May 24, 2015

1605 COOK ISLANDS (Atiu) - Land of the birds

Atiu, also known as Enuamanu (meaning land of the birds), is an island 187 km northeast of Rarotonga, in the Southern Islands group of the Cook Islands. It is a raised volcanic island surrounded by a reef from which rise 6m high cliffs of fossilized coral (makatea), which forms a mile-wide ring round the island, creating a virtual plateau. Erosion at the innerside of the ring has formed dip of about 30m into fertile land, which gradually rises again to a central 70m high flat-topped hill. In common with most islands in the southern group, Atiu has only a small, shallow lagoon. The most settlements are concentrated on the central hill. In 2003, the population of Atiu was 571, in five villages radiating out from the island's centre, giving the appearance of a human figure.

1604 UNITED STATES (Colorado) - United States Air Force Academy

1604 Colorado Springs - United States Air Force Academy,
Cadet Chapel and Cadet Honor Court
with B-17 Flying Fortress and P-40 Warhawk memorials

The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), located immediately north of  Colorado Springs, is the youngest of the five United States service academies, having graduated its first class in 1959. Graduates of the Academy's four-year program receive a Bachelor of Science degree, and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force. Recent incoming classes have had about 1,200 cadets; historically just under 1,000 of those will graduate. The buildings in the Cadet Area were designed in a distinct, modernist style, and make extensive use of aluminum on building exteriors, suggesting the outer skin of aircraft or spacecraft.

May 23, 2015

1334, 1335, 1603 GERMANY (Berlin) - The Berlin Wall

1334 Berlin - Conrad Shumann overcoming,
on 08.15.1961, the barbed wire at the Bernauer Strasse

Posted on 15.11.2014, 23.05.2015
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.

1335 The fall of the Berlin Wall, 9 November 1989

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.

Berlin - East Side Gallery
(the postcard contains a capsule with a fragment of the Berlin Wall)

The Revolutions of 1989, part of the revolutionary wave that resulted in the Fall of Communism in the states of Central and Eastern Europe, have led to radical political changes in the Eastern Bloc. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere (in the second postcard). Over the next few weeks, euphoric public and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left. Contrary to popular belief, the wall's demolition didn't begin until Summer 1990 and was not completed until 1992. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.

May 22, 2015

1602 DENMARK (Greenland) - Queen Margrethe II dressed in Greenlandic national costume

Greenland - 70th birthday of the Queen Margrethe II,
dressed in Greenlandic national costume

Greenland became a  Danish colony in 1814, and a part of the Danish Realm in 1953, as an autonomous country. Since 2008, Greenland enjoy broad autonomy, but still is part of the  Kingdom of Denmark, and Queen Margrethe II is the head of state. Margrethe II, full name: Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid; born 16 April 1940) is the eldest child of King Frederik IX and Ingrid of Sweden, and succeeded her father on 14 January 1972. On her accession, she became the first female monarch of Denmark Margrete I, ruler of the Scandinavian countries in 1375–1412 during the Kalmar Union. In 1967, she married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, with whom she has two sons: Crown Prince Frederik (born 1968) and Prince Joachim (born 1969). The Queen and her siblings belong to the House of Glücksburg, which is a branch of the Royal House of Oldenburg.

1601 BELGIUM (Antwerp) - Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp (UNESCO WHS)

Antwerp, the most populous city in Belgium, is located on the river Scheldt, linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary. It has long been an important city in the Low Countries, both economically and culturally, especially before the Spanish Fury (1576) in the Dutch Revolt. The Cathedral of Our Lady was started in 1352 and, although the first stage of construction was ended in 1521, has never been completed. In Gothic style, its architects were Jan and Pieter Appelmans. Its interior is an impressive sight, with sweeping Gothic lines and soaring vaults, all in gleaming white. The furnishings are a mix of Baroque and Neoclasssical styles. It contains also a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by artists such as Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos.

1600 BURUNDI - Rusizi River

The Rusizi (also sometimes spelled Ruzizi) is a river, 117km long, that flows from Lake Kivu to Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa, descending from about 1,500m to about 770m above sea level over its length. The steepest gradients occur over the first 40km, and further downstream, the Ruzizi Plain, the floor of the  Western Rift Valley, has only gentle hills, and the river flows into Lake Tanganyika through a delta. It is a young river, formed about 10,000 years ago when volcanism associated with continental rifting created the  Virunga Mountains. The mountains blocked Lake Kivu's former outlet to the watershed of the Nile and instead forced the lake overflow south down the Rusizi and the watershed of the Congo.

