February 28, 2013

0532 CHILE (Antofagasta / Atacama) - Penitentes from Puna de Atacama

Puna de Atacama (Atacama Plateau) is a cold Andean tableland in northwestern Argentina and adjacent regions of Chile, with a length of 320km (north to south), a width of 240km, and an average elevation of 4,500m. This region may be defined as the southernmost portion of the Andean Altiplano (Spanish for high plain) and is separated from the Atacama Desert by the Cordillera Domeyko. The peaks of the Cordillera Oriental alternate with dry, sandy, clay-filled basins, occupied by salt flats. Along its eastern margin, the plateau has been dissected by streams into deep, narrow river valleys, as well as broader valleys, important as colonial routes of penetration into the Argentine Andes. Peruvian and Chilean colonizers conducted expeditions through the Andean valleys in the latter half of the 16th century that led to the foundation of some of the oldest towns in Argentina. Before the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), the region belonged to Bolivia, but afterwards was ceded to Argentina (1898), and after the Puna de Atacama Lawsuit (1899) 85% from the disputed territory were awarded to Argentina and 15% to Chile.

0531 BAHRAIN - Qal'at al-Bahrain (UNESCO WHS)

Even if Dilmun (or Telmun), the "land of immortality", is mentioned since the time of Mesopotamian civilization, its location is uncertain, but the archaeological excavations carried out since 1954 in the site of Qal'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort), near Manama, the capital of Bahrain, seem to demonstrate that there was the capital of this legendary kingdom. Anyway, at Qal'at al-Bahrain were found seven stratified layers, created by various occupants from 2300 BC up to the 18th century, including Kassites, Portuguese and Persians.

February 27, 2013

0530 SLOVENIA (Inner Carniola) - Postojna Cave - part of Classic Karst (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

With a length of 20,570m, Postojna Cave, located in Inner Carniola, în Slovenia, is one of the world's largest karst monuments, and one of the best known. Created by the Pivka, a lost river which has only 27km in length, this fantastic web of tunnels, passages, galleries and halls was first described in the 17th century even by Valvasor, one of the main precursors of modern historiography in present-day Slovenia.

0529 PORTUGAL (Madeira) - Spectacular Funchal Harbour

The first territorial discovery of the Portuguese Age of Discovery (1419), Madeira is a archipelago located in the north Atlantic Ocean, at 400km north of Tenerife, Canary Islands. Since 1976, the three islands of the archipelago (Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Desertas) form, together with Savage Islands, one of the two Autonomous regions of Portugal (the other being the Azores), currently the second richest region of the country, after Lisbon. Noted for its wine, flowers, landscapes and embroidery artisans, as well as for its annual New Year celebrations that feature the largest fireworks show in the world, Madeira is a popular year-round resort.

February 26, 2013

0528 OMAN - Samail Hosn

On this postcard writes "the fort in Oman". Of course that it's a fort in Oman, but which one? After more than an hour of search on the Internet, and maybe hundreds of photos of forts in the sultanate seen, I concluded that is the Nakhal Fort. I wasn't sure, so I did another check and my belief has changed: it's the castle of Samail. I think this in proportion of 80%. Anyway, isn't an UNESCO World Heritage Site, as Cresalde says.

0527 IRAQ (Nineveh) - Mosul, the City of Two Springs

Situated in the northwestern part of the present day Iraq, on the banks of Tigris, Mosul is the country's second largest city, with more then 1.800.000 inhabitants. The original city stands on the west bank of the river, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass areas on both banks, with five bridges linking the two sides. It is known also as Um Al-Rabi'ain (The City of Two Springs), because autumn and spring are very much alike there.

February 25, 2013

0521-0525 SPAIN (Catalonia) - Barcelona

0521 Night view of Barcelona

Capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona was founded as a Roman city, and became later the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona became the most important city of the Crown of Aragon. Besieged several times during its history, Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage, and in nowadays hosts the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean. The architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, as also the cathedral, have part of separate posts.

0522 Barcelona: 1. Agbar Tower 2. Extension 3. Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
4. Park Güell 5. The Gothic Quarter 6. Triumphal Arch

In the postcards are shown the following:

Torre Agbar (Agbar Tower) - an architectural icon of the city, located between Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Badajoz, near Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel in association with the Spanish firm B720 Arquitectos and built between 1999 and 2004. The shape of this skyscraper was inspired by Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona, and by the shape of a geyser rising into the air.

