December 31, 2012

0441 UNITED STATES (Arizona) - Kokopelli

I think that a postcard with Kokopelli, who brings good luck and prosperity, is very appropriate for the last day of the year, so here it is. Usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head), Kokopelli (named also Kokopele, Kokopilau, Neopkwai'i, Ololowishkya or La Kokopel) is a fertility deity, but also a trickster god, who represents the spirit of music, venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States, like Navajo, Ho-Chunk, Hopi, Pueblo, or Zuni.

December 30, 2012

0440 CROATIA (Zadar) - The Collegiate Church from Pag

Pag Island is a Croatian island,  with 60 km long and between 2 and 10 km wide, belonging to the north Dalmatian archipelago, located in the northern Adriatic Sea. The island is best known for its pungent Pag cheese (Paski Sir), and the delicious Pag lamb naturally flavoured with the salty grass that feeds the sheep, but also for its salt production, for the Pag lace. It is linked to the mainland by bridge as well as by ferry lines.

December 29, 2012

0439 CAMBODIA - A Buddhist monk with its traditional kasava

Buddhism is one of the oldest religion still practiced, so the Buddhist Monasticism is also one of the earliest surviving forms of organized monasticism, the order of Buddhist monks and nuns being founded by Gautama Buddha himself, over 2500 years ago. The Buddhist monastic order is theoretically divided into two assemblies, the male Bhikkhu, and the female Bhikkhuni. Monks and nuns are expected to fulfill a variety of roles in the community, to preserve the doctrine and discipline, to provide a living example for the laity, to live an austere life focused on the study of Buddhist doctrine, the practice of meditation, and the observance of good moral character. Unlike Christian monastics, the Buddhist ones aren't required to be obedient to a superior, but it's expected that they will offer respect to senior members of the Sangha (community). In generally, the groups of monastics make decisions collectively, and individual relationships of teacher/student, senior/junior, and preceptor/trainee are no formal positions.

December 28, 2012

0438 EGYPT - Ramesses II in a war chariot

As it seems, in the image is Ramesses II, the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire, in a chariot, during one of the many battles he fought, mainly against the Nubians and Hittites, in the no less than 66 years of reign. The pharaoh wears on his head a Khepresh crown, also known as the blue crown or war crown, made from cloth or leather stained blue and covered with small yellow sun discs. Like many other royal crowns, it has, fastened to its front, an uraeus, i.e. the stylized, upright form of a cobra, used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority.

0437 OMAN - The forts of Rostaq and al-Hazm (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

0437 Rustaq fort

Rustaq, located in the middle of a large oasis in the Al Batinah Region, was the capital of Oman during the time of Nasir bin Murshid, the first Imam of the state of Al Ya’arubahs, who achieved Omani unity in his rule until 1649 AD (1059 AH). Rustaq is an area of healing warm springs, the main occupations there being beekeeping, but also sheep grazing, and on the foothills of the Akhdar Mountains are grown fruits. Omay Halwa is also produced in Rustaq.

December 25, 2012

0430 GERMANY (Berlin) - Scheunenviertel in Berlin

Scheunenviertel (Barn Quarter) is a neighborhood of Mitte, in the centre of Berlin, to the north of the medieval Altberlin area, east of the Rosenthaler Straße and Hackescher Markt. Until the WWII it was regarded as a slum district and had a substantial Jewish population, with a high proportion of migrants from Eastern Europe. The name derives from several barns erected here outside the city walls in 1672, used to store hay in connection to a large cattle market at nearby Alexanderplatz. In 1737 King Frederick William I of Prussia required Berlin Jews to settle here.

0431 CHINA (Hong Kong) - The Dragon dance

For the Chinese, the dragons are helpful, friendly creatures, linked to good luck, long life and wisdom. The appearance of a dragon is both frightening and bold but it has a benevolent disposition, and so eventually became an emblem to represent imperial authority. Many Chinese people use the term Descendants of the Dragon as a sign of ethnic identity. I like this, especially since, according to the Chinese Zodiac, I'm a Dragon.

December 24, 2012

0429 GERMANY (Berlin) - Unter den Linden in Berlin in 1910

Unter den Linden (under the linden trees) is a boulevard in the Mitte district, the heart of the historic section of Berlin, and was named so for its linden trees that line the grassed pedestrian mall between two carriageways. It runs the east-west from the site of the Stadtschloss royal palace at the Lustgarten park, to Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate. Eastward the boulevard crosses the Spree river at Berlin Cathedral and continues as Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. Major north-south streets crossing Unter den Linden are Friedrichstraße and Wilhelmstrasse.

