July 31, 2012

0294 TAIWAN – Presidential Office Building in Taipei

Even if it was designed by a Japanese architect, Uheiji Nagano, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895–1945), the building which now houses the Office of the President of the Republic of China has a facade with many traditional European elements (Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Classical features), typical for island's colonial period. Erected between 1912 and 1919 (therefore during the WWI, in which Japan was on the Allied side), the structure, which originally housed the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan, was the tallest building in Taipei during Japanese rule (60m), and reflects the concerns of the Japanese architects to orient the buildings toward the rising sun.

0293 MACEDONIA (Polog) - Galičnik Wedding Festival

Located on the slopes of the Bistra Mountain, in the western part of Macedonia, Galičnik is one of the two biggest and oldest Mijak villages in the region. Mijaks are known for their ecclesiastical architecture, woodworking, icon painting, and also for the extent to which old customs are preserved in their every day life. They speak the Galičnik dialect, which is distinguished by the archaic words, and was used in many historically important literary works for the Macedonian literature. Some historians suggested that they were originally Aromanians (Vlachs) speakers, assimilated later into the South-Slavic Macedonian society, but this theory needs more research.

July 29, 2012

0292 TAIWAN - Two Puyuma warriors

Larger than Saisiyat tribe (about which I wrote here, and here), with about 10,000 members, Puyuma (also known as the Peinan or Beinan tribe) is divided into the Chihpen and Nanwang groups, on the east coast of Taiwan. Initially, the Japanese anthropologist Mabuchi Toichi considered it as part of the Lion Tribe, along with the Paiwan and the Rukai, but ulterior, because of unique Puyuma’s ancestral family system (karumahan) it was separate as an independent ethnic group. Even if the population of the Puyuma is not great, its influence on the history of eastern Taiwan is very significant, because the tribes occupy a teritory located at the confluence of several main rivers, in the Taitung alluvial plain, which controls the entrance to the mountains, and furthermore they have an open attitude regarding the contact with the outside world.

July 28, 2012

0291 CUBA - San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba (UNESCO WHS)

"When I came to Juana, I followed the coast of that isle toward the west, and found it so extensive that I thought it might be the mainland, the province of Cathay; and as I found no towns nor villages on the sea-coast, except a few small settlements, where it was impossible to speak to the people, because they fled at once, I continued the said route, thinking I could not fail to see some great cities or towns; and finding at the end of many leagues that nothing new appeared, and that the coast led northward, contrary to my wish, because the winter had already set in, I decided to make for the south, and as the wind also was against my proceeding, I determined not to wait there longer, and turned back to a certain harbor whence I sent two men to find out whether there was any king or large city. They explored for three days, and found countless small communities and people, without number, but with no kind of government, so they returned", wrote Columbus in 1493 in a letter to Luis de Santángel (the finance minister of Ferdinand II), in which he announced his discoveries in the previous year in the New World. He claimed Cuba (named Juana, after Juan, Prince of Asturias) for the Kingdom of Spain, and this situation will remain unchanged for 400 years, although many others have yearned the island.

July 27, 2012

0290 RUSSIA (Saint Petersburg) - Peter and Paul Fortress - part of Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments (UNESCO WHS)

The Peter and Paul Cathedral, the oldest church in Saint Petersburg, and also the second-tallest building in the city (after the television tower), is located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress, founded by Peter the Great in 1703. As in the case of many other religious establishments of Russia, on the site of the cathedral there was first a wooden church, erected just one month after the city was officially founded and consecrated in 1704. The current stone cathedral was built between 1712 and 1733 on Zayachy Island (along the Neva River), by the same Domenico Trezzini, and marked a radical departure from traditional Orthodox churches, being built in early Baroque style.

July 25, 2012

0289 TAIWAN - Saisiyat hunters and theirs formosan mountain dogs

About Taiwan (Formosa) I wrote here, and about Saisiyat tribe here. Of course that I didn't exhausted the two subjects, but neither I don't want to exaggerate with the details. Romanians say that "what is too much, spoils." I absolutely agree, but I also believe that "what is less, isn't enough".