May 21, 2015

1599 UNITED STATES (Nevada) - Wild mustangs

I noted with surprise that quite a few people know that the Mustangs live in North America only by 500 years and come from domesticated horses. It's true that the wild horse (Equus ferus) existed in North America in prehistoric times, but it died out at the end of the last ice age around 10-12 thousand years ago. Thus at the beginning of the Columbian Exchange, there were no equids in the Americas at all. Horses first returned with the conquistadors, more accurate with the arrival of Cortés in 1519. The first mustangs descended from Iberian horses brought to Mexico and Florida. Some of these horses were sold, escaped or were captured by Native Americans, and rapidly spread by trade and other means throughout western North America.

1598 UNITED STATES (Hawaii) - Nanue Falls in Hāmākua

Hāmākua is a district on the northeast coast of Hawaiʻi's Big Island (one of the six traditional districts of the island, known as moku), but also the name of the coastline in the region, the "Hāmākua Coast", approximately 80km long, ending at Waipiʻo Valley and the uninhabited Waimanu Valley. The rainfall due to the prevailing northeasterly tropical trade winds produces steep erosional valleys and cliffs, showing evidence of frequent landslides. The lush vegetation and lack of sandy beaches contrasts sharply with other regions of the island. The district stretches south through the central plateau to the summit of Mauna Loa. To the north beyond Waipiʻo Valley is the Kohala district, with the older volcano Kohala mountain.

0433-0436, 1597 ITALY (Lombardy) - Milan

1597 Milan - In clockwise: 1. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II;
2.  Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral); 3. Teatro alla Scala; 4. Sforza Castle

Posted on 27.12.2012, 21.05.2015
Strategically placed at the gateway to the Italian peninsula, in the fertile Po Valley, Milan and the surrounding region of Lombardy have been the subject of constant disputes over the centuries. Celts, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Spaniards, French and Austrians have all ruled the city at some stage of its history and for the most part, the city has capitalised on its position and has emerged today as the undisputed industrial, commercial, financial and cultural powerhouse of Italy, and a leading global city, part of the so-called Blue Banana. The city is a major world fashion and design capital, and its museums, theatres and landmarks attracts over 6 million annual visitors.

0433 Milan - Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)

Because Milan has always been a rich city, it has been also a place full of famous artists and offers a particular assortment of buildings and monuments. There was a change of culture and art in the Renaissance with big a contribution in the period of the Neoclassicism. The most important church is the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral), dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent, the third largest church in the world. It occupies the most central site in Roman Mediolanum. Saint Ambrose's 'New Basilica' was built on this site at the beginning of the 5th century, with an adjoining basilica added in 836. The old baptistery, constructed in 335, still can be visited under the cathedral, being one of the oldest Christian buildings in Europe. When a fire damaged cathedral and basilica in 1075, they were later rebuilt as the Duomo.

0434 Milan - Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)

In 1386, Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began construction of the cathedral, following the newest trends in European architecture. A French chief engineer, Nicolas de Bonaventure, was appointed, adding to the church its Rayonnant Gothic, a French style not typical for Italy, and in 1399 another French architect, Jean Mignot, was called from Paris. Many others have contributed to the construction, because the cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete, the last gate being inaugurated in 1965. The plan consists of a nave with four side-aisles, crossed by a transept and then followed by choir and apse. The height of the nave is about 45m, the highest Gothic vaults of a complete church. The roof of the cathedral is renowned for the forest of openwork pinnacles and spires, set upon delicate flying buttresses.

0435 Milan - Aerial view of Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)

The Duomo is located, of course, in Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square), the main piazza (square) of the city, created in the 14th century and gradually developed ever since. Its current plan is largely due to architect Giuseppe Mengoni, and dates back to the second half of the 19th century. The buildings that mark its sides, with the exception of the Duomo itself and the Royal Palace, were introduced by Mengoni's design, the most notable addition being the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade. In the centre of the piazza was placed in 1896 the statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the united Italy. The last major change to the piazza occurred during the Fascist era.

0436 Milan - Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest shopping mall in Italy, originally designed in 1861 and built by the same Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. The structure is formed by two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon covering the street connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala, more accurate The Duomo and the Teatro Alla Scala. The central octagonal space is topped with a glass dome. On the ground of the central octagonal, there are four mosaics portraying the coat of arms of the three Capitals of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin, Florence and Rome) plus the Milan's. The Galleria is often nicknamed il salotto di Milano (Milan's drawing room), due to its numerous shops and importance as a common Milanese meeting and dining place.

May 20, 2015

1596 MEXICO (Veracruz) - Ritual ceremony of the Voladores (UNESCO ICH)

Founded in the 13th century by the Totonacs, in the Sierra Papanteca range and on the Gulf of Mexico, Papantla is the heart of the Totonacapan region and still has strong communities of Totonacs who maintain the culture and language. This is the home of vanilla, which is native to this region, the El Tajín archeological site, and the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers). Named also Palo Volador (Pole Flying), the Danza de los Voladores is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony / ritual still performed today, albeit in modified form, in isolated pockets in Mexico. It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica.