March 31, 2012

0162 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (Dubai) - The Jumeirah Mosque

Jumeirah Mosque is located in coastal residential area with the same name (which literally means burning embers) in Dubai. The area, populated with western expatriates and familiar to the tourists, comprises mainly low rise private dwellings (both expensive properties as well as more modest town houses built in a variety of architectural styles). The beachfront area was previously called Chicago Beach, as the site of the former Chicago Beach Hotel, but the name not persisted too long after the old Hotel was demolished in 1997. Jumeirah Beach has now a number of luxury hotels on its beach front, the most prominent being the world famous Burj Al Arab.

March 30, 2012

0161 CHILE (Metropolitana de Santiago) - La Moneda Palace (UNESCO - Tentative List)

Santiago, Chile – March 29, 2012 (i.e. yesterday)
The Associated Press: "Bands of hooded youths clashed with police in Chile's capital Thursday during another round of riots on what has come to be known as the day of the combatant [more accurate Dia del joven combatienteDay of the Young Combatant]. Young people have been staging the violence every March 29 in memory of two youths [brothers Rafael and Eduardo Vergara Toledo] killed by police in 1985 during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chile has been democratic for more than two decades and other activists criticized the rioting, saying the violence is used by Chilean news media and government officials to weaken support for movements pushing for social change. […] More than 1,500 police were deployed and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters from inside and outside the campus of the University of Santiago. The university suspended classes, and nearby traffic was snarled."

March 29, 2012

0160 INDONESIA (Java) - Wayang puppet theatre (UNESCO ICH)

Although is only the 13th largest island in the world (and the 5th in Indonesia), Java is the most populous (with 135,000,000 inhabitants), hosting 60% of the Indonesian population. Much of Indonesian history took place on this island, which was the center of powerful Hindu-Buddhist empires, the Islamic sultanates, and the core of the colonial Dutch East Indies, but also the center of the Indonesian struggle for independence during the 1930s and 40s.

March 27, 2012

0159 FRANCE (Occitania) - Basilica Saint-Sernin in Toulouse (UNESCO WHS)

0159 Toulouse - Basilica Saint-Sernin

Per Tolosa totjorn mai (For Toulouse, always more). This is the motto of the capital of the former province of Languedoc, located on the banks of the River Garonne, which is part of Canal des Deux Mers. Settlement of the Aquitani, over which came first the Iberians, then the Volcae Tectosages tribe, followed in the next centuries by the Romans, the Cimbri, the Visigoths and finally the Franks, Toulouse became in the early Middle Ages the capital of the county with the same name, annexed by Kingdom of France in 1271.

March 26, 2012

0158 IRAQ (Baghdad) - Al Khilani Square in Baghdad

If about the Republican Palace I found a lot of information, about Al Khilani Square I don't managed to find to much. Only that it’s located in the heart of Baghdad and that over time exploded there several bombs, which killed many people. In fact the square didn't seem very interesting, resembling with a lot of other squares flanked by blocks built by Ceausescu in the Romanian cities. I don't know when was taken the photo, but at least from 2011 instead of the fountain placed in the center is a structure with a clock. That's all.

March 25, 2012

0157 BELARUS (Vitebsk) - The house where Marc Chagall grew up

In 1897, Vitebsk (at that time located in the Tsarist Empire) had 65,900 inhabitants, of which not less than 34,400 (so around 52%) were Jews. Among them was Moishe Shagal - the eldest of nine children of Khatskl (Zakhar) Shagal, employed of a herring merchant, and of Feige-Ite – born ten years ago to Liozna, a nearby settlement. Over years he would become, under the name Marc Chagall, not only "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century", but even "one of the most successful artists of the 20th century". Even though he lived most of his life in France, with an incursion to the United States, Chagall will never forget his hometown, and all his work will be placed under the sign of Eastern European Jewish folk culture.

March 24, 2012

0155 AUSTRALIA (Victoria) - The SW6 subclass tram number 909 on City Circle route, Melbourne

I wrote here about the Adelaide's tram network. Behold Betty (thank you very much, Betty) gives me the opportunity to expand the subject upon Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria and the only city in Australia which use extensively trams as public transport in nowadays. The Melbourne's tram network, the largest in the world, consisting of 250 km of track, is a distinctive part of city's character and feature in tourism and travel advertising.

