November 30, 2013

0881 ROMANIA (Suceava) - The map of Gura Humorului

Located on the eastern boundary of Obcinile Bucovinei ("obcini" means ridges extend, parallel, gentle, separated by parallel valleys), in Humor Depression, at the confluence of Humor and Moldova rivers, Gura Humorului has a climate with sedative properties, being therefore used, since the second half of the 19th century, as a resort . His first documentary mention dates from 1490, in a document issued by the chancery of Stephen the Great, but its importance has only increased during the Austrian occupation of Bukovina (1774-1918), when it became firs townlet and administrative territorial center (1820), then market town (1880) and capital of a district (1893), and finally town (1904).

November 29, 2013

0880 GUATEMALA (Petén) - Tikal National Park (UNESCO WHS)

Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites of the Maya civilization, and how could it be otherwise, since on its apogee (ca. 200 to 900 AD) this city dominated much of the Maya region, even interacting with the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. The ruins lie in the heart of the tropical rainforests of northern Guatemala, the city, inhabited from the 6th century BC to the 10th century AD, being located among abundant fertile upland soils, and may have dominated a east-west trade route across the Yucatan Peninsula. The topography of the site consists of a series of parallel limestone ridges rising above swampy lowlands. The major architecture of the site is clustered upon areas of higher ground and linked by raised causeways spanning the swamps.

November 25, 2013

0868 & 0878 ROMANIA (Suceava) - Frozen morning in Pleşa village

Posted on 20.11.2013, and 25.11.2013
"Pleşa, the most beautiful village in the whole world, as told me a man from there," wrote Marius on the first postcard, and I have no reason not to believe him, although I know that his skill as photographer plays a key role in the enhancement of the landscapes. Anyway, pour serenity in soul this picture of the hills guarding the  valley of the Humor brook, as the backs of some sleeping dragons, on one of the backs seeing the village's houses, and among them, bright, St. Anne's Church, consecrated by more than a century ago.

Pleşa is one of the villages of the Mănăstirea Humorului commune, known for the church of the monastery with the same name, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its history is related to emigration of the Polish Highlanders (gorals) from Čadca region (located on the border between Poland and Slovakia), who, attracted by the Bukovina's freedoms and wealth, were settled on the periphery of Cernăuţi (now Chernivtsi). But others had done the same thing before them, so that some of them asked in a petition in 1835 to approve the settlement within the domain Ilişeşti, south of Mount Pleş, name later transformed into Pleşa .

Following approval, 16 Polish families founded the colony Pleş, located along the Austrian military road. The number of inhabitants of Pleşa remained approximately constant from the foundation of the village to nowadays. In 1857 141 people lived in Pleşa, in 1880 - 217, in 1890 - 216, in 1900 - 210, in 1910 - 254, in 1930 - 259, in 1967 - 250, and in 1992 - 210, of who only a few declare other nationality than Polish.

0877 ARGENTINA (Mendoza) - Puente del Inca

Puente del Inca (The Inca's Bridge) isn't a construction of the Incas, but a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Vacas River, a tributary of the Mendoza River. Puente del Inca is also the name of the nearby hot springs. Scientists speculate that interaction between ice and hot springs was involved in the origin of the formation. They suppose that in ancient times ice covered the river and acted as support for avalanches of snow, dust and rocks. So the dust over the ice over the river would have served as a path for the sulfurous water and petrified the surface, so when the snow melted, the bridge (48m long, 28m wide and 8m high) remained by itself.

0876 CHINA (Anhui) - Watching a performance

Because the man on the postcard 730 is from Anhui Province, and this postcard refers also to Water Regions, I suppose that these elders are from the same region. After their facial expressions, very interesting and well captured, and after the way that are seated, these people certainly watch to a performance, in which they involve wholeheartedly. Obvious, the reactions are different, and I can't help noticing the major differences between expressions. Unlike the faces of those in the background, expressing surprise, if not even fear, the one of the man in foreground, much more retained, reveals skepticism, disapproval, and even a spark of condescension. In fact the whole outfit of this man is more reserved and groomed, denoting a different character, and probably a superior intelligence or an education different from of the others people from the picture.

