January 31, 2012

0112 BELGIUM (West Flanders) - The successor to the oldest lighthouse in Europe

Nieuwpoort is a municipality located in Flanders, to the mouth of the river Yser into the North Sea, on the Channel coast between Dunkirk and Ostend. It obtained city rights in 1163, and in 1600 near to the locality  took place a battle between the Dutch and the Spanish, in the Revolt of the Netherlands (1566-1609). 

At present in Nieuwpoort are 4 lighthouses: Westhinder, West Mole, East Mole and Nieuwpoort. In the picture can be seen the last, located about 500 m east of the East Mole light, at the eastern side of the mouth of the river Yser. It's the only Belgian lighthouse which stands among nature and it can be reached only by walking or cycling. This is also the only possibility to reach the eastern pier, where the rarer visited one of the booth pier lights stands. 

This light is the modern successor to the Vierboet, a 30m fire tower built in 1284 in downtown Nieuwpoort, which seems to be the first lighthouse ever built in Europe. The Groote Vierboet, an octagonal stone tower built around 1414, survived until the 19th century and was fitted with a lantern in 1863. It was replaced about 25 years later by a new lighthouse built closer to the sea. Both towers were destroyed during WWI, during the Battle of the Yser (part of the First Battle of Ypres), when Karel Cogge, an overseer of the North Water of Furnes, opened the sluice gates on the mouth of the river Yser twice to flood the lower lying land, thus halting the German advance.

Temporary beacons were erected until a new lighthouse was built in 1926, which was destroyed in September 1944, during WWII. The lens was preserved in storage in Paris during the war and is in use in the present lighthouse, built in 1949. It’s a conical concrete tower 95m-high with red and white bands, and emits two red flashes every 14 seconds, range 16 nautical miles. Because it's in operation isn't allowed public access to the tower.

In terms of the stamp, I haven't anything to say, because it doesn't exist. There are only a postmark of PostNL which, I found on the Internet, can be purchased by anyone and applied to the correspondence, whether domestic or international. On May 25, 2011, TNT N.V., the international express and mail delivery services company with headquarters in Hoofddorp (Netherlands), was split in PostNL, which kept the post delivery services, and TNT Express, which deals with international express and cargo delivery services. If I don't understood correctly, I ask those who know better how it works to correct me.

sender: Jetske (postcrossing)
sent from Goes (Netherlands), on 22.01.2012

January 30, 2012

0111 EGYPT (Cairo) - Memphis and its Necropolis - the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (UNESCO WHS)

This view of the pyramids at Giza, from the plateau to the south of the complex, is, without doubt, one of the most popular. From right to left can see the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops in Greek - 2540 BC), the Pyramid of Khafre (Chefren in Greek) and the Pyramid of Menkaure (Mykerinos in Greek). The three smaller pyramids in the foreground are subsidiary structures associated with Menkaure's pyramid. The largest of them, the Pyramid of Khufu, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence, remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, unsurpassed until the 160m-tall spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in 1311. But not about the records of the pyramids I want to talk, nor about their meanings or about how they were built, but rather about their historical destiny and about how they were treated by the followers.

January 29, 2012

0110 LUXEMBOURG - A short tour of Grand Duchy

According to the census of 2011, Luxembourg has 439,539 inhabitants, as a district of a city like Shanghai, Moscow and New York City, to give three examples at random. But the country has a highly developed economy, with the world's highest GDP (nominal) per capita according to the IMF. The recorded history of Luxembourg begins in 963 with the acquisition of Lucilinburhuc (today Luxembourg Castle), around which a town gradually developed. In the 14th and early 15th centuries three members of the House of Luxembourg reigned as Holy Roman Emperors. In 1437 Duchess Elisabeth sold the territory to Philip the Good of Burgundy.

January 27, 2012

0108 UNITED STATES (Michigan) - Grand Rapids skyline

In 1805, when was born Michigan Territory, effectively consisting of Detroit and the surrounding area - to 52 years after the British had taken possession of the territory east of the Mississippi River, which he had held 100 years by the French - it had about 4,000 inhabitants, of course without Native American Peoples, which nobody count they. It now has almost 10 million inhabitants, of whom nearly a million and a half don't have a job (the worst unemployment rate of any state), due to the auto industry crisis, the same industry that led to the extraordinary development of state in 20th century.

Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan, located on the Grand River about 40 miles east of Lake Michigan, is an important center of manufacturing. Since 1838, the city has been noted for its furniture industry and is home to 5 of the world's leading office furniture companies. Home also to the Austin Automobile Company from 1901 until 1921, the city houses today a number of major companies including Steelcase, Amway, and Meijer, and is an important center for GE Aviation Systems.

