April 29, 2012

0190 FINLAND - An unidentified smock mill

Yes, after all appearances, what is seen in this postcard is a smock mill with what might be called a boat shaped cap, i.e. (according to Wikipedia) "a type of windmill that consists of a sloping, horizontally weatherboarded tower, usually with six or eight sides. It is topped with a roof or cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. This type of windmill got its name from its resemblance to smocks worn by farmers in an earlier period." What distinguishes a smock mill by a mill tower (as is this one) is the shape and the material of construction, because that the tower mill is cylindrical and built from brick or stone masonry, the smock mill is often hexagonal or octagonal (as this one from the picture) and constructed of wood.

0188 SRI LANKA - Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications (UNESCO WHS)

On 15 November 1505, few ships under the command of Don Lourenço de Almeida, deviated on their way to the Maldive Islands, sought sanctuary in a little bay on the west coast of an island located to the south-east of India and separated from it only by a chain of reefs and sand-banks. The Portuguese's arrival will change the course of the island’s history as few events have done before, or since.

April 27, 2012

0187 RUSSIA (Novosibirsk Oblast) - Puppet Theatre

If I visit Novosibirsk, I wouldn't rush to see neither the colossal sculpture of Lenin or State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, nor the Church of Saint Nicholas or Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, although certainly every of them worth seeing. First and foremost I would like to get on Prospekt Lenina 22, where is the Regional Puppet Theatre, the building from the postcard.

Founded on the 1st of September 1933 as a studio of puppeteers of the Novosibirsk Theatre of Young Spectator, it hosted the first season of theatrical performance in the spring of 1934. More accurate the first performance took place on May 1, 1934, so over very few days will be fulfilled 78 years since than. During the period from 1942 to 1945, the theatre housed the Moscow Puppet Theatre, evacuated to Novosibirsk.

Today the theatre is situated in the annex to the building of the former city college, an historical building, one of the earliest works of A. Kryatchkov, which preserved in nowadays its original aspect. The annex was built in 1999 to the eastern façade, which has the form of three tilting dolls, with reference to national toy, skomorokh performances, Russian balagan and fairytale. A. Mihailov has projected the theatre and I. Elchenko made pictures of the stained glasses. The theatre has a puppet show, cafe, fairytales’ room and playing room.

The first two stamps are the moose and the rabbit in the series about animals, of which I also received the fox (details here). The last one is a thematic stamp for the New Year 2011, issued on December 1.

sender: Uliana Zolotaryova (direct swap)
sent from Novosibirsk (Russia), on 18.04.2012
photo: A. Kemodyanov

0186 NORWAY (Møre og Romsdal) - West Norwegian Fjords (UNESCO WHS)

0186 Geirangerfjord

Located in the southwestern part of the county of Møre og Romsdal, at about 100km from the town of Ålesund, the Geirangerfjorden is a fairytale landscape with its majestic, snow-covered mountain tops, wild and beautiful waterfalls, lush green vegetation and the deep, blue fjord. It is actually a 15km-long branch of the Storfjorden (Great Fjord), one of the longest and deepest fjords in the world, and has a S shape. Along the fjord's sides there lie a number of now abandoned farms, the most visited among these being Skageflå, Knivsflå and Blomberg. Foaming waterfalls plunge into the fjord from jagged peaks, the best known being the Seven Sisters, the Suitor (located face in face across the fjord), and The Bridal Veil.

April 26, 2012

0185 UKRAINE - Let's go to the jarmarok

Until late in the modern era, the fairs were the most important means of trade, especially in rural areas, but also an occasion for entertainment. Romanian word iarmaroc - meaning "big market organized occasionally, at fixed dates" - comes from Ukrainian jarmarok (the pronunciation in both languages is almost identical), which in turn comes from the German jahrmarkt, composed of jahr (year in English; år in Scandinavian languages; jaar in Dutch, etc.) şi markt (market in English; marché in French; markt in Dutch, mercato in Italian, etc.).

April 25, 2012

0184 CHINA (Fujian) - Fujian Tulou (UNESCO WHS)

In 1985, a KH22 American spy satellite, mandated by President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative to stealthily drifted above southeast China, had spotted 1,500 "unidentified huge mushroom-like buildings in Fujian province… which are extremely similar to nuclear equipment". Wow, hundreds of missile silos scattered throughout the mountain ranges of Fujian province wasn’t a good news for White House. Fearing an impending nuclear attack at the hands of Red China, the U.S. Secretary of Defense immediately deployed a crack unit of CIA spies in China to investigate. They returned to the Pentagon and reported: "Those aren’t missiles, dumbass, those are mud!" It was about the buildings from the image, called tulou.

