October 29, 2011

0024 SPAIN (Murcia) - The water wheel of Alcantarilla

0024 The water wheel of Alcantarilla

Between the 9th and 12th centuries the Arabs (or Moors, as the european have named the population who have conquered the Iberian Peninsula) had undoubtedly a civilizing role, leaving to Europe a legacy hard to ignore. Beyond the architectural wonders, from which Spain is full, they recovered and passed on the teachings of ancient Greece, to which have added their own not negligible contributions, be it mathematics, philosophy, alchemy, astronomy or medicine.

0023 BAHRAIN - The Arad Fort

The archipelago of 33 islands that are called by several centuries Bahrain (the Two Seas) has always a particular significance in the Persian Gulf, mainly due to the strategic position (not coincidentally hosts now the Fifth Fleet of the United States) but also for the resources (copper in ancient times, pearls later, and now oil). As a result the islands were permanently disputed by the locked Persian Gulf states, to which was added the Portuguese (XVI century) and English (from the XIX century).

October 27, 2011

0022 THAILAND (Bangkok) - Black Castle of Bangkok

Buddhist temple Wat Ratchanaddaram is located nearly the famous Khaosan Road, in the Phra Nakhon district (Bangkok), and its main attraction is its architecturally unique Loha Prasat (Brazen Palace), which stands 36-meters high with 37 surrounding spires (37 is the number of chapters of Dharma in Buddhism). Built in 1846, in the reign of King Rama III, to celebrate the King's niece (hence its name, meaning Royal Niece) who became the first queen consort of King Rama IV, is one of Bangkok's most unusual structures, the only one of its kind left in the world. Sometimes called metal castle, or black castle because of its black roofs, it’s modeled after the Loha Prasada in India and Sri Lanka. The temple has a well-known market selling Buddhist amulets, or magic charms, in all shapes and sizes, for all the pockets and preferences.

0021 SWITZERLAND (Bern) - Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes (UNESCO WHS)

0021 Bernina Express across the Landwasser Viaduct

Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through two passes. Opened in 1904, the Albula line in the north western part of the property is 67 km long. It features an impressive set of structures including 42 tunnels and covered galleries and 144 viaducts and bridges. The 61 km Bernina pass line features 13 tunnels and galleries and 52 viaducts and bridges.

The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass.

The Bernina Express, operated by the Rhaetian Railway company, connects Chur in Switzerland with Poschiavo and Tirano in Italy and since summer 2008 the section between Thusis and Tirano has been classed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The trip on the Bernina Express is a 4 hour railway journey across 196 bridges, through 55 tunnels and across the Bernina Pass on the highest point at 2,253m in altitude, without the use of toothed-wheel mechanism. It seems very spectacular and the postcard received from Gabriela - that captures the train across the Landwasser Viaduct (Landwasserviadukt), built between 1901 and 1902 by Müller & Zeerleder – proves it the most.

About the stamps
The first stamp it’s a special one (I know, I said that many times, but it’s really special), issued on September 9th, 2011. The series title, Handicapped Artists pays tribute to those who continue to follow their artistic path despite being handicapped by a disability that makes this path more demanding. The author of this painting is Claudia Aebi-Torre (33), a former nurse and medical masseuse who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 27 and now works reduced hours with a non-profit organization and paint. The picture on the stamp, entitled Emmental, showing, as Gabriela says, a landscape of the region with the same name, forming part of the canton of Bern, famous for the Emmentaler cheese.

The other two stamps, depicted Rye (0.20 CHF), are part of the Agriculture & Food series, about I wrote here.

Sender: Gabriela Bläsi (direct swap)
Sent from Büren an der Aare (Bern / Switzerland), on 21.10.2011

0020 UNITED STATES (Utah) - Valley of the Gods

If the first postcard coming from Utah show something built by man, the second reveals the work of some more skilled hands. Valley of the Gods is the sandstone scenic valley in San Juan County, Southeastern Utah, north of Monument Valley across the San Juan River (Colorado River), and has similar tall, red, isolated pinnacles and cliffs. As with his most famous sister, the proeminent peaks in the Valley of the Gods have received strange names, all precisely marked on the topographic map, including Rudolph and Santa Claus, Setting Hen Butte, Rooster Butte, De Gaulle and His Troops or Lady in the Bathtub. But unlike Monument Valley, entirely located in the Navajo Reservation, within the Valley of the Gods you will not find any indian, just well camouflaged rattlesnakes and a lot of dust. The stunning colors of the sunset (or maybe of the sunrise?) highlight the red silhouettes of towering stone pinnacles that seems ruins of some gigantic cathedrals.