The remarkable picture that I posted it above is part of the photos collection from National Geographic, taken about 1939 (i.e. during the Japanese occupation) by Japanese photographer Katsuyama, at Saisiyat tribe. Two things caught my attention since from the first glance: the diversity of the traits of the men, and the dogs. If I hadn't read that these people ready to hunt are from the same tribe, I would say that is a heterogeneous mixture of individuals not only from different ethnic groups, but from different races. In fact, as a Doubting Thomas that I'm, I'm still not convinced that all belong to the Sistiyat tribe. Given the origin of the photographer, and the period during which was taken the picture, may I not mistaken. And when I say "diversity", I don't mean the facial expression or the hairstyle, but the shape of the head and nose, and the facial bones.

July 23, 2012

0287 INDONESIA (New Guinea) - Young warriors of Yali tribe

Yanita says that in Indonesia are (over) 300 tribes, and she is right. So far I have postcards with two of them, Dayak (from Borneo island) and Asmat (from New Guinea island), to whom is added this by now, Yali, also from New Guinea island, more precisely from Papua region, the Indonesian western half of the island. Therefore I need "only" still (over) 297 postcards to cover all native ethnic groups to this country. I don't think that I will manage to do so. Anyway, not in the next quarter century.

July 22, 2012

0286 FINLAND (Central Finland) - Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä was founded in 1837 by Czar Nicholas I, and was practically built from scratch, hence, according to European criteria, is a very new city. But this doesn't prevent it to have a major role as an education centre, occupying the first place in the world to provide education in Finnish. First 3 Finnish-speaking schools in the world were founded here, in Jyväskylä, the lycée in 1858, the teachers’ college in 1863, and the girls’ school in 1864. Elias Lönnrot, the compiler of Kalevala, gave the city the nickname "Athens of Finland".

July 21, 2012

0285 KYRGYZSTAN - Ala-kiyiz and Shyrdak, art of Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets (UNESCO ICH)

Currently there are approximately 4.5 million of Kyrgyz in the world, of whom over 3.8 million live in Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked and mountainous republic located in Central Asia (between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China), and become independent in 1991. Is believed that the name "kyrgyz" have been derived from the Turkic word for "forty", in reference to the forty clans of the legendary hero Manas, who united them against the Uyghurs, who in the early 9th century AD dominated much of Central Asia. The story about their origin is so important for the Kyrgyz, that on their flag is a 40-ray sun, a reference to the 40 tribes. Many legends talk about that (you can find some here), but I find the most interesting the one which tells that the daughters from several clans ended a war by dressing alike and asking their warring fathers, husbands, and brothers to tell them apart. When they fail to do so, the girls point out that they all one people and should not be fighting amongst themselves.

July 20, 2012

0284 EGYPT (Cairo) - Tutankhamun's throne

It's difficult to imagine what Howard Carter felt on November 6, 1922, when he looked through the "tiny breach [made] in the top left hand corner" of the doorway of the KV62 tomb. Much has been written in, behold, the 90 years that have passed since then, many researchers studying Tutankhamun's tomb and the artifacts found in it, but with all this enough questions remained unanswered. One of them, simple but disturbing, would be that if in the tomb of a minor pharaoh, who reigned for a short period in an Egypt weakened by the "heretical wander" of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV), were found so many wonders, what must it have been around a Ramesses II?

0283 UNITED STATES (Colorado) - Denver's Civic Center Park

Colorado is one of only three U.S. states with boundaries defined solely by lines of latitude and longitude, the others being neighboring Wyoming and Utah. It was organized as the Territory of Colorado in 1861, incorporating portion of the Kansas Territory, Nebraska Territory, New Mexico Territory, and Utah Territory, strongly controlled by the Ute and Shoshoni tribes. Because was admitted to the Union, as the 38th state, in 1876, the centennial year of the United States Declaration of Independence, it's called also Centennial State.

