September 22, 2014

1238 MALDIVES - Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef resort on North Male Atoll

Located in the Indian OceanArabian Sea area, Maldives consists of a double chain of twenty-six atolls, oriented north-south, that lie between Minicoy Island and the Chagos Archipelago. Maldives is the lowest country in the world, with maximum and average natural ground levels of only 2.4m and 1.5m above sea level, respectively. More than 80 per cent of the country's land is composed of coral islands which rise less than one metre above sea level. One of these atolls is Malé, which consists of two separate atolls: North Malé Atoll and South Malé Atoll. North Malé Atoll (Male'atholhu Uthuruburi) is of irregular shape, is 58 km long, and contains about 50 islands (including the capital Malé). There are also sandbanks, coral patches, innumerable farus and submerged shoals (called "haa" in Dhivehi). The general depths of the interior are between 46 and 64m. The bottom is sandy. There are numerous passages on all sides. Seen from space it is considered one of the most beautiful atolls on the planet. Practically all uninhabited islands of this Atoll became tourist resorts during the two final decades of the 20th century.

1237 POLAND (Mazovia) - The Presidential Palace in Warsaw

Located on the Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of the best known and most prestigious streets of Poland's capital, not far from Historic Centre of Warsaw (an UNESCO WHS since 1980) the Presidential Palace is the elegant classicist latest version of a building that has stood on this site since 1643. For its first 175 years, the palace was the private property of several aristocratic families, in 1791 it hosted the authors and advocates of the Constitution, and in 1818 it began its ongoing career as a governmental structure, when it became the seat of the Viceroy of the Polish (Congress) Kingdom under Russian occupation. Following Poland's resurrection after WWI, the building was taken over by the authorities and became the seat of the Council of Ministers. During WWII, it served the country's German occupiers as a Deutsches Haus and survived miraculously the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. After the war, it resumed its function as seat of the Polish Council of Ministers, and in 1955 the Warsaw Treaty was signed here. Since 1994 it has been the official seat of the President of the Republic of Poland.

September 21, 2014

1236 VIETNAM (Northwest) - The pig market in Sa Pa

Located in Lào Cai Province in northwest Vietnam, close to the border with China, at 380 km north-west of Hanoi, Sa Pa is a quiet mountain town and home to a great diversity of ethnic minority peoples. Besides the Kinh (Viet) people (15%) there are mainly 5 ethnic groups in Sapa: Hmong 52%, Dao 25%, Tay 5%, Giay 2% and a small number of Xa Pho. Approximately 7,000 live in Sapa, the other 36,000 being scattered in small communes throughout the district with the same name. The Kinh never originally colonised this highest of Việt Nam’s valleys, which lies in the shadow of Phan-Xi-Pǎng (Fansipan - 3143m), the highest peak in the country. Most of the ethnic minority people work their land on sloping terraces, and the unique climate in Sapa, with sub-tropical summers, temperate winters and 160 days of mist annually, has a major influence on their lives.

September 20, 2014

1152-1154, 1234-1235 ARUBA - The map of the country

Posted on 20.07.2014 and 20.09.2014
Located about 1,600km west of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea and 27km north of the coast of Venezuela, Aruba forms, together with Bonaire and Curaçao, a group referred to as the ABC islands. On the other hand, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Netherlands Antilles or the Dutch Caribbean. It is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands (which comprises not only the European land, but also Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba), Curaçao and Sint Maarten.


A generally flat, it lies outside the hurricane belt, and, unlike much of the Caribbean region, has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. It has white sandy beaches on the western and southern coasts of the island, relatively sheltered from fierce ocean currents. The population is estimated to be 80% mixed Black/White/Caribbean Amerindian and 20% other ethnicities, and the Arawak heritage is stronger on Aruba than on most Caribbean islands. The official languages are Dutch and - since 2003 - Papiamento, a language derived from African and Portuguese languages with some influences from American Indian languages, English, Dutch and Spanish.

Aruba's first inhabitants were Caquetíos Amerinds from the Arawak tribe, who migrated there from Venezuela, and Europeans first learned of it following the explorations by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda. Because it had low rainfall, it was not considered profitable for the plantation system and the economics of the slave trade. Since 1636, it has been under Dutch administration, which left the Arawaks to farm and graze livestock, and used the island as a source of meat for other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean.