November 23, 2013

0875 AUSTRALIA - The map and the flag of the country

Considered a continent because sit on its own tectonic plate, but also an island, because is separated from all other continents by water, Australia is ocupied of a single country, officially named the Commonwealth of Australia, which comprise also the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the world's 6th largest country, but only 52nd in terms of population, because the largest portion of land is occupied by desert or semi-arid land, although not lacking subtropical rainforests and mountain ranges. On the other hand, although inhabited with 48,000 years ago by the ancestry of current Aboriginals (which are now only 2.5% of the population), Europeans discovered Australia only in 1606, erecting the first settlement in the late 18th century, and using it for long time mainly as penal colony. These hasn't prevented it from becoming in the last decades one of the wealthiest country in the world, with the world's 12th-largest economy.

November 22, 2013

0874, 0274 & 0322 MALTA - Megalithic Temples of Malta (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 10.07.2012, 15.09.2012, and 22.11.2013
The Megalithic Temples of Malta are eleven prehistoric monuments, of which seven are UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ġgantija Temples (on Gozo island - two temples), Ħaġar Qim (in Qrendi), Mnajdra (in Qrendi), Ta' Ħaġrat Temples (in Mġarr), Skorba Temples (in Żebbiegħ) and Tarxien Temples (in Tarxien). Ġgantija temples were listed in 1980, but in 1992 the listing was extend to include the other five megalithic temples. Built during three distinct time periods between 5000 BC and 700 BC, they have been claimed as "the oldest free-standing monuments in the world" (Professor Lord Renfrew), and are considered by archaeologists a result of local innovations in a process of cultural evolution.


Ġgantija Temples, located on the small island of Gozo, at the end of the Xagħra plateau, were built during the Neolithic Age (c. 3600-2500 BC), in the typical clover-leaf shape, enclosed within a boundary wall. The southerly one, better preserved, is the larger, highest (6m) and elder, dating back to approximately 3600 BC. The finding of animal bones in the site suggests that was used for animal sacrifice. According to local Gozitan folklore, a giantess built these temples and used them as places of worship. Even the name of the complex, Ġgantija, is derived from the word Ggant, meaning giant.

Mnajdra, located on the southern coast of the island of Malta, at about 500m from the other complex, Ħaġar Qim, consists of three conjoined but not connected temples, made of coralline limestone, and the main structure, corbelling with smaller stones, but also post-and-lintel with large slabs. Some books assign Mnajdra to the Ggantija phase, but according to Anthony Bonanno both complexes were built during the Tarxien phase (3000 BC - 2500 BC). Anyway, the fact is that the sites aren't contemporaneous. The cloverleaf plan appears more regular than that of Ħagar Qim, and seems reminiscent of the earlier complex at Ggantija. The south, or lower, temple (of which entrance, oriented due east, you can see it on the postcard) is astronomically aligned with the solar equinoxes, but this may be accidental.

0873 TURKEY (Aegean Region) - Hierapolis-Pamukkale (UNESCO WHS)

Pamukkale (cotton castle) is a natural site, located in the River Menderes valley, which contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. In this area, there are 17 hot water springs, and when the water, supersaturated with calcium carbonate, reaches the surface, carbon dioxide degasses from it, and calcium carbonate is deposited. Precipitation continues until the carbon dioxide in the thermal water reaches equilibrium with the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The chemical process is a trivial one, but the resulting landscape seems to be from another planet.

0872 SWEDEN (Stockholm) - Royal Domain of Drottningholm (UNESCO WHS)

Even if the City of Stockholm is the official capital of Sweden, the King of Sweden actually lives in Ekerö Municipality, at Drottningholm, a locality situated on the island Lovön in lake Mälaren on the outskirts of Stockholm, which has now about 400 inhabitants and was planned and built in the mid 18th century for the people working at the palace. The current Swedish royal family have used Drottningholm as their primary residence since 1981. Because the ensemble (castle, theatre, Chinese pavilion and gardens) is the best example of a royal residence built in the 18th century in Sweden and is representative of all European architecture of that period, Royal Domain of Drottningholm was designated in 1991 a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

November 21, 2013

0348 & 0871 SWITZERLAND / AUSTRIA - A prehistoric pile dwellings from the Alps (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 30.09.2012 and 21.11.2013
Among the sites included in 2011 by UNESCO in its list of World Heritage Sites is one called Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps, which contains, as say its name, pile-dwelling settlements in and around the Alps, built on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands. So far have been identified 937 such sites, of which UNESCO has chosen 111, located in Austria (5), France (11), Germany (18), Italy (19), Slovenia (2), and Switzerland (56).

These settlements were built between 5,000 and 500 BC, i.e. during Neolithic and Bronze Age, a period about which we know little, but for which clarification would be an important step in finding our origins as Europeans. For now it is clear that at the end of the Neolithic has occurred a profound transformation, due to the penetration in Europe of a Proto-Indo-European populations wave, named by Marija Gimbutas Kurgan Culture. Equally clear is that these populations, more warlike and technologically superior to the ones found in Europe, were imposed and caused a cultural leap.

Unclear is whether the Indo-Europeans exterminated the populations which they have found here or just conquered their territories and assimilated them. Perhaps some will find unimportant this "detail". To me it seems important to know if in our veins flowing those people's blood or not. To those uninterested in this aspect, I tell just that to drive safely on the  history's highway, is needed not only a large windscreen, clear and clean, but also a proper rearview mirror.

Undoubtedly UNESCO involvement will positively influence the extent of archaeological research in the area, but probably the answer to this question can't be given than with the help of genetics. For now, UNESCO say only "The exceptional conservation conditions for organic materials provided by the waterlogged sites, combined with extensive under-water archaeological investigations and research in many fields of natural science, such as archaeobotany and archaeozoology, over the past decades, has combined to present an outstanding detailed perception of the world of early agrarian societies in Europe.  The precise information on their agriculture, animal husbandry, development of metallurgy, over a period of more than four millennia, coincides with one of the most important phases of recent human history: the dawn of modern societies." Which isn’t at all less, but neither enough it isn't.

Obviously, the dwellings from the first postcard it isn't an original one, but a reconstruction done to a Park and Archaeological Museum Laténium, located in Hauterive, a suburb of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), and the ones from the second postcards are a computer animation of some dwellings which are nowadays on the bottom of the Keutschacher See, a lake in Carinthia (Austria).

About the stamp
On the first postcard

I've never seen by now a stamp with a caricature, but that doesn't mean much, because I'm not philatelist. Well, the stamp that it used Zasa Lein even this is: a caricature. One that fits beautifully with the subject of this year's Europa stamps, respectively Visit... For a country like Switzerland, known for its natural wonders, but also for its people, cities and villages, I would have expected to something about them. To my pleasant surprise, it went out far beyond the clichés, and I would have expected to take one of the awards of Best Europa Stamp Contest. Commission wasn't of the same opinion. Neither this year. Obviously, we haven't the same criteria.

On the second postcard

The stamp is the third of the series Austrian Photographic Art, begun in 2011. If the one from 2012 was dedicated to Elfie Semotan (I wrote here about it), the one from this year, issued on March 13, 2013, was dedicated to Valie Export and one of her emblematic works, VALIE EXPORT - SMART EXPORT.

This is a post for Sunday Stamps #90, run by Viridian from Viridian’s Postcard Blog. The theme of this week is Anything you wish. Click on the button to visit Viridian’s blog and all the other participants.

Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps - Wikipedia
Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps - UNESCO official site
Laténium - Official site
Civilizaţie şi cultură, by Marija Gimbutas - Ed. Meridiane, Bucureşti, 1989
Europa postage stamps - Wikipedia

sender: Zasa Lein (direct swap)
sent from Bern (Switzerland), on 20.05.2012

sender: Nina Kramlinger (direct swap)
sent from Vienna (Austria), on 18.11.2013

0844 & 0870 ITALY (Piedmont) - Lake Maggiore and Lake D'Orta lakelands - Borromean Islands (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Borromean Islands - Isola Bella

Posted on 18.10.2013 and 21.11.2013
Known for its Mediterranean-like climate and for its beauty, Lago Maggiore (Greater Lake), a glacial lake surrounded by the Lepontine Alps, spans in Italy (Piedmont and Lombardy) and Switzerland (canton of Ticino. The most known and picturesque islands of this lake are Borromean Islands, located in the western arm of the lake, between Verbania to the north and Stresa to the south. Their name derives from the House of Borromeo, which started acquiring them in the early 16th century (Isola Madre) and still owns the majority of them (Isola Madre, Bella, San Giovanni) today.

Isola Bella (Beautiful Island) is situated 400m from the lakeside town of Stresa. Until 1632, it was a rocky crag occupied by a fishing village, but that year Carlo III began the construction of a palazzo dedicated to his wife, Isabella D'Adda, from whom the island takes its name. The works were interrupted because of the plague, but was resumed by the Carlo’s sons, who turned the villa into a place of sumptuous parties for the nobility of Europe. The completion of the gardens was left to his nephew Carlo IV, and was inaugurated in 1671. The island achieved its highest level of social success during Giberto V Borromeo (1751–1837), but also in nowadays is a popular tourist attraction. The palace is a typical example of Lombard Baroque architecture, the most interesting rooms being those located on the first floor, but its most inventive part can be found underground: six natural grottos decorated with dark-and light-coloured pebbles and shells in designs reflecting nautical themes. The Italian gardens are spread across ten terraces that form a truncated pyramid ornamented with balustrades, hedges, obelisks and statues.

Borromean Islands - Isola Madre

Isola Madre, the largest island of the archipelago, known in the past as Isola di San Vittore and later as Isola Maggiore, had in 9th century a church and a cemetery. In 1501 Lancillotto Borromeo introduced the cultivation of citrus fruit to the island, and began the construction of a family residence, which in the 1580s was extended in the renaissance style by Renato I Borromeo. The palace is surrounded by impressive gardens, the Giardini Botanici dell'Isola Madre. Particularly prized is the scala dei morti, or staircase of the dead, which in recent decades has been embellished with an important collection of Wisterias. The family chapel of 1858 is also noteworthy; by contrast to that of Isola Bella, it contains no tombs or funerary monuments.

November 20, 2013

0869 TURKEY (Aegean Region) - Archaeological Site of Troy (UNESCO WHS)

I don't think there is anyone in the modern world who have completed at least primary school and/or has a TV at home and never heard of Troy. If he didn't read the Iliad, at least he saw the movie with Brad Pitt or played a video game with the Trojan War. Perhaps the importance of this event was much exaggerated by Homer, but the legend crossed millennia and has inspired great artists throughout the world ever since. Schliemann was the one who discovered the location of the ancient stronghold and began the first excavations, but his thirst for glory and gold made ​​him to find Troy several times, because the site revealed several cities built in succession. Now the layers of ruins in the citadel at Hisarlık are numbered from I to IX, with various subdivisions, and it is known that the hill was inhabited between 3000 BC and 500 AD. Troy VIIa (1300-1190 BC) has been identified with the Hittite Wilusa, and is generally (but not conclusively) identified with Homeric Troy.

Because the archaeological site of Troy is of immense significance in the understanding of the development of European civilization at a critical stage in its early development. It is a unique example in an Aegean context of the oriental city at the junction between Anatolia, the Aegean and the Balkans. The Greek and Roman cities at Troy are represented above all by the sanctuary complex. Roman urban organization is reflected by two major public buildings on the edge of the agora. The odeon (concert hall) has the traditional horseshoe-shaped plan and tiers of seats made from limestone blocks (in the postcard). The nearby bouleuterion (council house) is smaller but similar in plan. The surrounding landscape contains many important prehistoric and historical sites: cemeteries, Hellenistic burial mounds, Greek and Roman settlements, Roman and Ottoman bridges, etc.The archaeological site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

November 18, 2013

0866 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Trinidad) - The White Hall

Originally called Rosenweg, the White Hall is one of The Magnificent Seven (a group of mansions located at the northwest corner of Queen's Park Savannah on Maraval Road, in Port of Spain), and was built by the cocoa planter Joseph Leon Agostini. The construction began in 1904, in accordance with Agostini's own design, influenced by the Moorish Mediterranean style and the architecture of Corsica from where the Agostini family originated.