April 24, 2012

0183 SPAIN (Catalonia) - Sagrada Família - part of Works of Antoni Gaudí (UNESCO WHS)

Sagrada Família, on its full name Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), is considered by the critic Paul Goldberger "the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages". The idea of building this church was launched by an pious organization whose sole purpose was to stop de-Christianization of the Barcelonese. The organization bought in 1877 a land in the new Eixample district and entrusted the project to the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, who offered to draw for free plans for the magnificent temple.

April 22, 2012

0182 UNITED KINGDOM - Titanic at 100 years

On 15 April 1912 the passenger liner RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton (UK) to New York City (US). Probably because she was the largest ship afloat at that time (and also the most luxurious), the voyage during which she sank was the maiden voyage, number of victims was enormous (1514 from a total of 2,223), and among the dead were some of the wealthiest people in the world, disaster has been highly publicized both then and later, Titanic becoming one of the legends of the modern era.

April 20, 2012

0181 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - A bird’s eye view of Amsterdam in 4/20

"Hey ... you know what day is today? April 20, ie 4/20, ie look here. Happy Birthday!" wrote on facebook a friend who adopted the nickname April Sea. I clicked, I read... "Ha. Interesting. I hadn't any idea," I answered, and I said to myself "I must to post a card on the blog on this occasion." But what? I have nothing related to this counterculture holiday. The only postcard that would have something to do with it seemed to me to be this one from Amsterdam, the European paradise for "recreational drug" users. Be it the chosen.

0180 DENMARK (Hovedstaden) - Kronborg Castle (UNESCO WHS)

"But what is your affair in Elsinore?" asks Hamlet in the first act of the play. "Without any affair, my lord, I just received a postcard, as you see." I would answer him, if he could hear me. Indeed, Elsinore is the version used by Shakespeare for Danish Helsingør, now a city on the northeast coast of the island of Zealand in eastern Denmark, where is located the Kronborg castle, the one in the image, included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000. In this castle takes place the action of the famous play, which was performed in it for the first time to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, with a cast consisting of soldiers from the castle garrison. The play has since been performed several times in the courtyard and at various locations on the fortifications. Later performers to play Hamlet at the castle included Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi, and in 2009 Jude Law. Every summer the outdoor courtyard of castle hosts this theatre festival, usually a homage to Shakespeare.

0179 JAPAN (Chūbu) - Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration (UNESCO WHS)

The fourth piece of the puzzle that I try to create here, having Japan as subject (after Shinto theatrical dance, A-Bomb Dome from Hiroshima, and a Zen temple), is Mount Fuji, maybe the most important of Japan's Three Holy Mountains (the other two being Mount Tate and Mount Haku). Although it erupted last time in 1707 (the eruption being preceded a few months of a devastating earthquake, the strongest in Japan until 2011, and being followed, in 1708, by a flood of Sakawa River, due to the sediments build-up resulting from the ash fall), Fuji is considered an active stratovolcano, but with a low risk of eruption in the near future.

For the Japanese, Mount Fuji was for a long time the center of the universe. It boasts over 13,000 shrines, and on each year thousands of mantra-chanting pilgrims, with jingling prayer bells, straw hats, pure white robes and white canvas foot mittens ascend to the top of the mountain, stopping at its stations to pray and traversing the rocky peaks around the crater. Its exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it’s frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers.

Mount Fuji is also the highest in Japan, but the legend says that wasn't always so, Mount Haku (Yatsu-ga-take) being once higher than it. "Once the female deity of Fuji and the male deity of Haku (Gongen-sama) had a contest to see which was higher. They asked the Buddha Amida to decide which was loftier. It was a difficult task. Amida ran a water pipe from the summit of Yatsu-ga-take to the summit of Fuji-san and poured water in the pipe. The water flowed to Fuji-san, so Amida decided that Fuji-san was defeated. Although Fuji-san was a woman, she was too proud to recognize her defeat. She beat the summit of Yatsu-ga-take with a big stick, so his head was split into eight parts, and that is why Yatsu-ga-take (Eight Peaks) now has eight peaks."

In the postcard, in foreground can be seen the Shinkansen (new trunk line), also known as the "Bullet Train", which can be also considered a symbol of Japan, but of modern Japan, and of its technological success. Started in 1964 with the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, the network presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Test runs have reached 443 km/h for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h for maglev trainsets in 2003. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world's busiest high-speed rail line, carrying 151 million passengers a year (march 2008). Between Tokyo and Osaka, up to 13 trains per hour with 16 cars each run in each direction with a minimum headway of three minutes between trains. From the European point of view might say that the railway guide is useless for this train.