Aruba has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region, its economy being dominated by tourism, gold mining, phosphate mining, aloe export, and petroleum refining. About three quarters of its gross national product is earned through tourism or related activities. The capital and largest city of Aruba is Oranjestad (Orange Town), located on the southern coast near the western end of the island. The town was built around Fort Zoutman shortly after it was built in 1796, and was named in 1820 after the first King Willem van Oranje-Nassau (William of Orange-Nassau) - the first heir to the Dutch House of Orange.


1222-1224, 1231-1233 BERMUDA - Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications (UNESCO WHS)

1222-1224 - Posted on 15.09.2014
The Town of St George, located on the island of the same name, is considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee "an outstanding example of the earliest English urban settlement in the New World. Its associated fortifications graphically illustrate the development of English military engineering from the 17th to the 20th century, being adapted to take account of the development of artillery over this period." Originally called New London, it claims to be the oldest continuously-inhabited English town in the New World, and it was the capital of Bermuda until 1815.

The permanent settlement of St George began in August 1612 with the arrival of a governor, a clergyman, and 60 settlers, to be joined a few months later by 600 more people. A watchtower was built on Fort George Hill and the foundations of several forts were laid to guard the entrances to St George's Harbour and Castle Harbour. The mid-18th century was a time of economic stagnation for the town, but military activities during the American Revolution (1776-83) saw the beginning of a boom. St George remained a strategic military location for the next two centuries until the US naval base closed in 1995.


The architecture of Bermuda is unique, and has changed little in its basic elements since the end of the 17th century. The simple, well proportioned houses, of one or two storeys, are constructed with load-bearing masonry walls, rendered and painted in pastel colours, and roofs of stone slabs painted white. Between roof and wall are a series of eaves painted a third colour, which is also used on the wooden shutters of relatively small windows. The roofs are designed to catch water, of which there is no fresh supply in Bermuda apart from rain. The walls are designed to restrict damage from hurricanes. The house shown in the third postcard, Tucker House Museum, located on Water Street and hosting also an bookstore named Book Cellar, is an perfect example.

1231-1233 - Posted on 15.09.2014

Their Majesties Chappell, St. Peter's Church, is the oldest surviving Anglican church in continuous use outside the British Isles, and also the oldest continuously used Protestant church in the New World. It was established immediately after the founding of the settlement, although the original building, fashioned from wood with a thatched roof, was quickly destroyed. Bermuda is famously stormy, and it was necessary to rebuild the church more than once over the following century, the final structure being of limestone walls, with a limestone slate roof lain on a framework of Bermuda cedar. 2012 marked the 400th year since the founding of St. Peter's Church, and was also the Diamond Jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth II, so the Queen granted St. Peter's the title Their Majesties' Chappell.

The church's interior is simple, with exposed cedar beams. The font of the church is 500 years old, older than the settlement of Bermuda. The walls of the church have commemorative plaques on the inside, and there are gravestones set in the outsides. In the fifth postcard is 17th century Three-decker Pulpit. Here was the meeting-place of Bermuda's first Parliament in 1620. The top deck was for the Sermon, the middle for the Service and the lowest for the Parish Clerk. Bermuda's first Parish Clerk was Stephen Hopkins, later one of the Pilgrim Fathers.


The stone basin (In the sixth postcard) dates from about 1450 and is the oldest artefact in th church. This baptismal font continues to serve generation to generation. It is made from two pieces of English stone, with eight sides ornamented with crosses, and is reputed to have been brought to Bermuda by the first settlers.

September 19, 2014

1230 JORDAN (Amman) - King Abdullah I Mosque

Completed in 1989 as a memorial by the late King Hussein (r. 1952-1999) to his grandfather, Abdullah I bin al-Hussein, Emir of Transjordan between 1921 and 1946, and king of Jordan since 1946 until 1951, this unmistakable blue-domed mosque can house up to 7000 worshippers inside, and another 3000 in the courtyard area. This is the only mosque in Amman that openly welcomes non-Muslim visitors. The cavernous, octagonal prayer hall doesn’t have any pillars, yet it’s capped by a massive dome, 35m in diameter. The inscriptions quote verses from the Quran.

