorers work in the restoration center every day.

Now construction works are taking place in the courtyard of the center, because there is an interpretation of the historical garden.  Ilze Zariņa, head of the restoration department says: "We have watched how gardens are created in UNESCO cities in Germany, we will go to Sweden to see how gardens are created in a historical environment. We have cooperated with an association in France, visited French gardens, a lecturer has been with us here and talked about the principles. Trends can be different – very modern gardens can be created in a historical environment, attracting artists, creating interpretations. The other direction is to look at what is characteristic of a particular time. It is no secret that gardens also have their own fashions. It could be said that the 19th and 20th centuries are coming back now."

By adding the UNESCO World Heritage title to the charm of Kuldīga, the tourism industry would gain even more people interested in this destination, Jana Bergmane, head of the Kuldīga District Tourism Development Center, suggests: "The target audience who would like to see Kuldīga are definitely lovers of culture and history... our audience can appreciate the special environment that Kuldīga has in relation to UNSESCO. Businesses will also have to work to justifythe name of UNESCO, because it is not only the buildings, but also the service that people can receive here."

Preparations are currently under way for the World Heritage Committee meeting to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in mid-September. It was supposed to take place last year, but was canceled due to the geopolitical situation. After a report on Kuldīga's application, member states have the opportunity to ask questions, though it is possible they will not do so. If any of the member states also have questions, they will have to be answered immediately, therefore clarity about Kuldīga's admission to the UNESCO list is expected in a few weeks' time.


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