In the foreground is a rice field, another specific element for Japan. The rice was introduced in Japan around the third century B.C. (probably from Korea and China), and quickly became (for its capacity to sustain large human populations, but also because it can be cultivated in areas relatively unfavorable to agriculture) the main food of the Japanese diet. The Japanese word for cooked rice (gohan) has the general meaning of "meal", and the literal meaning of breakfast (asagohan) is "morning rice". Moreover, the rice was also used to pay taxes in Japan for many centuries, until a little over a hundred years ago.

The postcard intertwined therefore, in a great way, old and new, nature and technology, mythological and profane, forming a representative image for Japan. Thank you very much, Akiko.

The stamp is part of The 20th Century set, designed by Morita Motoharu and issued on March 23, 2000. The eighth issue depicts the nine subjects, which represent the years from 1937 to 1940:
● Helen Ketter (1880-1968) visited Japan in 1937 - 80 yen – is on the postcard 
● Succesful flight of Kamikazegou, Japanese airplane, from Tokyo to London (1937) + World-circling flight of Nippongou, for 56 days (194 hours) (1939) - 50 yen x 2
Senninbari (thousand-stitch) cloth - a protective amulet given to soldiers leaving for the war in China. It was a strip of white cloth embellished by 1,000 women with 1,000 stitches (French knots) sewn with red thread. Red was traditionally an auspicious colour. Monpe and kokuhimfuku, national uniforms for civilians during the wars  - 80 yen
● Novel Robouno ishi (Wayside stones) by Yamamoto Yuuzo (1887-1974) - 80 yen
● Film Aizen-katsura (1938) - 80 yen
● Futabayama (1912-1968) - a Sumo wrestler, 35th grand sumo champion (yokozuna). He won 80.2 percent of his matches and between 1936 and 1939 won 69 matches in a row, a record that still stands  - 80 yen
● Sawamura Eiji, prominent baseball player  - 80 yen
Tareka kokyowo omowazaru (1940) by Saijo Yaso (words) and Koga Masao (music) - 80 yen
● Munakata Shikou (1903-1975), the woodcut artist in Japan  - 80 yen

sender: Akiko Watanabe (direct swap)
sent from Kitakyushu (Japan), on 24.03.2012

April 18, 2012

0178 UNITED STATES (Georgia) – Skyscrapers of Atlanta

American cities names (the toponyms in general actually) are divided into three categories: that remind of the founders places of origin, that were taken from Native Americans or are related from them, and the third one. Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, belongs to the last one, his name being a shortening of the Atlantic-Pacific, because the city was born in 1939 as a terminus for the future railroad which would make the connection between Southern and Midwestern United States. In 1842 the settlement had 6 buildings and 30 residents, but in 1860, 6 years after rail lines had arrived from four different directions in terminus, Atlanta had almost 10,000 inhabitants and became the rail hub for the entire Southern United States.

Unfortunately the same reason that led to its birth and development, has brought also its destruction during the American Civil War. Who doesn't know the scene where Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) kissed Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), having as background the city on fire? In fact Margaret Mitchell, author of the novel Gone with the Wind, was born, lived and died in Atlanta, being buried in Oakland Cemetery. 

The city recovered quickly (under the sign of the Phoenix, which became a symbol of the city), and on the early twentieth century became a center of Southern business. In the 1960s, Atlanta was a major center of the US Civil Rights Movement, with Martin Luther King and students from Atlanta's historically black colleges and universities playing major roles in the movement's leadership.

Architecture in Atlanta is dominated by modernism and postmodernism in its commercial and institutional buildings, and the city's skyline, which began its marked rise in the 1960s, is punctuated with highrise and midrise buildings. The most important (and visible) buildings in the image, located in downtown, are (from left to the right):

Westin Peachtree Plaza (220.37m / 1976) – the 17th tallest all-hotel building in the world, designed by developer/architect John Portman. The building is cast in reflective glass in a cylindrical shape that reflects much of the downtown skyline (though each of the around 6350 windows are flat and not convex)

Equitable Building (138 m / 1968) - a typical example of an International-style skyscraper, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Bank of America Plaza (the one with the sharped roof, 312m / 1992) - the 53rd-tallest building in the world (was the 9th when it opened), designed by Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, and described as a Corbusian "tower in a park".

Georgia-Pacific Tower (the one in stepped, 212.45 / 1982) – designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

One Ninety One Peachtree Tower (235m / 1991) - designed by Johnson/Burgee Architects and Kendall/Heaton Associates Inc. It consists of two towers, each of them with a rooftop crown.