December 23, 2012

0392 CHRISTMAS (Netherlands) - Madonna and Child..., by Francesco Francia

Behold the second Christmas postcard that I received it this year and in my life. My good friend Wilma from the Netherlands, with whom I think I have telepathic links or maybe we were brothers in a past life, probably read what I wrote on the blog about the first postcard received, and she said in her mind: "Poor Little Dănuţ, nobody send him Christmas postcards" I'm kidding, of course. Dank je wel, Wilma!

0426 VENEZUELA (Amazonas) – Autana, the island in the sky

Because the stilt houses in the area of Lake Maracaibo reminded Amerigo Vespucci of the city of Venice, he named the region Veneziola ("little Venice" in Tuscan), which became in Spanish Venezuela. Colonized by Spain in 1522, it became full independent in 1830. Since then, like most countries of Latin America, it experienced political turmoil and dictatorships, interrupted only by brief democratic periods after the WWII. Since 1999 it is lead by Hugo Chávez (re-elected for the fourth time on October 2012), rather a character from the novels of Marquez, than a president in flesh and bones. Federal republic consisting of 23 states, Venezuela has an extremely high biodiversity, with habitats ranging from the Andes mountains to the Amazon Basin, via extensive llanos plains, Caribbean coast and the Orinoco River Delta. It is also among the most urbanized countries in Latin Americ, and has some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world.

December 20, 2012

0424 INDONESIA (Java) – Borobudur, a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture (UNESCO WHS)

The legend say that a heavenly architect built Borobudur in a single day and laid a curse on anyone who dared ascend his holy shrine. According to Asian art historian, Jan Fontein: "There is a mountain south of Borobudur that when viewed from the monument looks very much like the profile of a man; the nose, lips and chin are clearly delineated. The story goes that the ridge depicts Gunadharma, the architect of Borobudur, who is believed to keep watch over his creation through the ages."

0423 RUSSIA (Saint Petersburg) - Scarlet Sails

The Scarlet Sails (Alye parusa in russian) is the most famous public event during the White Nights Festival, in Saint Petersburg, and takes place in June, on the end of school year. It is highly popular for its spectacular fireworks, numerous music concerts, and a massive water show including battles between dozens of boats full of pirates on the waters of the Neva river. The culmination of the Festival is the entry of two Brigantines with scarlet sails in the Neva River accompanied by music and fireworks.

0422 NIGERIA (Lagos) – Badagry, the port from which the slaves left

Located in West Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon, Nigeria is a federation comprising 36 states, in which live more than 250 ethnic groups, the most influential being the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Moreover, it's the most populous country in Africa (hosting 18% of the continent's total population), the seventh most populous country in the world, and the most populous country in the world in which the majority of the population is black.

December 18, 2012

0421 GEORGIA (Imereti) - Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery (UNESCO WHS)

0421 Gelati Monastery

I was always fascinated by the people from the Caucasus (the region situated between the Black and the Caspian sea, crossed by the mountains with the same name), for the tenacity with which they kept their language, traditions, religion and even their own alphabets, so different from the people around, despite their position between the Tsarist, Ottoman and Persian Empires. The current Georgia has separated from the Soviet Union in 1991, but, like many other former Soviet republics, has faced and faced even today with the separatist tendencies of some regions, in this case Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

December 16, 2012

0419 BRAZIL - Good Life

"Some years ago I fell in love with the art of photography", confesses the Brazilian Amarildo Correa in a self-presentation. "With photography I have the opportunity to travel, register emotions and feelings, meet people, places and cultures. These factors have let me see far beyond my day to day. When I look through my viewfinder I try to go beyond the simple recording of an image -  I must feel, capturing the essence of people and places. More important than the technique and camera that is used, I shoot with my heart, this is what motivates me to be in love with photography. I hope that through my pictures you can enjoy and share with me the beauty of our world and people that have crossed my way in this endless journey that is life."

0387 CHRISTMAS (Australia) - Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus

Here's the first Christmas postcard that I received it. No, not the first of this year, but the first that I have ever received. In addition, isn't a common one, but a gorgeous maxicard, which is part of a series of two, issued by Australia Post on October 31, 2011. Both features themes from the Biblical Christmas story: the Virgin Mary adoring the newborn baby Jesus (0.55 AUD - this one), and the three Kings (Wise Men; Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) traveling from the East to Bethlehem to worship the Christ Child (1.50 AUD).