0523 Barcelona: 1. Park Güell 2. Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
3. Casa Milà (La Pedrera) 4. Casa Batlló 5. Sagrada Família
6. Old Harbour 7. Camp Nou 8. Royal Plaza

Eixample (Extension) - a district between the old city (Ciutat Vella) and what were once surrounding small towns, constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and square blocks with chamfered corners (named illes in Catalan, manzanas in Spanish). This was a visionary, pioneering design by Ildefons Cerdà.

0524 Barcelona - Street of the Bishop,
the heart of the Barri Gotic (1)

Font màgica de Montjuïc (Magic Fountain of Montjuïc) - located at the head of Avenida Maria Cristina, below the Palau Nacional. It was designed by Carles Buigas, who had designed illuminated fountains as early as 1922. The site where the fountain was constructed was the previous location of The Four Columns, representative of the Catalanism movement, demolished in 1928 and re-erected in 2010.

0525 Barcelona - Street of the Bishop,
the heart of the Barri Gotic (2)

Parc Güell (Park Güell) - I wrote about it on other post, here.

Barri Gòtic (The Gothic Quarter) - the centre of the old city, which stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere. Many of the buildings date from Medieval times, but can be seen even remains of the squared Roman Wall. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area too. The Barri Gòtic retains a labyrinthine street plan, with many small streets opening out into squares.

February 24, 2013

0520 PORTUGAL (Lisbon) - Elevador da Glória

Elevador da Glória (the Glória Funicular) is a funicular that links Baixa (Restauradores Square) with Bairro Alto (Jardim / Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara), in Lisbon, and, according to the website cliqlisbon.com "is the most comfortable way to get to the interesting points of Lisbon located on the higher altitudes of the city and normally accessible only through the very steep streets." Operated by Carris (Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa), it was opened to the public in 1885, at first as a water-powered system, replaced in 1886 by a steam-power one, and finally electrified in 1915 . In 2002 it was designated a National Monument, and transports annually over 3 millions of people.

0519 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / Overijssel) - The locomotive Magda from Museum Buurt Spoorweg

In two previous posts (here and here) I wrote about two locomotives exposed to the Museum Buurt Spoorweg (MBS), a railway museum located in Haaksbergen. The locomotive in the picture (named Locomotive Nr. 6 - De Magda) is also hosted in this museum. The locomotive was delivered in 1925 by SA des Ateliers de Construction de la Meuse (Sclessin-Liège, Belgium) to the metal factory Overpelt-Hoboken, being used as shuntingengine. In the early 80s she was acquired by mr. Jans, but he left the engine availbable for the Toeristische Trein Zolder (Tourist Train Zolder). After the closure of the tourist branch, the engine was stored in Mons, in the south of Belgium. In 1994 the MBS started the negotiations with Mr. Jans, and the engine was bought in 1995.

February 22, 2013

0306, 0517 ESTONIA (Harju) - Historic Centre of Tallinn (UNESCO WHS)

0306 Historic Centre of Tallinn (1)

Posted on 12.08.2012, 22.02.2013
Closely related to the Finns, the neighbors to the north, from beyond the Gulf of Finland, and not to Balts from the south or to Russians from the east, Estonians consider their country a "distinct Nordic country", and not a Baltic one, although geographically belongs to the Baltic region. Despite the fact that they were always least numerous (in nowadays living in Estonia just over 1 million speakers of Estonian), and their lands were, for centuries, a battleground for Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland, the estonians preserved their national identity. In addition, perhaps because it was the last corner of Europe Christianized (in 12th and 13th centuries, following the Baltic Crusades), Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world, with 75.7% of the population claiming to be irreligious.

0517 Historic Centre of Tallinn (2)

Tallinn, known as Reval from the 13th century until the 1920s and located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 80km south of Helsinki, is the capital and largest city of Estonia. Although has only about 400,000 inhabitants, it's ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. As an important port for trade between Russian principalities and Scandinavia, it became a target for the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Denmark in the beginning of the 13th century, being annexed by Danes in 1219, along with Northern Estonia. In 1285 the city became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League, and in 1346 was sold to the Teutonic Knights. In 1561 Tallinn became a dominion of Sweden, which it lost in favor of Russia in 1710. Estonia gained its independence in 1920, but in 1940 was annexed by the Soviet Union, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and again by the Soviet Union in 1944. In August 1991 was re-established an independent democratic Estonian state.