July 16, 2012

0280 NEPAL - Annapurna South view from Ghandrung

It seems to me a bit strange that the country in which were born Sita Devi (of the Ramayana), and Siddhartha Gautama (who, as Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition), is now headed by a Maoist party. It's true that in quite many countries in Asia and the Arab world the communism and the religion coexist peacefully, but I don't cease to wonder at this, because in Europe, among the main goals of communism (essentially atheist), there were to minimize the religious institutions and to destroy the religious sentiment, according to one of the famous sayings of Marx, that "Religion is opium for the people". A proof that the religion don't disturb on the current rulers is that, although they transformed Nepal from a Hindu state (the last in the world) into a secular one, they inaugurated in 2010 the tallest statue of lord Shiva in the world.

July 15, 2012

0279 CHILE (Los Lagos) - Osorno volcano

"It is even difficult to get a single glimpse of the Cordillera: during our first visit, once only the volcano of Osorno stood out in bold relief, and that was before sunrise; it was curious to watch, as the sun rose, the outline gradually fading away in the glare of the eastern sky," wrote Charles Darwin in his diary in 1834, during his famed voyage on the HMS Beagle, which is the first official mention of this stratovolcano lying between Osorno Province and Llanquihue Province, in Los Lagos Region of Chile.

July 14, 2012

0278 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Trinidad) – Stollmeyer's Castle

In the 1830s, among the more than 80,000 inhabitants who lived in Philadelphia was Conrad F. Stolmmeyer, a German immigrant who edited a German language newspaper. Because of his anti slavery activity, he had to leave the United States, originally intending to set up a Utopian community in South America, with the German American philosopher John Adolphus Etzler (1791-1846?), who published in 1833 the book The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery: An Address to all intelligent men, in two parts.  Due to plague, they couldn't land in Caracas and settled in Trinidad.

0277 CHINA (Macau) - Senado Square - part of Historic Centre of Macao (UNESCO WHS)

The Senado Square (Largo do Senado) is an area in the centre of the city of Macau, enclosed by the buildings of the Leal Senado (the seat of government during the Portuguese domination), the General Post Office, and St. Dominic's Church (in which is a museum of paintings, sculptures and liturgical ornaments that illustrate the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Asia). The square was paved in the early 1990s by Portuguese craftsmans (calceteiros) with a wave-patterned mosaic of coloured stones, in the famous traditional Portuguese style.

July 13, 2012

0276 ITALY - The 150th anniversary of the Italian unification

On March 17, 1861, the Parliament met at Turin proclaimed the Kingdom of Italy, formed by merging the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, the United Provinces of Central Italy, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, with Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia as king. Ten days after, Rome was declared Capital of Italy, even though it was not actually in the new Kingdom. The territories that remained unintegrated, the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia (found under Austrian rule) and the Papal State (reduced to Latium), will be annexed several years later, in 1866, respectively 1870, and Trieste and Trentino-Alto Adige / Südtirol only in 1919.

July 11, 2012

0275 SRI LANKA - Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (UNESCO WHS)

With more than 500 years before the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka, the Chola invaded the island and put an end to the two great dynasties, the Moriya and the Lambakanna. But in 1055, a prince only 15 years old, named Kitti, became king of Ruhuna,  take the name Vijayabahu, and began the war against invaders, that after 17 years he will be able to displace, reuniting the country for the first time in over a century, and moving the capital to Polonnaruwa (216 km from today Colombo).

July 9, 2012

0273 UNITED KINGDOM (Falkland Islands) - Gentoo Penguin

The long-tailed gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is most closely related to the Adélie penguin (P. adeliae) and the chinstrap penguin (P. antarcticus). The first scientific description was made in 1781 by Johann Reinhold Forster with a reference point of the Falkland Islands. Are recognised two sub-species of this penguin, Pygoscelis papua papua and the smaller Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii. They are easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head and its bright orange-red bill.