December 14, 2012

0415 RUSSIA (Kamchatka Krai) - The Karymsky Volcano

The Kamchatka Peninsula lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west and since 2007 is part of the Kamchatka Krai of the Russian Federation. Due to its geographical location (not far from Japan and Alaska) and the shape of the shoreline, it was an important outpost for Soviet Union, and the home to its Pacific nuclear submarine fleet. Even if has an area comparable with United Kingdom and Belgium combined, it houses only about 320,000 inhabitants, the majority Russians (86%).

December 13, 2012

0414 BOLIVIA - Laguna Verde of Potosí

It seems that southwest Bolivia contains some wildest and spectacular landscapes, including the Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), a salt lake located in the Potosí Department, near to the borders with Chile and Argentina, on the altiplano, at the foot of the volcano Licancabur (5,920m), a highly symmetrical and active stratovolcano which dominates the landscape of the Salar de Atacama area, situated at 55km south of San Pedro de Atacama (Chile).

December 9, 2012

0408 DENMARK (Hovedstaden) - The Little Mermaid

Everyone knows the fairytale The Little Mermaid by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Unfortunately many actually know the animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1989, which, as all the productions of this kind, presents an embellished version of the original. The story has nothing cheerful, and the end is tragic. In short, a young mermaid fell in love with a prince who lived on the shore, and to get married with him, she appeals to a witch, who transforms his fishtail into legs. This sacrifice, which removed her from the aquatic world, was anyway useless, because the prince married a daughter of a neighboring king. She could have become again mermaid, if she would have killed the prince, but she didn't do so, but decided to sacrifice herself again, throwing herself into the waves.

December 6, 2012

0405 HUNGARY - A chief herdsman in Dévaványa, in 1940

Puszta of the Pannonian Plain, an exclave of the steppes of Asia, is the only region in central Europe which can provide the grazing for a large numbers of horses. It was therefore natural to be preferred by nomadic peoples coming from the steppes of Asia, be they Huns, Gepids, Avars, Magyars or Tartars, whose armies were based almost entirely on cavalry. Probably that, for example, the hordes of Batu Khan would have had to withdraw in the Russian steppe in late 1241, after they have devastated Eastern and Central Europe, had it not been Puszta. In addition, its geographic position was perfect as the basis for raids into Western Europe and Balkans.

December 5, 2012

0404 ROMANIA (Suceava) - Tales set in stone

The Călimani Mountains, the largest volcanic complex of the Carpathian Mountains, which lining the internal side of the Eastern Carpathians, are surrounded by Călimani National Park, a protected area situated in the territory of counties Mureş (45%), Suceava (35%), Harghita (15%) and Bistriţa-Năsăud, and covering three areas: Scientific Reserve of juniper trees with Pinus cembra, Reserve Lake Iezer, and Geological Reserve 12 Apostles.

December 3, 2012

0403 MALAYSIA (Selangor) - The Blue Mosque in Shah Alam

In 1957 when the Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) gained independence, the head of state become the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (literally - He Who is Made Lord), title changed officialy in 1993 in Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong (His Conqueror Majesty The Supreme Lord of the Federation). He is elected to a five-year term by and from among the nine hereditary rulers of the Malay states. The other four states are ruled by Yang di-Pertua Negeri (governors), who are part of the Majlis Raja-Raja (the Conference of Rulers), but don't participate when this council meets to decide matters related to the election. The first nine Yang di-Pertuan Agong were, by turn, the monarchs of the nine states, and the next five followed the order established by that cycle.

December 2, 2012

0402 FRANCE (Centre-Val de Loire) - Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Orléans (UNESCO WHS)

Located about 130 kilometres southwest of Paris, on the Loire River, Orléans has a long and rich history, which began with the Gallic stronghold named Cenabum and continued with the roman city Aureliana Civitas (city of Aurelian), owned a while by Alans. In the Merovingian era, the city was capital of the kingdom of Orléans, then it became the capital of a county then duchy, in appanage of the house of Valois-Orléans, which acceded to the throne of France. The city was always a strategic point on the Loire, for it was sited at the river's most northerly point (so closest to Paris). There were few bridges over the dangerous river Loire, and Orléans had one of them, and so became, with Rouen and Paris, one of medieval France's three richest cities. But in the wider world the city is known primarily due to Jeanne d'Arc, "La pucelle d'Orléans" (Joan of Arc, The Maid of Orléans), but also to Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) - the capital of the French colony that stretched along the Mississippi River, from its mouth to its source, at the borders of Canada - named so in honor of Louis XV's regent, the duke of Orleans.