0516 GREECE (Central Greece) - Archaeological Site of Delphi (UNESCO WHS)

Located in lower central Greece, on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis, Delphi is best known for the oracle at the sanctuary that was dedicated to Apollo after he slew the Python, a dragon who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth. Apollo's sacred precinct was a panhellenic sanctuary, where every four years, starting in 776 BC athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the four panhellenic games, precursors of the Modern Olympics. In the inner hestia (hearth) of the temple, an eternal flame burned. After the battle of Plataea, the Greek cities extinguished their fires and brought new fire from the hearth of Greece, at Delphi. Carved into the temple were three phrases ("know thyself", "nothing in excess", and "make a pledge and mischief is nigh"), attributed to one or more of the Seven Sages of Greece.

February 20, 2013

0515 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (Dubai) - Souk Al Bahar & Burj Khalifa

As it is written on the front of the postcard, it depicts Souk Al Bahar and Burj Khalifa in Dubai. A souk (also spelled souq, soq, souk, esouk, suk, sooq, souq, or suq) is an open-air marketplace or commercial quarter in an Arab or Berber city, by extension in any Muslim city. Historically, they were held outside of cities in the location where a caravan loaded with goods would stop, at that time, souqs being more than just a market, but also a place where they were held major festivals and many cultural and social activities. Later, due to the growth of cities, the souqs shifted to urban centers, the main souq becoming one of the central structures of a large city.

February 19, 2013

0514 UNITED STATES (Utah) - Union Pacific No. 119 and Central Pacific No. 60

On 10 May will celebrate 144 years since the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, completing the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States (known originally as the Pacific Railroad and later as the Overland Route), and forged the destiny of the American nation. The ceremonial final spike, driven by Leland Stanford, was named Golden Spike, but also the Last Spike, a term used to refer to one driven at the ceremonial completion of any new railroad construction projects, particularly those in which construction is undertaken from two disparate origins towards a meeting point. Now,  the Last Spike, made of 17.6-karat (73%) copper-alloyed gold, lies in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. On that day, in anticipation of the ceremony, Union Pacific No. 119 (in the right of the image) and Central Pacific No. 60 (better known as the Jupiter - in the left of the image) locomotives were drawn up face-to-face on Promontory Summit. It is unknown how many people attended the event; estimates run from as low as 500 to as many as 3,000; government and railroad officials and track workers were present to witness the event.

February 18, 2013

510-513 BRAZIL - The Afro-Brazilian religions

Of the more than 193 million inhabitants of Brazil, about half describe themselves as Black (6.84%) or Brown (43.80%), i.e. have mixed ancestry, Europeans, Africans, and Amerindians. Each of these ancestors have come with their own religious beliefs, which during the Portuguese colonization were mixed, leading to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices. The Afro-Brazilian religions (as Umbanda, Candomblé, Batuque, Xangô, and Tambor de Mina), originally brought by black slaves shipped from Africa to Brazil, have even now many followers, concentrated mainly in large urban centers in the Northeast, such as Salvador, Recife, or Rio de Janeiro in the Southeast. These cults were persecuted throughout most of Brazilian history, because they were believed to be pagan or even satanic, but the republican government legalized all of them on the grounds of the separation between the State and the Church in 1889.

The Afro-Brazilian religions are based on the mythology, and the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practices of the Yoruba people, one of the largest ethnic groups of Native-Africa, who occupies parts of the modern states of Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Umbanda blends African religions with Catholicism, Spiritism, and considerable indigenous lore, while the others are based in the anima (soul) of the natural environment, the rituals involving the possession of the initiated by Orishas (spirits or deities that reflects one of the manifestations of God), offerings and sacrifices of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdom, healing, dancing/trance, and percussion.

Because the religion developed semi-independently in different regions, among different ethnic groups, it evolved into several sects or nations (nações), distinguished by the set of worshiped deities, as well as the music and language used in the rituals. This division was influenced by the beneficent brotherhoods (irmandades) of Brazilian slaves organized by the Catholic Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. Candomblé temples are called houses (casas), plantations (roças), or yards (terreiros), the priesthood being organized into symbolic families. Each family owns and manages one house. In most Candomblé houses, the head of the family is a woman, the mãe-de-santo or ialorixá (mother-of-saint), seconded by the pai-de-santo or babalorixá (father-of-saint). According to Mapeamento dos Terreiros de Salvador, only in this city are 1,155 terreiros.