November 16, 2013

0864 UNITED STATES (Florida) - Everglades National Park (UNESCO WHS)

"A river of grass flowing imperceptibly from the hinterland into the sea", Everglades is a large tropical wetlands in the southern portion of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The national park with the same name protects the southern 20% of the area, and it has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, being one of only three locations in the world which appear on all three lists. It has fresh and brackish water, and the shallow bays and the deeper coastal waters creates a complex of habitats supporting a high diversity of flora and fauna. It contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie and the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America. The complex biological processes range from basic algal associations through progressively higher species and ultimately to primary predators such as the alligator, crocodile, and Florida panther; the food chain being superbly evident and unbroken.

November 15, 2013

0863 CZECH REPUBLIC (Vysočina) - Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora (UNESCO WHS)

John of Nepomuk was the first martyr of the Seal of the Confessional, being drowned in 1393 in the Vltava river at the behest of Wenceslaus, King of the Romans and King of Bohemia, because, as the confessor of the queen of Bohemia, refused to divulge the secrets of the confessional. In 1719, when the Roman Catholic Church declared the tongue of John of Nepomuk to be "incorruptible", was started the work to a church in Zelena Hora (Gruenberg), near the border between Bohemia and Moravia, where the future saint had received his early education. It was consecrated immediately after John's beatification in 1720, although construction works lumbered on until 1727.

November 12, 2013

0860 CZECH REPUBLIC (Ústí nad Labem) - A Škoda 99E1 locomotive near Libochovany

Czech Railways (České dráhy - ČD) is the largest Czech company by the number of employees and holds 856 electric locomotives, all built by Škoda Works (Škodovy závody), the largest industrial enterprise in Austria-Hungary and later in Czechoslovakia. Among these locomotives are a few dozen of model 71E/99E, from the ČSD Class E 499.3, classified now as Class 163. E 499.3 locomotives operate on the 3,000 V DC system and are essentially a DC only version of the ES 499.1. They were produced between the years 1984 and 1992 in four series of 20, 40 (2nd and 3rd serie) and 60. In the postcard is the locomotive with number 163 073-0 (built in 1991), photographed in the summer of 1999 near Libochovany,  60 km north-west of Prague.

November 11, 2013

0859 TURKEY (Aegean Region) - A zeibek from the Aegean Region

I found this little marvel in one of the souvenir shops located near the temple of Apollo in Didim, one of those stalls studded with thousands of articles, where the kitsch coexist peacefully with authentic handicraft. When he saw me skimming discontented through the postcards displayed on the wire rack at the entrance, the seller (who was probably also the owner) invited me inside. "I have others too. Maybe you will find among them something to your liking", he said, leaving me in front of other racks, filled with hundreds of common postcards, not a few of them discolored, bent, and stained by flies. I ransacked among them more than half an hour, but I haven't regretted, because I found this postcard and another one, with a belly dancer. "Oh, is from our area, an outlaw or something like that," said the man staring at the image. "I didn't even know that I have it."

November 10, 2013

0858 MEXICO (Michoacán) - Historic Centre of Morelia (UNESCO WHS)

Located in the Guayangareo Valley, in a area inhabited in pre-Hispanic era by Purépecha and Matlatzinca, Morelia was founded in 1541 by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, under the name Valladolid. In 1580 it became the capital of the colonial province, and after the Mexican War of Independence, the city was renamed Morelia, in honor of José María Morelos. The city was the birthplace of several important personalities of independent Mexico and has played a major role in the country's history. Because it is an outstanding example of urban planning, which associates the ideas of the Spanish Renaissance with the Mesoamerican experience, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. More than 200 historical buildings, all in the region's characteristic pink stone, reflect the town's architectural history, revealing a masterly and eclectic blend of the medieval spirit with Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements.