November 23, 2014

1340 AUSTRALIA (Tasmania) - West Coast Wilderness Railway


The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a reconstruction of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company railway between Queenstown and Regatta Point, Strahan, in Tasmania, now operating as a tourist experience with a focus on sharing the history of the Tasmania's West Coast. Following track rehabilitation work, the railway was re-opened between Queenstown and Dubbil Barril on 6 January 2014, while rehabilitation of the section through to Strahan continues. This railway is significant because of its Abt system to conquer the mountainous terrain through rainforest, with original locomotives still operating on the railway today.

November 22, 2014

1339 THAILAND (Loei) - Wat Si Khun Mueang temple in Chiang Khan


Chiang Khan, the capital of the district with the same name in Loei Province (northeastern Thailand), is a small city with only 10,000 inhabitants, located at 580km north of Bangkok. It’s hard to get many hard facts about Chiang Khan, other than it has a handful of fine, old Buddhist temples. Chiang Khan has boomed in the past four years, and even more so in the last two. It has well and truly been ‘discovered’ by urban Thais, many of them drawn to a nostalgic past that they never had: Buddhist monks at dawn receiving alms and sticky rice, rambling family homes made of ancient teak on streets of almost no vehicles, and local specialities like hand-sewn quilts and maphrao kaew (sugar-coated dried coconut) snacks. Wat Si Khun Mueang is the most sacred Buddhist temple among the people of Chiang Kahn district. Built in 1834, on Rama III era, is mostly Lao-style (in particular the sweeping roof), but it also freely mixes central (the lotus pillars) and northern (the guardian lions) Thai stylings. It is fronted by a superb mural of the Jataka tales, and contains the beautiful and distinct Lan Chang-style image of Phra Nagprok.

November 18, 2014

1337, 1338 ROMANIA (Bucharest) - Stavropoleos Church


Stavropoleos Monastery, also known as Stavropoleos Church during the last century, when the monastery was dissolved, is an Eastern Orthodox monastery for nuns in central Bucharest. The name is a Romanian rendition of a Greek Stauropolis (The city of the Cross), and the patrons are St. Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It was built in 1724 in Brâncovenesc style, during the reign of Nicolae Mavrocordat (Prince of Wallachia between 1719 and 1730), by archimandrite Ioanichie Stratonikeas, came in from Epirus. Within the precinct of his inn, Ioanichie built the church, and a monastery which was economically sustained with the incomes from the inn (a relatively common situation in those times). The inn and the monastery's annexes were demolished at the end of 19th century. Over time the church suffered from earthquakes, which caused the dome to fall. The dome's paintings were restored at the beginning of the 20th century.


All that remained from the original monastery is the church, alongside a building from the beginning of the 20th century (constructed following the plans of architect Ion Mincu) which shelters a library, a conference room and a collection of old icons and ecclesiastical objects, and parts of wall paintings recovered from churches demolished during the communist regime. The library has over 10,000 Romanian, Greek, and Church Slavonic books of theology, byzantine music, arts and history, more than 80 manuscripts and 400 printed works. The Byzantine music books collection is the largest in Romania, and consists mostly of the donations of two Romanian byzantologists, Sebastian Barbu-Bucur, and Titus Moisescu. The community living here, besides routine worship, is engaged in renovating old books, icons and sacerdotal clothes. The music sung during the offices is neo-Byzantine, based on the works of 19th century Romanian psalmodists, Greek chants translated into Romanian, or modern compositions.

November 15, 2014

1336 TURKEY - A belly dancer


Belly dance is a translation of the French term "danse du ventre", applied to the dance in the Victorian era, and originally referred to the Ouled Nail dancers of Algeria, whose dance used more abdominal movements than the dances described today as "belly dance". Actually is a misnomer, because every part of the body is involved in the dance; the most featured body part is usually the hips. Belly dance takes many different forms depending on the country and region, both in costume and dance style, and new styles have evolved in the West as its popularity has spread globally. It is believed to have had a long history in the Middle East, but reliable evidence about its origins is scarce. Several Greek and Roman sources describe dancers from Asia Minor and Spain using undulating movements, playing castanets, and sinking to the floor with 'quivering thighs'. Later, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, European travellers in the Middle East wrote of the dancers they saw there, particularly in Egypt. In the Ottoman Empire belly dancers used to perform for the harem in the Topkapı Palace.

1334, 1335 GERMANY (Berlin) - The Berlin Wall


The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was undoubtedly the most powerful symbol of the Iron Curtain, that separated the Western Bloc (the United States and its NATO allies) and the powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact) during the Cold War. It was constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, and completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in 1989. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany, but in practice it served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-WWII period. Before the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, but between 1961 and 1989, the wall prevented almost all such emigration. During this period, around 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, with an estimated death toll of from 136 to more than 200 in and around Berlin.


In the first postcard is an East German soldier, named Conrad Schumann, leaping over barbed wire into West Berlin. Born in Saxony in 1942, Schumann enlisted in the East German police following his 18th birthday. After a training in Dresden, he was posted to a non-commissioned officers' college in Potsdam, after which he volunteered for service in Berlin. On 15 August 1961, he was sent to the corner of Ruppiner Strasse and Bernauer Strasse to guard the Berlin Wall on its third day of construction. From the other side, West Germans shouted to him, "Komm' rüber!" (Come over!), and a police car pulled up to wait for him. Schumann jumped over the barbed wire fence and was promptly driven away by the West Berlin police. The photo made by Peter Leibing has since become an iconic image of the Cold War era, and was inducted into the UNESCO Memory of the World programme. Schumann settled in Bavaria, where it was married, but his life has never been normal. On 20 June 1998, suffering from depression, he committed suicide by hanging himself.

November 14, 2014

1333 CANADA (Ontario) / UNITED STATES (New York) - Niagara Falls


Located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, on the border between Canada and the United States, between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York, Niagara Falls is in fact an assembly of three waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls (furthest on the postcard) lie mostly on the Canadian side and the American Falls (closest on the postcard) entirely on the American side, separated by Goat Island. The smaller Bridal Veil Falls are also located on the American side, separated from the other waterfalls by Luna Island. The boundary line was drawn through Horseshoe Falls in 1819, but it has long been in dispute due to natural erosion and construction. The combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, with a vertical drop of more than 50m.

November 13, 2014

1125, 1272, 1332 UNITED STATES (Utah) - The map and the flag of State of Utah


Posted on 04.07.2014, 08.10.2014, and 13.11.2014
Bordered by Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona and Nevada (and touching a corner of New Mexico), Utah, one of the Four Corners states, is well known as the most religiously homogeneous state in the Union (its nickname is Beehive State), approximately 62% of Utahns being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS (Mormons), which greatly influences the state's culture and daily life. The world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is located in the state capital, Salt Lake City, founded in 1847 in proximity to the Great Salt Lake. It is a geographically diverse state, located at the convergence of three distinct geological regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Utah is known for its natural diversity and is home to features ranging from arid deserts with sand dunes to thriving pine forests in mountain valleys.

 

Thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers, the Anasazi/Ancestral Pueblo and the Fremont tribes lived in what is now Utah. Around the 18th century, the Navajo settled in the region, and then other Uto-Aztecan tribes, including the Goshute, the Paiute, the Shoshone, and the Ute people (who gave the name of the state). Spaniards explored the region in the 16th century, but weren't interested in colonizing. In 1821 it became part of Mexico (Alta California), and in 1824 Jim Bridger became the first white person to sight the Great Salt Lake. In 1847 Brigham Young and the first band of Mormon pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley, and over the next 22 years, more than 70,000 pioneers crossed the plains and settled in Utah.


The Mormons wanted to establish a State of Deseret, but many of the members of the U.S. government opposed their polygamous practices. Between May 1857 and July 1858 held an armed confrontation between Mormon settlers and the armed forces of the US government (the Utah War), and beginning in 1865 Utah's Black Hawk War developed into the deadliest conflict in the territory's history. In the 1890 Manifesto, the LDS Church banned polygamy, so when Utah applied for statehood again, it was accepted, it becoming the 45th state admitted to the Union on January 4, 1896.

