They say nothing lasts forever, and in the case of certain European cities and landmarks, nothing could be truer. Thanks to development, pollution and climate change, there are many places that are in danger of disappearing from the map entirely.
While, in some cases, the changes are occurring gradually and might take more than a century to be noticeable, in other places, the shift is happening more rapidly; in Venice, for example, parts of the city could be completely submerged within 50 years. For that reason, if you’re interested in visiting any of these locations, now is the time to go, before they disappear forever and can only be visited via photograph and memory.
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, inspirational Venice is also the one city in the world where extinction is all but guaranteed. The palazzos and plazas of Venice were built well below sea level on a base of sediment, and over the centuries the city has settled. Combined with the rising sea levels, due to melting polar ice caps, in the past decade Venice has sunk nearly 24 centimetres. By some estimates, by the year 2100 the city will be uninhabitable — meaning the notion of a romantic trip to Venice will be nothing more than a dream.
flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice
The city of Athens itself has survived for thousands of years and, despite problems with the Greek economy and stifling pollution, should survive many more. It is the pollution, though, combined with the ravages of sun, rain and wind over thousands of years that have significantly impacted the ancient artifacts that lead so many to take a flight to Athens each year. Pollution has been directly attributed to the degeneration of carvings on structures like the Parthenon, and some experts predict the ancient structures will all but crumble in time if significant improvements aren’t made.
Another Greek treasure, Olympia was the site of the very first Olympic Games. As summers have become hotter and drier in recent years, there has been an increase in wildfires in the area. While the archaeological site has been left relatively intact, if the fires continue, damage is all but inevitable.
Like Venice, Copenhagen is a seaside city with a water problem. As sea levels rise, the risk of flooding increases, and some experts predict if significant changes and protections aren’t enacted, the city that dates back to the 12th century could disappear under water.
The hills are alive, and thanks to global warming, they are quickly dying. The Austrian Alps draw millions of visitors every year for skiing, snowboarding and other winter fun, but climate change is putting that in jeopardy. Rising temperatures are melting the glaciers and the permafrost that covers the Alps and preventing significant snowfall in the lower-lying areas of the mountains where the ski resorts thrive. If the snow disappears, so does a major contributor to the economy in the area. Predictions vary, but some experts believe the entire ecosystem of this region could change within 100 years.
France is known worldwide for its wine production, its fertile valleys providing the ideal mix of soil and weather conditions for growing grapes. Cahors, in the Lot Valley, is one of France’s leading wine regions and dates back to the Roman Empire; however, changes in the average temperature are threatening the production of grapes; even just a slight increase in the average temperature could be devastating to the vineyards. Growers are working to develop solutions, such as cultivating new, heat-tolerant varietals, but the traditional wines of this region are in danger of disappearing.
These are but a few of the European landmarks that are in danger due to changes in the climate and population — and there are many more around the world. Although most of these places are not going to disappear tomorrow or even in the next week, change is happening all the time. There’s no time to lose, so if you dream of visiting one of these cities, make the decision to do it now before it’s too late.
Would you add any other places to see before they are gone forever?
About the Author: Gwen Harper is a travel writer who combines her passions for seeing the world and protecting the environment by travelling and learning about vulnerable sites around the globe.