September 18, 2014

1229 CAYMAN ISLANDS - Here are Cayman Islands

Located in the western Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory which comprises three islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Until the 17th century the islands weren't inhabited than by pirates, refugees and deserters. England took formal control of the Cayman Islands, along with Jamaica, as a result of the Treaty of Madrid of 1670. Following several unsuccessful attempts at settlement, a permanent English-speaking population in the islands dates from the 1730s. After 1734 were brought many black slaves from Africa, even if the slavery was less common on the Cayman Islands than in other parts of the Caribbean. The islands continued to be governed as part of the Colony of Jamaica until 1962, when they became a separate Crown colony.

1229 AUSTRALIA - Koala

According to biologist Stephen Jackson: "If you were to take a straw poll of the animal most closely associated with Australia, it's a fair bet that the koala would come out marginally in front of the kangaroo".In 1997 e.g. about 75 percent of European and Japanese visitors to Australia placed the koala at the top of their list of animals to see. Factors that contribute to the koala's popularity in nowadays include its childlike body proportions and teddy bear-like face, even if early European settlers in Australia considered the koala to be a prowling sloth-like animal with a "fierce and menacing look".

September 17, 2014

0409, 1228 CHINA (Beijing) - Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 10.12.2012 and 17.09.2014
Built between 1406 and 1420 by a million of workers, Zijin Cheng (literally Purple Forbidden City), served for almost 500 years as the home of emperors - 14 of the Ming Dynasty and 10 of the Qing Dynasty - as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.  It's located in the middle of Beijing and covers 720,000 m2 (a rectangle with 961m from north to south and 753m from east to west), on which there is 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms (9,999 including antechambers). It is surrounded by a 7.9m high wall and a 6m deep by 52m wide moat. The walls are 8.62m wide at the base, tapering to 6.66m at the top. At the four corners of the wall sit towers with intricate roofs boasting 72 ridges, reproducing the Pavilion of Prince Teng and the Yellow Crane Pavilion as they appeared in Song Dynasty paintings. These towers are the most visible parts of the palace to commoners outside the walls. In the postcards is (I believe) the northwest corner tower.

The legend say that Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, ordered the chief project commander to build four fine corner towers, each with 9 girders, 18 posts and 72 ridges. The chief project commander gathered all the carpenters together and gave them three months to fulfill that complicated and delicate mission. A carpenter met an old man selling grasshoppers and bought a grasshopper cage for relief. To his surprise, the cage had 9 girders, 18 posts and 72 ridges so the problem was solved. The Forbidden City is part of the site Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

0118, 1227 CROATIA - The map and the flag of the country


Posted on 07.02.2012 and 17.09.2014
When Croatia has separated from Yugoslavia and it has declared independence, I thought that its territory's shape (as the jaws of a crocodile - isn't at all a political allusion) will be very difficult to defend. And probably so it's, but the war of four years that followed proved that this mission isn't impossible to accomplish. The upper "jaw" is Slavonia (closely linked with the Croatia itself in the last thousand years), and the lower "jaw" is Dalmatia. In fact the present border between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina (located between "jaws") is, with certain approximation, the boundary which separated, for centuries, Austrian Empire and Ottoman Empire.

The area known as Croatia today was inhabited throughout the prehistoric period, fossils of Neanderthals being unearthed in northern Croatia, with the most famous and the best presented site in Krapina. The Iron Age left traces of the early Illyrian Hallstatt culture and the Celtic La Tène culture. Much later, the region was settled by Liburnians and Illyrians, the first Greek colonies were established on the islands of Korčula, Hvar and Vis. In 9 AD the territory became part of the Roman Empire. Emperor Diocletian built a large palace in Split when he retired in AD 305. The period ends with Avar and Croat invasions in the first half of the 7th century and destruction of almost all Roman towns. Tomislav became the first king by 925, elevating Croatia to the status of a kingdom, which retained its sovereignty for nearly two centuries. Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102, and in 1527, faced with Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg to the throne.