July 8, 2012

0272 PORTUGAL (Setúbal) - A windmill with jib sail in Palmela

So far I received postcards with windmills only from the countries with harsh winters (Netherlands and Finland), which have the sails with wooden slats. The common sails consist of a framework on which is spread a sailcloth. The miller can adjust the amount of cloth spread according to the amount of wind available and power needed. In medieval mills the sailcloth was wound in and out of a ladder type arrangement of sails. The jib sail (as it has the windmill in the image) is commonly found in Mediterranean countries, and consists of a triangle of cloth wound round a spar. In all cases the mill needs to be stopped to adjust the reefing of  the sails.

July 6, 2012

0271 LITHUANIA (Vilnius) - Kernavė, the cradle of Lithuania (UNESCO WHS)

Today, July 6, is Statehood Day in Lithuania, a public holiday to commemorate the coronation in 1253 of Mindaugas as the first and only King of Lithuania. This day is officially celebrated since 1991, i.e. since the first year after the re-establishment of the State of Lithuania. Today also would have started the 14th International Festival of Experimental Archaeology "Days of Live Archaeology in Kernavė", which was canceled "due to financial and technical circumstances".

July 5, 2012

0270 GERMANY (North Rhine-Westphalia) - Wuppertal Schwebebahn to 111 years

Who wouldn't want to live in a city like Wuppertal, where two-thirds of the total municipal area is green space? From any part of the city it's only a 10 minute walk in one of the public parks or woodland paths. In addition, Wuppertal (Wupper Valley), formed in 1929 by merging the cities of Barmen and Elberfeld with Vohwinkel, Ronsdorf, Cronenberg, Langerfeld, and Beyenburg, is known for its suspension railway, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn (Wuppertal Floating Tram), perfect because of the city's steep slopes.

0269 SPAIN (Catalonia) - Casa Milà - part of Works of Antoni Gaudí (UNESCO WHS)

In 1905, when began the construction of Casa Milà, known later as La Pedrera (The Quarry), Gaudí not finished yet the restoring of Casa Batlló, located on the same vital artery of Barcelona, Passeig de Gràcia. Besides, it will be the final residential building erected by Catalan architect, the last 15 years of his life dedicating them exclusively to Sagrada Família. Completion of both houses was marked by tragic personal events, in 1906 dying his father, and in 1912 his niece, the closest people in his life, with whom she lived in the house in Park Güell.

July 4, 2012

0268 UNITED STATES (District of Columbia) - United States Capitol

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Very beautiful these words taken from the Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the thirteen American colonies, which since that day will be called United States of America. Beautiful, true and valid even today. But at that time in the United States were over 4 million black slaves and isn’t known how many indians slaves. And the slavery still existed nearly 100 years later. And another 100 years passed until all citizens had equal rights. "All men is created equal"? Definition of terms is essential when it comes about a significantly text. Delegates didn't lied and weren't hypocrites. Simply the blacks, the Indians, later the Chinese etc. didn't fit in the category "men".

0267 GERMANY (Bremen) - Here piggy, piggy!

The Sögestrasse (Pigstreet) is a main shopping street in the city of Bremen, a pedestrian one which leads in south-north direction, from the upper road towards ramparts and Herdentorsteinweg Station to the street Am Wall. At the northern end is located a life-sized bronze statue by the sculptor Peter Lehmann, which depict a pigs flock with their swineherd and a watch-dog.

July 2, 2012

0265 FRANCE (Guadeloupe) - Des robes créole in Guadeloupe

"In this island was such thickness of forest that it was wonderful, and such a variety of trees, unknown to anyone, that it was terrible, some with fruit, some with flowers, so that everything was green", wrote in 1493 the physician Diego Álvarez Chanca (who accompanied Columbus on the second expedition) about the island that they called Santa María la Galante (today Marie-Galante), in honor of his most important caravel. "There were wild fruits of different sorts, which some not very wise men tried, and, on merely tasting them, touching them with their tongues, their faces swelled and they had such great burning and pain that they seemed to rage (or to have hydrophobia). They were cured with cold things."