In the foreground can be seen the dome of Georgia State Capitol, designed to resemble the Classical architectural style of the United States Capitol, in Washington, D.C. Completed in 1889, the building was designed by architects Willoughby J. Edbrooke and Franklin P. Burnham.

The skyscrapers in the image have successfully resisted the tornado that struck the city on March 14, 2008, suffering only moderate damage. The Westin Peachtree Plaza had for instance "only" 500 windows broken (out of 6350).

About the first stamp, feature the Statue of Liberty, I wrote here. The second stamp, a forever one, issued in 2011 with the occasion of Arizona’s centennial (1912-2012), depicts Cathedral Rock in Sedona, a painting by Arizona artist Ed Mell.

sender: Tricia / WileyCoyote (postcrossing)
sent from Macon (Georgia / United States), on 04.04.2012
photo: L. Fisher

0177 IRAQ (Baghdad) - The Monument of Liberty in Baghdad

Baghdad is rich not only in wonderful buildings, but also in monuments. Many of the open-air sculptures are dedicated to the Iraqi people and the history of the country. One of them (and also one of Baghdad's most recognizable icons), which adorns El-Tahrir Square at the heart of Baghdad's eastern bank, is the Monument of Liberty (El Haria Monument), which has become a common motif for many Iraqi and Arab poets.

0176 PORTUGAL (Lisbon) - A church, a couple, two trams

Unlike today, in old times the wealthy people celebrated a happy event in their lives building something to remember the event. In that way arose Basílica da Estrela (Estrela Basilica), also known as Basilica do Sagrado Coração de Jesus (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), a church in Lisbon built between 1779 and 1790 to the order of Queen Mary I, as a fulfilled promise for giving birth to a son (José, Prince of Brazil). Construction was finished after the death of José caused by smallpox.

April 17, 2012

0175 TAIWAN - The map of Taiwan in 1856

Despite the fact that the island was inhabited 4,000 years of aboriginal tribes, probably descendants of farmers who came from mainland China, and Han Chinese, who had settled nearby (in the Penghu islands) from the 13th century, called it Taiwan, the firsts Portuguese sailors who landed on its shores in 1544 found it necessary to named it Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island). Well, it seems to me rather an exclamation of admiration than a name, but the fact is that Europeans continued to call it so, even though malaria (the island lies on the Tropic of Cancer) and hostile aboriginals created many problems to the few sailors who were lost in this region.

April 15, 2012

0173 RUSSIA (Novosibirsk Oblast) - An Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the heart of Siberia

Today celebrate Easter (the Resurrection of Jesus, Son of God) over 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, primarily in Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine (the order is alphabetical), but also in many other countries in the world where inhabit smaller communities. Most live in Russia, where over 70% of the population is Christian Orthodox (nearly 100 million). So my choice for today was stopped on a church in Russia, but not on the old one from the European Russia, as would be expected, but on a new one, located in Siberia, more precisely in Novosibirsk.

Founded in 1893 at the future site of a Trans-Siberian Railway bridge crossing the river Ob, Novosibirsk (initially named Novonikolayevsk, in honor of both Saint Nicholas and the reigning Tsar Nicholas II) is today the third most populous city in Russia, after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Rapid growth and industrialization has brought to the city the nickname "Chicago of Siberia".

One of the first stone constructions in Novonikolayevsk was Alexander Nevsky church, built in 1896-1899 in Neo-Byzantine style, influenced by the design of Church of Our Lady the Merciful in St.Petersburg, erected a few years earlier. In 1915 it became a cathedral, but in 1937 it was closed, and in 1989 was restituted to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Even if the church was built after the death of Tsar Alexander III (r. 1881-1894), she greatly respected his taste. Nearly all of the 5,000 churches attributed to this tzar belonged to the late 19th century variant of Russian Revival, as a reaction against to 18th century baroque and neoclassicism, to which he displayed a clear aversion. Indeed, Byzantine architecture isn’t Russian Revival, but was an acceptable "middle road".
The patron saint, Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263) was, as the Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Vladimir, a key figure of medieval Rus, being proclaimed Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547. For his military victories over the German, and Swedish invaders, is regarded as patron saint of soldier and borders of Russia. Probably not incidentally was chosen as patron saint to many cathedrals located (outside those of capitals Moskow and Saint Petersburg) to the edge of the empire, such as the ones from Baku (Azerbaijan), Łódź and Warsaw (Poland), Tallinn (Estonia), Tiflis (Georgia), Kamianets-Podilskyi and Yalta (Ukraine), or even beyond, in Belgrade (Serbia), Sofia (Bulgaria) or Prešov (Slovakia).