1331 FRANCE (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) - Château d'If


The Château d'If is a fortress located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago situated in the Mediterranean Sea about a mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille. It was built in 1524-1531 on the orders of King François I as a defence against attacks from the sea, and was instantly controversial. Marseille had been annexed to France in 1481, but the city retained in theory the right to provide her own defence. The new Château was to many people an unwelcome reminder of royal authority. Although it successfully repelled an attack on the port by Charles V of Spain in 1536, the cannons gradually proved inadequate to reach invading ships, so it became a prison in the mid-16th century. Subsequent inhabitants over the next 200 years included 3,500 Huguenots and a Monsieur de Niozelles who was given six years for failing to take his hat off in the presence of Louis XIV. Others were imprisoned without trial, for minor misdemeanours. The island became famous in the 19th century when Alexandre Dumas used it as a setting for The Count of Monte Cristo.

November 9, 2014

0093, 0223, 0774, 1330 UNITED KINGDOM (England) - Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites - Stonehenge (UNESCO WHS)


Posted on 08.01.2012, 26.05.2012, 30.07.2013 and 09.11.2014
I don't know if Stonehenge is the most important megalithic construction which survived the history, but certainly is the best known and most intensively researched. Located in the county of Wiltshire, at about 13km north of Salisbury, in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds, Stonehenge assembly consists of four concentric circles made of standing stones set within earthworks. The outer circle (33m in diameter) is constructed of 30 sarsen blocks, arranged vertically, above which were placed as lintels some other blocks, circular arc-shaped. Inside is another circle of eggplant stone blocks. They surround a horseshoe-shaped arrangement, built also of eggplant stone, within which is a sandstone slab mecacee called the Altar Stone.


The whole building is surrounded by a circular ditch measuring 104m in diameter. Inside stands a sandbank which contains 56 tombs, known as the Aubrey holes (named after the discoverer). The embankment and the ditch are intersected by a processional path 23m wide and almost 3km long, Stonehenge Avenue, which connects Stonehenge with the River Avon, and the small henge on its bank, discovered in 2008, at West Amesbury. Near the entrance to the Avenue is Slaughter Stone (a fallen sarsen that once stood upright with one or two other stones across the entrance causeway), and on the other side is the Heelstone, a single huge unshaped sarsen boulder. The main axis of the stones is aligned upon the solstitial axis. At midsummer, the sun rises over the horizon to the north-east, close to the Heel Stone. At midwinter, the sun sets in the south-west, in the gap between the two tallest trilithons, one of which has now fallen.


With regard to construction's purpose, opinions are divided, the most important theories circulated claiming that Stonehenge have served as a burial ground, as a place of healing, as part of a ritual landscape or have a celestial observatory function. Even I'm not historian, may have my own opinion, isn't it? Personally I believe that the people who have built it (between 3100 and 1600 BC) just don't thinking like us, ie they not separate the sides of existence as we do, but they viewed things globally. Surrounding universe didn't have for them a sacred dimension and a profran one, but life, death, nature, cosmos, divinity was closely entwined, forming a inseparable whole. As a result I don't think there was a space where they worshiped gods, another in which they buried the dead, another in which they made astronomical observations and so on, but there was only one site (like Stonehenge) which served all these types of activities. Anyway, many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate.

 

Throughout the twentieth century, Stonehenge began to be revived as a place of religious significance, this time by adherents of Neopagan and New Age beliefs, particularly the Neo-druids. The historian Ronald Hutton would later remark that "it was a great, and potentially uncomfortable, irony that modern Druids had arrived at Stonehenge just as archaeologists were evicting the ancient Druids from it." The first such Neo-druidic group to make use of the megalithic monument was the Ancient Order of Druids, who performed a mass initiation ceremony there in August 1905, in which they admitted 259 new members into their organisation. Between 1972 and 1984, Stonehenge was the site of the Stonehenge Free Festival. After the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, this use of the site was stopped for several years and ritual use of Stonehenge is now heavily restricted.

1329 AUSTRALIA (Christmas Island) - The annual red crab mass migration


Located at 500km south of Indonesia, and at 1,560km from the town of Exmouth, the closest point of the Australian mainland, Christmas Island is quite isolated, so had a high level of endemism among its flora and fauna. Unfortunately two species of native rats have become extinct, the endemic Christmas Island Shrew has not been seen since the mid-1980s, while the Christmas Island Pipistrelle (a small bat) is critically endangered and possibly also extinct. Now the land crabs and sea birds are the most noticeable fauna on the island. Twenty terrestrial and intertidal species of crab have been described here, of which thirteen are regarded as true land crabs, being only dependent on the ocean for larval development.