I always liked that Americans know in detail how each city was founded, because many of them have less than 200 years. Grand Rapids is among them, and Wikipedia says very clearly: "The first permanent white settler in the Grand Rapids area was a Baptist minister named Isaac McCoy who arrived in 1825. In 1826 Detroit-born Louis Campau, the official founder of Grand Rapids, built his cabin, trading post, and blacksmith shop on the east bank of the Grand River near the rapids. Campau returned to Detroit, then came back a year later with his wife and $5,000 of trade goods to trade with the native tribes. In 1831 the federal survey of the Northwest Territory reached the Grand River and set the boundaries for Kent County, named after prominent New York jurist James Kent. Campau became perhaps the most important settler when, in 1831, he bought 72 acres (291,000 m²) of what is now the entire downtown business district of Grand Rapids. He purchased it from the federal government for $90 and named his tract Grand Rapids. Rival Lucius Lyon, who purchased the rest of the prime land, called his the Village of Kent. Yankee immigrants and others began immigrating from New York and New England in the 1830s."

On the postcard received from Kimberly, whom I thank, can see exactly the downtown area with its many bridges and tallest buildings in the city (photo: John Penrod). The first skyscraper on the left is Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (the third tallest in the city, with the 97m of its), reopened in 1981 after extensive renovations done by Marvin DeWinter & Associates including the addition of a 29 story glass tower. The hotel is home to several well-known restaurants in Grand Rapids, such as Cygnus and the 1913 Room, which was Michigan's only AAA Five Diamond Award restaurant, before being replaced in May 2011 by Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. The second building is also a hotel, JW Marriott Grand Rapids (the sixth tallest in the city – 78m), the first JW Marriott Hotel in the Midwest, opening in September 2007. The third is Plaza Towers Apartments (the second tallest in the city – 105m), built in 1991 and included individually-owned condominiums, rental apartments, a major-chain hotel and assorted retail stores.

The notable people born in Grand Rapids include Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, and Paul Schrader, best known as screenwriter, author of the screenplay of the famous Taxi Driver, made by Martin Scorsese in 1976.

About the stamp, which shown Grand Teton National Park, I wrote here.

sender: Kimberly McDermott / kimmybear (postcrossing)
sent from Grand Rapids (Michigan / United States), on 07.01.2012

January 24, 2012

0106 UNITED KINGDOM (Northern Ireland - Ulster) - Enniskillen Castle

0106 The south tower of Enniskillen Castle

Located between the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne, Enniskillen is a little town (13,587inhabitants in 2011) with a rich history. I must to say that James I founded here a free school in 1618, originally called Enniskillen Royal School, and later Portora Royal School. Among many prominent people who attended the courses of this school include two of my favorite writers, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

January 23, 2012

0105 AUSTRALIA - This is so relaxing!

Quite many areas in the world are associated in our minds with some animals that live there, but I don't think there is a closer and unmistakable connection as between the kangaroo and the Australia. The kangaroo is a national symbol of Australia: its emblem is used on the Australian coat of arms, on some of its currency, as well as by some of Australia's well known organisations.

January 22, 2012

0104 UNITED STATES (Wisconsin) - A public library for 481 people

Doesn't happen too often to receive a postcard from a settlement with only 481 inhabitants. Actually doesn't ever happened. Behold what writes the sender, named Sandy: "I am the Director at the Coloma Public Library. I suppose you are wondering why a library would be sending postcards, well, our summer reading program was called One World, Many Stories. We decided to showcase the world in writing and postage and people. Our community is very small we have a population of 481 people. We have a glocery store, two gas stations, two pubs/bars, a diner, a laundry mat, elementary school, coffee/ice cream shop, a bank, a car dealership, and many small businesses. We also have a park with a permanent shelter.

January 17, 2012

0101 A 20€ bill from Santa Claus

I wouldn't say that is the best time for a discussion on the euro, but Siem "Makemehappy" sent me a postcard with a 20 euro bill even on Christmas Day (December 25), last year, as a real Santa Claus, so I can't avoid the subject (Thanks, Siem, I hope to be a good sign, even if the euro is approaching for the minimum of the last 16 months and shows no sign of recovery). It seems that interest for the euro has dropped not only on the financial markets but also among the forgers of banknotes, so that if in 2009 there were 860,000 of counterfeits seized, a year later their number had fallen to 751,000, and in 2011 was found only 606,000. Indeed, the quality of counterfeits has improved significantly, so a supporter of the currency in question might say that hasn't decreased the number of counterfeits, but only that of counterfeits seized. An entrepreneurial spirit would have made a profit even from this business, applying a beautiful stamp with "false" on those banknotes and selling them to collectors.

For those outside of Europe, here is some information taken from Wikipedia. The euro (sign: €; code: EUR) is the official currency of the eurozone, for 17 of the 27 member states of the EU (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain). The euro is the second largest reserve currency as well as the second most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar. The name euro was officially adopted on 16 December 1995, but it was introduced to world financial markets as an accounting currency on 1 January 1999, and the coins and the banknotes entered circulation on 1 January 2002. The euro is divided into 100 cents (sometimes referred to as euro cents).

The design for the euro banknotes has common designs on both sides, and was created by the Austrian designer Robert Kalina. Notes are issued in €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, €5. Each banknote has its own colour and is dedicated to an artistic period of European architecture. The front of the note features windows or gateways while the back has bridges. While the designs are supposed to be devoid of any identifiable characteristics, the initial designs by Robert Kalina were of specific bridges, including the Rialto and the Pont de Neuilly, and were subsequently rendered more generic; the final designs still bear very close similarities to their specific prototypes; thus they are not truly generic.

I should also mention that the postcard doesn't reproduce accurately and completely the banknote, perhaps lest to try to buy something with it.

The first stamp is part of Green Progress set, about which I wrote here. The second shows the Queen Beatrix.

sender: Siem / Makemehappy (postcrossing)

January 16, 2012

0100 SPAIN (Cantabria) - El capricho de Gaudí

Of all the cities that I have ever seen them before (not too many, it's true) most impressed me Barcelona, and Antonio Gaudí was undoubtedly a key role in forming my opinion. I would venture to say that after the "intervention" of great master of Catalan Modernism, the city hasn't been the same, even if the architect from Reus came relatively late to the celebrity of today, simply because that it happens to those who exceed too much contemporaries.

January 15, 2012

0099 CHILE - Mapuche, people of the land

If sending postcards would be a profession, Hernán would be in the elite professionals and on his business card would be engraved the title magister chartum illustratae (or something like that). It's hard to describe the joy that I felt when I received the 3 postcards from him. Are exactly those that I wanted, and looks better than I hoped, which, you must admit it, rarely happens. Of the 8 stamps only one repeats it, in other words I received 7 different stamps. In addition, Hernán has bonded on the back a sticker with the flag of the community it illustrates the postcard, in this case Mapuche. The text was composed on the principle non multa, sed multum, saying how much could be said in so small a space. The writing is so legible, as though it was printed, although obviously it wasn't, and the date is specified, in the event that the stamp wouldn't be clear. May want more a postcards collector? Probably not. Gracias desde lo más profundo de mi corazón, Hernán, y que usted tenga de las postales más bellas del mundo.

January 13, 2012

0098 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / Zeeland) - A beautiful basilica, pursued by bad luck

Although in nowadays is a small town with only 28,000 inhabitants, Hulst (Holly in English), located to the east of Zeelandic Flanders, approximately 30km east of Antwerp, was in the Middle Ages an important seaport and a town coveted by many. After it received city rights in 1180, it has developed rather in tranquility until the Eighty Years' War, or the Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648), between the Seventeen Provinces (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, North of France and a small part of Western Germany) and Spain, which held these lands from the time of Charles V. It was successfully besieged by the Dutch in 1591, but Spain took it back in 1596, for that in 1645 the Dutch army to recapture it, after it had failed 5 years before. In 1702 it withstood a siege again, but in 1747 fell into the hands of the French. Meanwhile a star fort was constructed, the fortifications being a historic example of Dutch fortress architecture. On the other hand, the colmation of the harbour in the 17th century has reduced the city's commercial importance.

January 12, 2012

0097 CHINA (Shanghai) - A tram at the end of the road

It seems to me logical that the largest city proper in the world (over 23 million inhabitants in 2010), with probably one of the highest growth rates (in the last three decades the population has doubled), to have a befitting public transport system, largely based on buses, trolley buses, taxis, and a rapidly expanding metro system, inaugurated only in 1995 but which has already 12 lines, with 434km and 277 stations, and it set a daily ridership record of 7.548 million on October 22, 2010. Are figures that the mind of someone like me can hardly embrace.

January 11, 2012

0096 DJIBOUTI - A lake ten times more salty than sea

First I have to say that unfortunately I don't received this postcard from Djibouti, but from Germany, from Silke, who, as he said in the message, recently traveled to this country from the Horn of Africa, nestled between Eritrea, Ethiopia şi Somalia. With a population of approximately 906,000 inhabitants, of whom 567,000 (62%) live in the capital, Djibouti has an economy based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status as a free trade zone, and on the salt reserves, as it was 1,000 ago. The Somali and Afar ethnic groups was the first populations on Africa who embraced Islam, due to its links with Arabian Peninsula. The French influence which was felt in the area since the 19th century, when the country was called French Somaliland or Obock, remained so strong that in 1958 the population decided by referendum to remain with France, and not to join the Somali Republic.

After the declaration of independence in 1977, when it changed the name from Afars and Issas to Republic of Djibouti, the country experienced a civil war (1991-2001) between the government and a predominantly Afar rebel group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), and fought against Eritrea (1996 and 2008) for the Ras Doumeira peninsula, which both countries claim to be under their sovereignty.

Regarding the postcard, if wasn't wrote on it what represent, I hadn't realized. Assal is a crater lake in central-eastern Djibouti, at the western end of Gulf of Tadjoura, at the top of the Great Rift Valley. It lies 155m below sea level (the lowest point on Africa and the third lowest depression on Earth, after the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee). There is no outflow from the lake and, due to high evaporation, the salinity level of its waters is ten times that of the sea, making it the most saline in the world after Don Juan Pond (Antarctica). If at this we add that temperatures can rise in summer above 52°C and in winter doesn't drop below 34°C, we can see that the region isn't favorable to life. As a result the vegetation in the lake area consists only of low, thorny bushes, and in the lake water are no apparent signs of life.

Assal is formed by two parts: a large white expanse of salt (the world's largest salt reserve) on the west/northwest side, resulting from evaporation of the waters in the past, and a highly saline water body. The salt from this area is distinguished by the shape of the crystals from the salt from any other part of the world. Normally, sodium chloride crystallizes in the cubic system, but here the continuous action of wind-blown waves, currents, heat, and pressure of super saturated brine have as result spherical crystals, with the size from the caviar to the softball ball. Salt extraction by the Afar nomad tribes of camel drivers and Somalis from Lake Assal's salt bank established the ancient caravan routes.

The Government of Djibouti has initiated a proposal with UNESCO to declare the Lake Assal zone and the Ardoukoba volcano as a World Heritage Site.

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

sender: Silke / rasibo (walltype)

0095 GERMANY (North Rhine-Westphalia) - Sparrenburg, the castle from the Teutoburg Forest

Located about 60 km southeast for the place of the famous battle in which Arminius massacred 2,000 years ago three Roman legions, in the territories held in the 8th century by Widukind, one of the most formidable opponents of Charlemagne, Bielefeld (the hilly field) was founded in 1215 by Count Hermann IV of Ravensberg to guard a pass crossing the dark Teutoburg Forest (until the 19th century named Osning). To serve intended purpose, sometime before 1250 was erected, above the town, on the Sparrenberg hill, the castle with the same name, the administrative centre and residence of the county sovereign (in the picture). The fact that Bielefeld, the "city of linen", has become member of the Hanseatic League in 1270, shortly after the castle's building, can't be accidental.

January 9, 2012

0094 NICARAGUA (Rio San Juan) - Fortress of the Immaculate Conception (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Colonized by the Spaniards in the 16th century, Nicaragua was subject to frequent raids by Dutch, French and British pirates, the city of Granada being invaded twice, in 1658 and 1660. Just to protect locals in neighboring Granada from pirate attacks was constructed along the San Juan River (that flows east out of Lake Nicaragua into the Caribbean Sea) a series of fortifications. The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception, located in the village of El Castillo and completed in 1675, was the most important of them.

January 3, 2012

0090 FRANCE (Occitania) - Canal du Midi (UNESCO WHS)

Unlike many other monarchs, Louis XIV had at its disposal, besides tenacity and funds, enough time to carry out his plans, so that after over 72 years of reign he was left a legacy to France as only very few others have succeeded. Among the constructions left behind is the Canal du Midi, probably the most important engineering project of the XVII century, which cost over 15 million livres. Probably you wonder, like me, how much means 15 million livres. 

January 2, 2012

0088 RUSSIA (Moscow) - Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent (UNESCO WHS)

So important was Smolensk, that in 1524, to the 10th anniversary of its conquest, the Grand Prince of Moskow Vasili III had built the Novodevichy Convent (also known as Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery), and dedicated it to the Icon of the Mother God of Smolensk Hodegetria, the highest shrine of Russian orthodoxy. Ivan the Terrible, the first tsar of All Russia, later granted a number of other villages to the convent. Located in the south-western part of the historic town of Moscow, at a curve of the Moskow River, the convent is enclosed within a high masonry wall with 12 towers, and was an important part of the southern defensive belt of the russian capital. It was called Novodevichy (The Virgin Hodigitria New Maiden) to differ from the Ascension Convent, Voznesensky Starodevichy (Old Maiden), located in the Moscow Kremlin.