June 29, 2012

0264 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - From Hoorn the ships have left

Today, Hoorn is a quiet town in North Holland, with 70,196 inhabitants, in which thousands of people from Amsterdam (located at 35 km to the south) moved in recent years, swapping their little and expensive apartments for a family house with garden. But 400 years ago, during Holland's Golden Century, Hoorn was an important home base for the famous Dutch East India Company, and a very prosperous centre of trade. The Hoorn fleet plied the seven seas and returned laden with exotic spices and other precious commodities.

0263 AUSTRALIA (Western Australia) - A wave without surfers

I know that in Australia nature created a lot of bizarre geological structures (at least for Europeans), and yet every time when I discover a new one, I don't cease to marvel. Is also the case of the rock formation called Wave Rock, a granite inselberg which lies about 3km east of the small town of Hyden and 296km east-southeast of Perth, which became an attraction only in 1967,  following an article published in the National Geographic.

June 28, 2012

0262 ARMENIA - The map and the flag of the country

My feelings and opinions (subjective, how else, and sometimes started from an insufficient knowledge) related to many nations are mixed, with good and bad, with positive and negative aspects. Towards Armenians, primarily due to their culture and civilization, but also to how they survived for millennia, despite the blows of history and nature, I cherish an unconditional admiration. I hope I will get to talk sometime about the first nation in the world which adopted Christianity as state religion, about the Armenian alphabet, a millennium and a half old (previously of the Arabic script or the Cyrillic one), about Armenian architecture, which offered a number of priorities with worlwide character, spread to remote areas (including the Romanian lands), about Armenian contributions in medicine, philosophy and literature.

June 27, 2012

0261 UNITED KINGDOM (Scotland) - Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (UNESCO WHS)

On the current territory of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland since the 15th century, was a settlement at least in the Bronze Age, but the town was truly established by the 12th century. In the 16th century it was in the centre of Scottish Reformation and the Wars of the Covenant a hundred years later, that in the 18th century to be the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment. The city has two distinct areas: the Old Town, dominated by the medieval fortress, and the New Town, whose development from the 18th century onwards had a far-reaching influence on European urban planning.

June 26, 2012

0260 NEW ZEALAND (South Island) - A hotel for goldseekers

Are two ways to drive between Queenstown (a major centre for snow sports) and Wanaka (the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park), and the most memorable is Crown Range Road (the one from the picture), the highest paved road in New Zealand (1,121m), with 2m higher than the Desert Road. The road zigzags up to the Crown Terrace (a large flat and fertile area) and from there you can look down to Arrowtown in the Arrow Valley, and across to the Remarkables Range.

June 25, 2012

0259 CROATIA (Vukovar-Syrmia) - Remember Vukovar

21 years ago, on June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves independents, separating themselves from Yugoslavia and dispelling utopian panslavic dream of their forebears, fulfilled to some extent in 1918. Both countries celebrate in this day Statehood Day.

Vukovar (the town on the river Vuka), located in eastern Slavonia, on the west bank of the Danube river, was for at least 600 years a prosperous city in which they lived in relative harmony Croats, Serbs, Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans (expelled after WWII), Ruthenians and other nationalities. In 1991, the Vukovar municipality, which included the town and surrounding villages, was recorded as having 84,189 inhabitants, of whom 43.8% were Croats, 37.5% Serbs and the remainder were members of other ethnic groups. In 2001, the municipality have only 31,670 inhabitants, of whom 57.46% were Croats, and 32.88% Serbs.

June 23, 2012

0258 POLAND (Lower Silesia) - Journey of a church

In the summer of 1841, the parish church of the Norwegian village Vang went on the road. More than 600 years served the community, since she was build by Eindridi, son of Olav of Lo, but locals wanted a new church, larger and bright, so the stave church followed the advice of painter J.C. Dahl and left her fate in the hands of Frederick William IV, king of Prussia.

0257 CAMBODIA (Preah Vihear) - Temple of Preah Vihear (UNESCO WHS)

Built by the Khmer between 9th and 12-th centuries, hindu temple of Preah Vihear was designated a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2008. Situated atop Pey Tadi (525m), a steep cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, practically on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, it belonged successively both countries, during different periods, area being claimed by both countries, in the last hundred years. In 1962 the International Court of Justice in The Hague awarded the temple to Cambodia, but the territorial dispute continued, military actions causing damage to the monument. In 2011, the same international body ordered that both countries immediately withdraw their military forces, and further imposed restrictions on their police forces.

June 22, 2012

0256 INDONESIA (Kalimantan) - "If has the short ears mean he’s a monkey"

About the Dayak (or Dyak) people, from Borneo, I wrote here, only that then I insisted on Ibans, the most important branch of this ethnic group. This time, the postcard is from Indonesia, which hold approximately 73% of Borneo's  territory, divided into four provinces: West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan.