October 23, 2011

0018 JAPAN (Chūgoku) - God-entertainment

Very few Europeans real understand Japanese people, even though many argue that. I recognize that not, and the way in which they have responded to disasters, whether historical or natural, always seemed to me a miracle. Even their art forms seem from another world, and in a sense they are. The postcard received from Ōsakikamijima (Arigatō, Aiko!), a town (and an island) located in Chūgoku region, Toyota District, Hiroshima Prefecture (western Honshū island), capture a scene of kagura (god-entertainment), a specific type of Shinto theatrical dance, once strictly a ceremonial art and today a living tradition of great diversity, practiced primarily in Shimane prefecture and in Hiroshima. As the most famous kabuki, kagura uses elaborated masks and sumptuous costumes and still take place every December in the Imperial Sanctuary, and at the Imperial harvest festival ceremonies.

0017 SPAIN (Murcia) - The Mushroom rocks of Enchanted City

In the region of Murcia, to Mazarrón, right near the shore in Bolnuevo, is The Bolnuevo Erosions, numită şi Las Gredas de Bolnuevo or Ciudad Encantada (Enchanted City), a sandstone monuments sculpted by the water and wind, with a beautiful beach near by. Declared in 2007 "a monument of natural interest", Ciudad Encantada is formed by clay and the yellowish color is caused by the large amount of sand.Don’t confuse it with a geological site located in Castile-La Mancha, near the city of Cuenca, also known as Ciudad Encantada, where have been filmed some scenes from Conan the Barbarian (the movie released on 1982, with Arnold Schwarzenegger).

0016 FINLAND (Uusimaa) - Helsinki Cathedral

This postcard make me some problems of identification, especially because the publisher not thought it necessary to write something else on the back but what is written on the front, namely "Suomi - Finland - Helsinki". I noticed the same thing on the first postcard received by me from Finland, but it seemed me natural that there weren’t other details, because it’s a country's map. Isn’t valid on this case. Of course I immediately recognized the tall green dome surrounded by four smaller domes of the cathedral (Evangelical Lutheran) probably the most important symbol of the city, but the bottom of the building didn’t fit at all. At first I thought that the front building is the University: as well six columns at the entrance, as well three levels, but the form of columns and of first floor windows is quite different. Finally I identified it as Helsinki City Hall (Helsingin kaupungintalo), so the photo was made from the quay.

Built between 1830 and 1852 in neoclassical style, as a tribute to the Grand Duke, Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia, the church was called, until the independence of Finland in 1917, St. Nicholas' Church. Helsingin tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral) or Suurkirkko (The Big Church) is visited annually by 350,000 people and is one of the tourist attractions of Stade (the nickname of Helsinki, from the Swedish word stad, meaning city).

Sadly or Finnish or the Romanian postal officials or even pilot of the aircraft that transported the mail (friends know why I say this) have bent one of the corners of the postcards, halved me, of course, the joy.

The stamp belong to the 100th anniversary of Finnish comics set, a second class serie of six stamps, issued on 5 septembrie 2011. The first Finnish comic book was published in November 1911 and it was Professori Itikaisen tutkimusretki (The Expedition of Professor Itikainen) written and drawn by Ilmari Vainio.

The pictorial motifs include popular characters from the first six decades of Finnish comics from the 1910s to the 1960s and the selected images represent the most distinctive features of each character. The 1910s (which is present in my postcard) are represented by Ola Fogelberg’s Janne Ankkanen which was published in Suomen Kuvalehti and later in Kansan Kuvalehti. Hjalmar Löfving’s Olli Pirteä, which was published in Sirkka, represents the 1920s. The 1930s return with Herra Kerhonen, whose author, Gösta Thilén, is regarded as one of the masters of wordless comics. The 1940s are represented by Antti Puuhaara, which was published in Yhteishyvä as drawn by Aarne Nopsanen and written by Raul Roine. For the 1950s, the stamp sheet features Kili ja Possu, written by Olavi Vikainen, who specialized in animal characters in children's comics that were published in a number of Finnish and Swedish papers. The stamp for the 1960s depicts Unto Uneksija, which was published in Pellervo. Veikko Savolainen, its creator, is better known as Joonas thanks to one of his later works.

The designer Ville Tietäväinen is a cartoon artist himself. As a particularity, the stamps shape isn’t regular, sometimes following the outline of drawing. The series is very interesting and I would like to receive and the others stamps on the future Finnish postcards.

To complete the amount necessary for the shipment, the sender (Juha - many thanks, man!) has added to the stamp two cross-shaped self-adhesives issued in 2008, with values of 0.10 € and respectively 0.05 €. In terms of themes, the first depicting the Finnish Archipelago, but about the second I couldn’t find any information.

sender: Juha / tuoju (postcrossing)
sent from Helsinki (Finland), on 17.10.2011
photo: Seppo J.J. Sirkka

0015 SWITZERLAND (Bern) - Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch (UNESCO WHS)

0015 The Eiger and Mönch mountains
seen from Grütschalp railway station

Grütschalp (1,487m) is a station on the Lauterbrunnen-Mürren mountain railway, a hybrid cable car and rail link that connects the villages of Lauterbrunnen and Mürren in the Bernese Oberland region. It is even the point of interchange between the cable car from Lauterbrunnen and the high-level railway from Mürren. The Lauterbrunnen-Mürren line opened in 1891, but until 2006 the connection between Lauterbrunnen and Grütschalp was effected by a funicular railway. The current cable car replaced this when the funicular was damaged by landslides, and uses the same route and adapted terminal stations.

October 18, 2011

0013 UNITED KINGDOM (Northern Ireland - Ulster) - Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast (UNESCO WHS)

The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns (the tallest are about 12 metres), most of it hexagonal, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, some 50 to 60 million years ago. That say the geologists. Folk tradition says that the Causeway was built by the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Fingal. The legend is long and interesting (you can find it on the Internet in several variants). Finally Fingal sped back along the causeway to get rid of Finn and tearing it up as he went. He is said to have fled to a cave on Staffa which to this day is named Fingal's Cave.

October 10, 2011

0007 GERMANY (Bavaria) - Bavarian Zugspitze Railway

I could’t explain why, but the receiving of that postcards produced me a great pleasure. Bavarian Zugspitze Railway (German: Bayerische Zugspitzbahn) is one of four rack railways still working in Germany, runs from the Garmisch-Partenkirchen suburb of Garmisch to the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. Built between 1928 and 1930 that railway was nominated in 2007 for an award as a Historic landmarks of civil engineering in Germany, which is not a small thing in a country with such tradition and performance engineering.

About stamp, illustrating St. Peter's Cathedral of Regensburg, I write here.

sender: Uwe Schulze / Schulze (postcrossing)
sent from Witten (Germany), on 30.09.2009

0006 GERMANY (Lower Saxony) - Dorum

I don't succeeded to find much information about Dorum on the Internet, only it is a small village in Lower Saxony, near Bremerhaven, a quiet holiday destination, suitable for families. On this postcard can see the beach, the picturesque fishing port, Cuxland Ferienpark Hotel and St. Urban Church, built in 1250 in place of an church existing there since 1100 (the tower was added in 1751). On the back of the postcard the editor wrote "Deutschland ist schön" (Germany is beautiful). And that is really true.

0005 THAILAND (Samut Prakan) - Ancient Siam

Without being a supporter of leftist ideology, I always share the opinion that the rich people have to return some of what they have earned to the society which facilitated theirs enrichment, at least erecting buildings of public interest, financing cultural activities and supporting education. Hence I appreciate the people who do such things. Such a man is Thai millionaire Lek Viriyaphant, responsible for the construction of Mueang Boran (Ancient Siam, formerly known as Ancient City). Situated in Samut Prakan province (part of the Bangkok Metropolitan Region), the 320-hectare city features 116 replicas of all major downscaled historical buildings of Thailand, making it the world's largest outdoor museum. In the postcard is the main entry gate in this architectural paradise.

0004 GERMANY (Lower Saxony) - Borkum Island

The first postcard I received after I joined to the postcrossing system has come from a island from... Germany. Borkum is the westernmost of the German islands situated along the coast of Lower Saxony Land (The East Frisian Islands), placed on the border with the Netherlands. In fact the island is closer to Dutch coast than to German one. An interesting detail is that the island surface has changed several times throughout recorded history: during the reign of Charlemagne (8th century) was united with Juist and Norderney neighbors, in 1781 a violent storm fragmented it and in the second half of the 19th century it was again united with a nearby piece of land.

0003, 2490 FRANCE (Île-de-France) - L'Hôtel des Invalides - part of Paris, Banks of the Seine (UNESCO WHS)

Built between 1670 and 1679 on the orders of Louis XIV and aiming to accommodate disabled military, L'Hôtel des Invalides now used in part the same purpose, but also the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church with the burial site for some of France's war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte. Baroque dome of the chapel of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides dominates the entire complex of buildings.

October 9, 2011

0002 FRANCE (Île-de-France) - Palace and Park of Versailles (UNESCO WHS)

To my surprise, the first who responded to my request, addressed to all my acquaintances living outside Romania or who travel frequently, was Marius, a high school friend whom I haven’t seen for years. So is not true that out of sight is out of mind. I received two postcards from him, both coming from France.

In recent decades, since tourism has become sport for some and business for others, Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles) became a compulsory destination for anyone who gets in Paris, be it American, European or Oriental. Without the slightest doubt, the castle worth visiting, but I dare to say that the historical events which took place there within the last two centuries overshadow its artistic and cultural value.

0001 ITALY (Veneto) - Saint Mark's Square - part of Venice and its Lagoon (UNESCO WHS)

Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square) is the main public square of Venice, so famous that he often is told simply Piazza.  All other urban spaces in the city (except the Piazzetta and the Piazzale Roma) are called campi (fields). The Piazzetta (the Little Piazza) is an extension of the Piazza towards the Venetian Lagoon, and the two spaces together form the social, religious and political centre of Venice. The Square is dominated at its eastern end by the great Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark's Basilica), about which I wrote here.