As you can see, the stamp doesn't exist, because this postcard isn't a postcard in the true sense, because you can't write on it and can be shipped only in envelope. And only to the Russian speakers. On the back is a brief history of the cathedral (on left) and a list of the icons which are inside the church (on right).

sender: Svetlana Martynova (direct swap)
sent from Novosibirsk (Russia), on 25.03.2012

April 14, 2012

0172 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Trinidad) – Vitality, purity and strength

Trinidad and Tobago is located in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles, and consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous smaller landforms. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands, comprising about 94% of the total area and 96% of the total population of the country. Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Columbus in 1498 to the capitulation of the Spanish Governor on the arrival of a British fleet on 1797 (when the population of the island was 17,718 - 2,151 with European ancestry, 4,476 "free blacks and people of colour", 10,009 slaves and 1,082 Amerindians). During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands between Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers. The country obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976.

The flag of Trinidad and Tobago was adopted upon independence from Great Britain on 31 August 1962 and is red with a white-edged black diagonal band from the upper hoist side to the lower fly side. The red is said to represent the vitality of the land and people, the warmth and energy of the sun, and courage and friendliness. The white is said to represent the sea, the purity of national aspirations, and the equality of all men, and the black represents strength, unity and purpose, and the natural resources.

About the stamp I don't know anything, and to my disappointment the postal worker didn't bother to postmarked the postcard.

sender: Nalini Mohammed (direct swap)
sent from San Fernando (Trinidad and Tobago), on 23.03.2012

April 13, 2012

0170 PHILIPPINES (Central Visayas) - Sinulog Festival

As I said here, the spaniards left to Filipinos the name and Christianity. If the name not undergone any change, the Christianity (more precisely Roman Catholicism), essentially the same as anywhere else of course, dressed forms of manifestation adapted to the local specific. Among these manifestations are traditional festivities, known as barrio fiestas (district festivals), which commemorates the feast days of patron saints, but also the pagan origin of the inhabitants. The Moriones Festival and Sinulog Festival are the most well-known. The second of these festivals, that honors the Santo Niño (the child Jesus - the patron saint of the province of Cebu), is held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City and lasts nine days.

April 9, 2012

0168 BRAZIL (São Paulo) - Palácio Anhangabaú

If the first postcard that I received it from Brazil depicted Monumento às Bandeiras from São Paulo, the second one shows a building from the same city, namely City Hall. Given that the São Paulo isn’t only the largest city in Brazil, but also the largest city in the southern hemisphere and Americas, the world's sixth largest city by population, and the continent’s fastest growing urban center, the mayor of this city is undoubtedly one of the most important in the world.

April 5, 2012

0165 MALAYSIA (Kuala Lumpur) – The temple of the Heavenly Mother

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy and consists of 13 states and 3 federal territories, located into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Having origins in the Malay Kingdoms, which became British protectorates in 19th century, the territories on Peninsular Malaysia were unified in 1946 and earned their independence in 1957, in 1963 joined them Sabah and Sarawak (from Borneo island), and Singapore (which was withdrawn two years later). Because the country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, can be said that is also multi-religious, since ethnicity and religious beliefs correlate highly. The constitution declares Islam the state religion, while protecting freedom of religion. Approximately 61.3% of population is Muslim, 19.8% Buddhist, 9.2% Christian, 6.3% Hinduist, and 1.3% practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. The same statistics indicate that 83.6% of the Chinese population is Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (3.4%) and Christianity (11.1%), along with small Hui-Muslim populations.

April 3, 2012

0164 SOUTH AFRICA (KwaZulu-Natal) - Maloti-Drakensberg Park (UNESCO WHS)

The Maloti-Drakensberg Park is a transboundary site composed of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in South Africa and the Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho. Drakensberg (Mountains of Dragons) are some of the oldest mountains in the world, which form a 300km border between Lesotho and South Africa. Much of the Drakensberg area lies on the high plateau above 3,000m of Lesotho, bounded by the Drakensberg escarpment to the east, north, and south extending into South Africa.

April 1, 2012

0163 POLAND (Greater Poland) - The cathedral of the first ruler of Poland

My virtual journey through Poland, begun in Krakow and continued with Niedzica Castle (both in Lesser Poland), follows now its course to the north, in Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), and not with any city, but even with Poznań, and not with any building, but even with Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, under whose slabs rests Mieszko I, the first historically recorded ruler of the Polans, along with six of his successors to the throne, and where was crowned in 1025 the first Polish king, Mieszko's son, Boleslaus the Brave.