March 23, 2012

0154 COSTA RICA - Area de Conservación Guanacaste - Hacienda Santa Rosa (UNESCO WHS)

I tend to believe that Sophia is right, and I'm a lucky guy: I haven't found this postcard on the Internet, so it's a rarity. Muchas gracias, Sophia. In addition, the Santa Rosa's Casona was burned down in May 2001 and later was re-built, and  I believe, although I have no argument, that the image was taken before the fire.

As I said here, despite the limited number of cultural sites, Costa Rica is the most visited nation in the Central American region. Neither the site which includes this hacienda is a cultural one, but its historical significance isn't neglected.

Stretching from the Pacific across the Cordillera de Guanacaste to the Atlantic, in the northwestern part of Costa Rica, Area de Conservación Guanacaste (included among UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999), which comprises Santa Rosa, Guanacaste, Rincón de la Vieja National Parks and the Junquillal Bay Wildlife Refuge, contains a range of habitats, including some of the most pristine wetland forests worldwide and the best dry forest habitats in Central America.

Santa Rosa National Park (Parque Nacional Santa Rosa) was originally created to protect the scene of the Battle of Santa Rosa (20 March 1856), won by Costa Rican army over the forces of filibuster William Walker, became president of Nicaragua a few months before, after the failure of the adventure called Republic of Sonora, whose president was also. The intensions of Walker were to conquer the five provinces of Central America, but Juan Rafael Mora Porras, the President of Costa Rica, guessed his plan and on 27 February 1856 declared war to Nicaragua. The Costa Rican army, led by the president, began the march on 4 March from San José to the northern border, arriving in Liberia on 12 March, where they joined the battalion organized there (Moracia Battalion).

When Walker realized what was happening, he sent troops, under the leadership of colonel Schlessinger, which entered in Costa Rica through the road that joined Nicaragua with Liberia and which passed by the Hacienda Santa Rosa, where they arrived on 19 March. The Costa Ricans, meanwhile, began the walk to Santa Rosa and on 20 March at 4 o'clock, armed with rifles, sabres, and bayonets, began the attack, surrounded the mercenaries that had stationed themselves in the casona, and fourteen minutes later they won the battle. In April, Costa Rican troops penetrated into Nicaraguan territory and inflicted a defeat on Walker's men at the Second Battle of Rivas, in which Juan Santamaría played a key role. In nowadays, April 11, the day of victory at Rivas, but also the day of Santamaria's death, is a Costa Rican national holiday (National Hero’s Day or Juan Santamaria Day). Walker was executed on September 12, 1860, in Trujillo, by the Honduran authorities.

The farm kept for years its strategic significance. This place was the location of two more battles of Costa Rican forces against invading forces from Nicaragua, in 1919 and in 1955. Now the hacienda is museum, inside the house being photos, illustrations, carbines, and other military paraphernalia commemorating the battles. One room is furnished in period style. Another one is a small chapel. Large wooden mortars and pestles are on display, along with decrepit chaps and centenary riding gear. There's also a good nature exhibit, and outside is a large guanacaste tree.

About the stamp I wrote extensively here.

sender: Sophia Machado (direct swap)
sent from San José (Costa Rica), on 30.01.2012
foto: Julio C. Sequeira

March 22, 2012

0153 PORTUGAL - The map of the country

In 1519, when was completed the construction of the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), during the reign of King Manuel I (1495-1521), Portugal was at the peak of his territorial expansion and of the economic and cultural flowering. Established as a vassal county of the Kingdom of Leon in 1095, on the territory between the rivers Minho and Douro ripped from the Moors, who possessed it since 718, Portugal (Terra Portucallis) becomes independent kingdom in 1139. Eight years later is recaptured Lisbon (which replaced Coimbra as royal residence), and in 1249 the southern province of Algarve, the last one under the Moorish rule. At the end of the Reconquista are traced boundaries with the neighboring Spain (1267), Portugal being the first European country that set his final borders, remaining unchanged until today. Unchanged until today is also the alliance with England, signed in 1373, the longest-standing alliance in the world.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal established a global empire (the first in history) that included possessions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America, becoming the world's major economic, political and military global power. The Portuguese Empire was also the longest lived of the European colonial empires, spanning from the capture of Ceuta in 1415, to the handover of Macau to China in 1999.

Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the Age of Discovery left from Lisbon, which has become one of the richest cities in Europe, because was the European hub of commerce between Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploiting the riches from trade in spices, slaves, sugar, textiles, and other goods. The Belém Tower, now on the shore of the Tagus, originally was built on an island closely located to the right bank of the river, opposite the Restelo beach. Built to honor Lisbon’s patron St Vincent, Belém Tower was meant to be part of the defensive system for the estuary of the Tagus River, providing crossfire with the fortress of São Sebastião da Caparica on the south bank, but also as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

Something about the history of Portugal I wrote when I received the first two postcards, here and here, so now I will insist upon the images. Thanks to Paulo (obrigado, amigo), I can easy specify what illustrates the four photographs from the left, only after a minimum documentation:

The Luís I Bridge from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, also one of the oldest European centres, located along the Douro river estuary, which name has been referred to as the origin for the name of the country
Statue of King José I (1714-1777) in the Commerce Square (Praça do Comércio) from Lisbon
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, built at the site of the Marian apparitions reported by three Portuguese children in 1917
Algarve coast, the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, the most popular tourist destination in that country, and one of the most popular in Europe

March 21, 2012

0152 GHANA - An Ashanti boy, dressed in kente

I wrote about the Ashanti people here, both about their history and their present and about kente cloth. I'll add only a few details about the Ashanti family unit and family system, which I found on a very interesting site,

"As in most developing countries, there is a strong extended family system. Poorer members may seek financial assistance from their better off relatives for school fees, medical expenses etc. But visitors are always welcomed, even if their arrival may be a cause of financial concern. In Asante, the family line is matralineal - in that it passes through the mother to her children. A man is strongly related to his mother's brother but only weakly related to his father's brother. This must be viewed in the context of a polygamous society in which the mother/child bond is likely to be much stronger than the father / child bond. As a result, in inheritance, a man's nephew (sister's son) will have priority over his own son. Uncle-nephew relationships therefore assume a dominant position. (Legislation was introduced in 1984 to change this traditional pattern of inheritance.)"

March 19, 2012

0150 PARAGUAY - Sistema Ferrocarril Pte. Carlos Antonio López (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Many nations have earned and maintained their independence at the price of blood, but only few have paid as much as Paraguay. Stretched on both banks of the river with the same name (the second major river of the strategic Rio de la Plata Basin), which runs through the center of the country from north to south, Paraguay is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América (Heart of America). Cramped between Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, which more than 100 years have expressed their expansionist tendencies on it, this landlocked country, traditionally isolated and underpopulated, has experienced until recently an endless series of coups and dictatorships, being strained by atrocious wars and haunted by utopian plans.

March 16, 2012

0149 FRANCE (Grand Est) - Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance in Nancy - Opéra national de Lorraine (UNESCO WHS)


Capital city of Lorraine (region disputed over time, along with Alsace, by the French and German), Nancy has a rich history, as the ducal city between 13th and 18th centuries, capital of an independent state until 1766, border city between 1871 and 1914, and the center of Art Nouveau in the late 19th century. The old centre dates from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the cathedral of Nancy, the Triumphal Arch and the Place de la Carriere being fine examples of 18th century architecture. The École de Nancy (a group of artists and architects founded by Émile Gallé, which worked in the Art Nouveau style at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century), has turned the city in a centre of art and architecture that rivaled Paris, bringing him the nickname Capitale de l'Est.

March 15, 2012

0147 UNITED KINGDOM (England) - Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Truro

Truro is the only city and the administrative centre of Cornwall, and the most southern city in mainland Great Britain. Inhabited since the Norman times, it was an important port by the start of the 14th century, and became very prosperous during the Tudor period, situation which has continued during the 18th and 19th centuries. Its most recognisable feature is the gothic-revival Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in the picture is the west front), designed by architect John Loughborough Pearson and rising 76m above the city at its highest spire.

March 14, 2012

0146 ISRAEL (Jerusalem) - The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (UNESCO WHS)

According to the Tanakh (the canon of the Hebrew Bible), Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount from Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. Hasn't been found it any trace of this temple, so its actual existence is doubted by many archaeologists. The Second Temple was completed in 516 BCE, and around 19 BCE Herod the Great began a massive expansion project on the Temple Mount (which seems that was finished during the reign of King Agrippa II). He expanded the platform on which the temple stood, resulting in an enlarged enclosure. Today's Western Wall formed part of the retaining perimeter wall of this platform. Herod's Temple was destroyed by the romans, along with the rest of Jerusalem, in 70 CE, during the First Jewish-Roman War.

March 13, 2012

0145 COLOMBIA (Cundinamarca) – Environmental Axis and Monserrate Mountain

In 1536 Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada has left Santa Marta and the Caribbean coast with 500 soldiers in search of El Dorado. They haven't found the Lost City of Gold, but the survivors, 70 in number, arrived at Bacatá, center of Muisca civilization, where they founded, on August 6, 1538, an urban settlement which they called Santa Fé de Bacatá, as the birthplace of the conquistador and indigenous village name. It had received the modern name of Bogotá after the establishment of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (1717), and became one of the most flourishing city of the Spanish occupation. With independence, Bogotá became the capital of the Gran Colombia (1819), and later the capital of the Republic of Colombia (1886). Now it has nearly 7 million inhabitants and is known as the Athens of South America, because of its numerous universities and libraries.

0144 CHINA (Yunnan) - A bright smile

Today is Tuesday 13, so I thought to offer you a smile to chase away bad luck. The two women who smile so sincere are from rural area of Yunnan province, located in southern China, at the border with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. As I say here, China seems to use another scale than Europe. For example Yunnan province covers an area about as Romania, Hungary and Serbia together (ie 394,100 km2), and a population as these countries, plus Bulgaria and Macedonia (ie 46 million inhabitants). Even if Yunnan is noted for a very high level of ethnic diversity, nevertheless 67% of the population belongs to the Han group (the largest single ethnic group in the world, about 20% of the entire global human population), so I may assume (I hope I'm right) that these two women belong to this group.

March 11, 2012

0143 GERMANY (Hesse) - The cathedral and the castle from Limburg

The fifth who joined "those born on August 8" (ie in the same day as me) is called Benedikt Binder (danken Ihnen, Benedikt) and is the first male (even if is only 12 years old) from this category, what calmed me a little. Not that I wouldn't like the ladies company, God forbid, but I strongly believe in balance and I was, though, too isolated.

March 10, 2012

0142 MACEDONIA (Skopje) - The Stone Bridge

The valleys of the rivers Morava (which flows north and empties into the Danube) and Vardar (which flows south and empties into the Aegean Sea) form a continuous natural corridor between the Pannonian Basin and the Aegean Sea, inhabited and used as migration route since Neolithic. In Roman times, Balkan Peninsula was crossed from east to west by three imperial roads, all intended to unite Rome and Constantinopolis (Istanbul). The first two journeyed from Viminacium, located not far from Singidunum (Belgrade), one of them following the Danube course, and the other one, Via Militaris (Via Diagonalis), descending on Morava valley until Naissus (Niš), and reached to Constantinopolis through Serdica (Sofia) and Philippopolis (Plovdiv). The third, the famous Via Egnatia, a continuation of the Via Appia, started from Dyrrachium (Durrës - Adriatic Sea) and also reached to Constantinopolis, through Thessalonice (Thessaloniki) and Aenus. Between Via Militaris and Via Egnatia was a road on the Vardar valley. So the mentioned corridor connected the three roads, being of utmost importance.

March 8, 2012

0140 EGYPT (Cairo) - The spinal cord of Cairo

Egypt isn't only past but also present and future, and Cairo (Al-Qāhira, literally "The Vanquisher" or "The Conqueror") is the best example in this regard. Founded in the year 969 AD by the Fatimids near the Nile delta, Cairo is now the largest city in the Arab world and in Africa (7,009,765 inhabitants), and resides at the centre of the eleventh-largest urban area in the world (17,550,000 inhabitants). 

March 6, 2012

0138 UNITED STATES (New Hampshire) – The former Old Man of the Mountain

Quite small (the 5th least extensive) and not very populated (the 9th least populous), stuck to the border with Canada, with a short coastline to the Atlantic, and cramped between Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, New Hampshire was the first post-colonial sovereign nation in the Americas (1776), and one of the original thirteen states that founded the U.S. Concord is the state capital, while Manchester is the largest city, with only 110.000 inhabitants. Even if the state is known internationally for the New Hampshire primary, the first primary in the U.S. presidential election cycle, I would rather keep in my mind other three things about it:

- in Peterborough was founded the first public library in the world supported with public funds (1833)
- in Cornish lived since 1953 until his death, in 2010, J.D. Salinger, the brilliant author of the novel The Catcher in the Rye
- in Portsmouth was born in 1942 Ronnie James Dio, one of the world's most influential heavy metal vocalist

New Hampshire was also the home of the rock formation called the Old Man of the Mountain, a face-like profile in Franconia Notch (a pass through the White Mountains), until the formation fell apart in May 2003. The first recorded mention of the Old Man was in 1805, when someone noticed that viewed from the north, the cliff appeared to be the jagged profile of a face. The profile has been New Hampshire's state emblem since 1945.

Throughout the time freezing and thawing opened fissures in the Old Man's forehead, so that by the 1920s the crack was wide enough to be mended with chains. In 1957 the state legislature passed a $25,000 appropriation for a more elaborate weatherproofing, using 20 tons of fast-drying cement, plastic covering, and steel rods and turnbuckles, plus a concrete gutter to divert runoff from above. Despite the measures taken, the formation collapsed to the ground on May 3, 2003. Many considered replacement with a replica, but, as is natural, the idea was rejected. Other proposals included one from architect Francis Treves, which consists of it envisioned a walk-in profile made of 250 panels of structural glass attached to tubular steel framework and concrete tower, connected by a tram, rim trail or tunnel through to the cliff wall at the original site.

The stamp, issued on January 20, 2012, is part of the Scenic American Landscapes series, and features a photograph by James Amos of the beautiful countryside of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. An Amish buggy travels along a country road, passing one of the county’s iconic farms. Amos says, "I have always enjoyed the bucolic and peaceful nature of Lancaster County. This was a spot that I especially liked, and I remember returning to it several times."

sender: karenshurley (postcrossing)
sent from Manchester (New Hampshire / USA), on 13.02.2012
photo: Bob Grant

March 5, 2012

0137 NEW ZEALAND - Sheep farming

The first European who reached New Zealand was Abel Tasman in 1642, but the islands weren't visited again until 1769, when James Cook mapped almost the entire coastline. Captain Cook was also the one who brought the first sheep in New Zealand, in 1773, 41 years before that the first Christian missionary to set foot on the shores of the North Island. Wool was New Zealand’s major agricultural export during the late 19th century, and even in 1960s it made up over a third of all export revenues. Since then, its price has steadily dropped relative to other commodities and wool is no longer profitable for many farmers. Thereby the sheep population decreased from 70 million in 1982 to about 32 million in today, which mean that however the number of sheep in New Zealand is 8 times greater than the number of inhabitants.

March 2, 2012

0135 AUSTRALIA (South Australia) - H class tram number 376 from Adelaide

I must admit that I knew nothing about the picture from this postcard when I chose it (I got it after a swap - thanks a lot, Heather). I saw a tram from Australia, which I liked. Nothing more. Now, that I have researched about it, I like more. Therefore I noticed on this occasion that the "story" behind the image can often change the perception over the respective postcard. A moreover reason for postcrossing. 

March 1, 2012

0134 SPAIN (Catalonia) - Casa Batlló - part of Works of Antoni Gaudí (UNESCO WHS)

Part of the Manzana de la Discordia (Block of Discord, but also Apple of Discord), located at 43, Passeig de Gràcia,  in the Eixample district of Barcelona, Casa Batlló is a building restored in the years 1904-1906 by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol (with the contribution of Gaudí's assistants, Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió). Like all the buildings designed by the brilliant Catalan architect, it looks stunning and very modern, even for today's viewer, so it's hard to imagine how strange it may seem, with its organic, even visceral forms, for the early 20th century Barcelonians.