June 19, 2012

0227 & 0254 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / South Holland) - Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 28.05.2012
The windmill in the picture is a variant of smock mill (I wrote here about this type of mill), namely grondzeiler (ground sailer). These mills can be operated from the ground, and because the sails reach almost down to the ground, being a great danger to people and animals, are surrounded by a fence. This type of mill was built in locations with little wind barrier, for example in the barren western polders of the Netherlands. The best known example of such mills is the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout, an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The mill in the image is part of this group, which is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands.

Located in Alblasserwaard (-waard = "land in or along the water), a polder at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers, about 15km east of Rotterdam, this network, consists of 19 windmills built around 1740 and very well preserved, had the purpose to drain the polder. In Alblasserwaard, problems with water was always apparent, so when the large canals dug in the 13th century weren't sufficient anymore, were built this windmills, which pump the water into a reservoir at an intermediate level between the soil in the polder and the river, and from there into the river, by other windmills. Although some of the windmills are still used, the main works are provided by two diesel pumping stations.

The legend about the name Kinderdijk (Children's dike) is very nice. During the Saint Elizabeth flood of 1421, one of the worst floods in history, the Grote Hollandse Waard was flooded, but the Alblasserwaard not. It's said that someone who went on to the dike between these two areas to see what could be saved, saw a wooden cradle floating on the waters, and on the cradle a cat, trying to keep it in balance by jumping back and forth. When the cradle reached close enough, he saw a baby who sleeping inside it.

The stamp is part of Green Progress set, about which I wrote here.

Added on 19.06.2012

Outstanding this winter image of the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout. Ever since I saw the postcard it made me think to the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who otherwise was born in Breda, 45km from Kinderdijk. Regarding the legend about the name of the place, you can find here the lyrics of The child in the cradle, an old Dutch folk song very known in Netherlands.

About the stamp

The stamp is one of the two presented by Netherlands for the theme Visit..., chosen for Europa Stamps 2012. The stamps, issued on March 26, 2012, show how Amsterdam’s wealth and development as a city has been dominated by its historic concentric rings of canals and the River Amstel. The second stamps of the series can be seen here.

sender 1: Marion / patmar (postcrossing)
sent from Nijmegen (Netherlands), on 14.02.2012
sender 2: Wilma van Vegten (direct swap)
sent from Leiden (Netherlands), on 11.05.2012
photo: Emile Luider 

June 18, 2012

0253 CHINA (Hong Kong) - Tsing Ma Bridge

In 1997, at time of completion, the Tsing Ma Bridge, which links the islands Tsing Yi and Ma Wan over Ma Wan Channel, was the world's second-longest span suspension bridge, with a main span of 1,377m and a height of 206m. It's also one of the three long span bridges linking the New Territories in Hong Kong with the Island of Chep Lap Kok, where the territory's new airport is located, the other two being the Kap Shui Mun Bridge and the Ting Kau Bridge.

June 17, 2012

0252 FRANCE (Île-de-France) - Pont Neuf - part of Paris, Banks of the Seine (UNESCO WHS)

At the middle of the 16th century, only two bridges crossed the Seine river in Paris, both of them in a bad state and constantly overcrowded. It was known this very well, but any of the kings of France wasn't willing to spend to build a new bridge. In 1578, Henry III found some money in his pockets and laid the first stone of a new bridge, until the end of the year being completed the foundations of four piers and one abutment. The construction continued, without much haste, until 1589, when assassination of Henry stopped it.

0251 RUSSIA (Saint Petersburg) - Alexander Nevsky Monastery - part of Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments (UNESCO WHS)

The Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Saint Petersburg is undoubtedly the most important between the numerous places of worship that have Alexander Nevsky as patron saint, because it was built by Peter the Great in the place where he believed that took place the Battle of the Neva in 1240, but especially because it hosts the relics of the saint. He was only 19 years when defeated the Swedes, and 21 when he defeated the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights, and became even during his lifetime a symbol of the Russians resistance against the invasions from the North. His veneration as a saint began soon after his death (in 1263, at the age of 43 years), he being canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547.

June 16, 2012

0250 ECUADOR - The tsantsa, or how to keep trapped the enemy's soul

Not even the conquer of the Inca Empire couldn't enrich all conquistadors, so those less fortunate began to explore beyond the borders recently achieved. Thus in 1549 Hernando de Benavente led an expedition into the tropical forest of the Amazonian lowlands, to the East of the Andes (now in Ecuador and Peru), venturing into the territory of the Shuar tribe, at the headwaters of the Marañón River, and attempting to settle in it. Aborigines proved hostile, so, for their own good, the Spaniards abandoned the idea.

June 14, 2012

0249 PORTUGAL (Azores) - The Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture (UNESCO WHS)

Nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, at about 1,500km west of Lisbon, with the status of Autonomous Region of Portugal (which means that they have its own Government), these are Azores. These islands have naturally evolved into three recognizable groups: the Eastern Group (Grupo Oriental) of São Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas Islets; the Central Group (Grupo Central) of Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial; and the Western Group (Grupo Ocidental) of Flores and Corvo.

0248 BHUTAN – A mountain from the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Located along the southern slopes of the great Himalayan range, the kingdom of Bhutan (with an area of 38,394 km2 and a population of about 708,000) lies like a picturesque fairyland between China to the north and India to the south, east and west. The recorded history dates as far back as the 6th century A.D., while the real historical period started with the introduction of Buddhism from 7th century A.D., which taken firm root in the country after the visit of Guru Rimpochey (also known as Padma Sambhava) in 747 A.D. Since then, Buddhism has largely shaped the history of Bhutan and the way of life of its people.

June 13, 2012

0247 INDONESIA (New Guinea) - Asmat warriors

New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2, i.e. about as Germany, Poland, Austria and Switzerland together. From geographical point of view, it's located in the north of the continent of Sahul (the Australia–New Guinea continent), also known as Greater Australia, but also in Melanesia, sometimes being considered the easternmost island of the Malay archipelago. From geological point of view, in last 96 million years Australia and New Guinea were a single, continuous landmass, until about 8,000 and 6,500 BC, when the lowlands in the north of Australia were flooded by the sea, separating New Guinea and the continent.

June 11, 2012

0246 INDIA (Uttar Pradesh) - Taj Mahal (UNESCO WHS)

Architects from Persia and Ottoman Empire, sculptors and masons from Bukhara, Constantinople and Samarkand, stonecutters from Baluchistan, inlayers from southern India, goldsmith from Punjab, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, garden designers from Kashmir, various craftsmen from Baghdad and Shiraz, a master metal worker from Bordeaux, and 20,000 workers recruited across northern India.

June 10, 2012

0244 AUSTRALIA (Victoria) - The W7 subclass tram number 1015 from Melbourne

The second maxicard from the series Capital City Transport, which I started it with an electric train from Perth, show a very nice tram from Melbourne. About the Melbourne tram network I wrote here, so now I will give some details about the W-class trams, from which belong both the tram from the first postcard, and this one. W-class trams were introduced to Melbourne in 1923 as a new standard design, simple and rugged, characterised by a substantial timber frame, supplanted by a steel under frame. A total of 748 trams were built, of all variants (W2, W5, SW5, SW6, W6, W7),  the W class being the mainstay of Melbourne's tramways system for 60 years.

June 9, 2012

0243 CHINA (Macau) - Ruins of St. Paul's - part of Historic Centre of Macau (UNESCO WHS)

The Ruins of St. Paul's (Ruínas de São Paulo / Sam Ba Sing Tzik) is one of Macau's most famous landmarks. The complex comprise what was originally St. Paul's College and the Church of St. Paul also known as "Mater Dei", a Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle, built between 1582 and 1602 by the Jesuits, and destroyed by a fire that started in the kitchen of the college in 1835. The ruins consist of the southern granite façade, which sits on a small hill, with 68 stone steps leading up to it, and the crypts of the Jesuits.

0242 TAIWAN – The Red House in Taipei

Now almost two months, when I presented a map of Formosa from 1856, I stopped with the island's history in that year. The building from the picture, erected in early 20th century, gives me the opportunity to make another few steps toward the present days. Having been the scene of some fighting during the Sino-French War (1884-1885), which haven't changed the island's statute, Taiwan was ceded  in 1895 to the Empire of Japan by the Qing Dynasty, which was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War. After the cession, a number of notables from Taiwan decided to resist the transfer, and proclaimed the Republic of Formosa, but in only 5 months Japanese army occupied the island.

June 7, 2012

0240 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Tobago) - Now silent guns

It’s said that Tobago is a small island with a big history, and I tend to believe that is true. Between Tobago's discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1498, when he called it Bella Forma (Beautifully Formed) and its final possession by British forces in 1793, the island was renamed several times as it was settled by Courlanders (Latvians), Dutch, Germans, Jews, British, French, and Scandinavians, each of them building forts to protect its newly won possession, which it changed the "owner" 33 times, as I say here (you can find a detailed timeline of Tobago's history here).

June 6, 2012

0239 BELARUS (Brest) - Alexander Nevsky Church of Kobryn

Two hundred years ago, more precisely on June 23, 1812, Napoleon’s army crossed the Russian border at the Neman river in the Kaunas region (now in Lithuania), beginning the disastrous campaign in Russia. On June 27 Russians won the first victory in a battle near Kobryn, located 52km away from Brest (now in Belarus), the 3rd Army, under the leadership of  general AP Tormasov, inflicting a defeat on Jean Reynier’s Corps, composed of Saxons. For the city it wasn't a blessing, because on this occasion have burned 548 of the 630 houses.

June 5, 2012

0237 SWEDEN (Gotland) - A church from 13th century

Gotland, considered by some historians the original homeland of the Goths, is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. Its population is 57,221, of which about 22,200 live in Visby, the best-preserved medieval city in Scandinavia, reason for which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church in the image isn't in Visby, but in Fleringe, located near of a couple of farms with a very small population (98 inhabitants).