The Yoruba theogony enjoys a large Pantheon of Orishas, but I will mention only those who appear in my postcards:

Xangô (Shangó, Ṣàngó, Changó, Chango, Nago Shango, Sogbo, Kibuco) - Lord of Justice; divinity of lightning, thunder, fire, sky father, represents male power and sexuality. Historically, he is a royal ancestor of the Yoruba, being the third king of the Oyo Kingdom prior to his posthumous deification.
Sincretism: Saint Jerome
Salutation: Kawô Kabiesilé
Day: Wednesday
Colors: red and white
Sign: Sagittarius
Instrument: o(two sided hatchet)

Ossain (Ossaim, Ossanha, Ossanhê, Catende) - Lord of Magic Potions; the physician of African Religions, the owner of the medicinal plants, who releases the magical property of the leaves. The legend says that Oya (the god that controls the winds) shook her skirt and scattered the leaves, so other Orishas got some, but in general, they belong to Ossain. Ossain has a leg amputated, so he dances into one leg.
Sincretism: Saint Joseph (but also Saint Jude and Saint Kitts, according to other sources)
Salutation: Eu Eô (Ewé ó or Eueu)
Day: Saturday (or Thursday, according to other sources)
Colors: green and yellow, and the mixture of these, resulting a pale green
Instrument: seven iron spears with a dove on top

Yemanjá (Yemojá, Yemonja, Yemalla, Yemana, Ymoja, Iemanjá, Janaína, Dandalunda) - Mother of the sea and the most of the other Orishas; she is the ocean, the patron deity of the fishermen and the survivors of shipwrecks, the feminine principle of creation, the spirit of moonlight, the essence of motherhood, and a protector of children.
Sincretism: Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes (Our Lady of Navigators)
Celebration (in Salvador, Bahia): December 8, the Festa da Conceição da Praia (Feast to Our Lady of Conception of the church at the beach)
Salutation: Odoiyá
Day: Friday
Colors: silver transparent, blue, and white
Instrument: Abebé (a silver fan)

Obá (Ọba, Obbá) - Goddess of rivers, which figuratively represents the flow of time and life, but also goddess of love. She is traditionally identified as the first wife of Shango. She cutting off her ear to serve to her husband as food, because one of her co-wives has convinced her that this will secure Shango's attention. Once Shango sees the ear and realizes Obá has mutilated herself, he chases her from his house and into permanent exile.
Sincretism: Nossa Senhora das Neves (Our Lady of the Snows)
Salutation: Obá Xirê
Day: Saturday
Colors: red and white
Sign: Virgo
Instrument: spear and shield

February 13, 2013

0508 SPAIN (Canary Islands) - Puerto de la Cruz and Mount Teide

Puerto de la Cruz is the smallest town in the Canary Islands, one of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, located off the northwest coast of Africa. Situated on the north coast of Tenerife island (the largest and most populous island of the archipelago), the town attracted many tourists, especially British, since the late 19th century, due to the kindness of the climate, and to the beauty of the Valle de la Orotava. Following the attraction of the sun and beaches, around 1980 was born the tourist boom of south Tenerife, the emphasis being on cities like Arona or Adeje, but the more lush and green north of the island came back into focus in recent years.

February 10, 2013

0505 BULGARIA - The ethnographic map of the country

Located on the west coast of the Black Sea, Bulgaria occupies a portion of the eastern Balkans, with Romania to the north (the boundary being, in the most part, Danube River), Greece and Turkey to the south, and Serbia and Macedonia to the west. Its most notable topographical features are the Danubian Plain, the Balkan Mountains, the Thracian Plain, and the Rhodope Mountains. This territory was inhabited in antiquity by Thracian tribes, subjugated by Alexander the Great and later by the Roman Empire. From the 6th century, the Slavs gradually settled in the region, assimilating the Hellenised or Romanised Thracians. In the 7th century, Bulgar tribes (of central Asian Turkic origin) moved into the Balkans, and in the following centuries founded two empires (681-1018, 1185-1396), permanently squaring off the region with the Byzantine Empire. In the late 14th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered Bulgaria, possessing it until 1908.

February 9, 2013

0504 SEYCHELLES (Praslin) - Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve (UNESCO WHS)

Praslin, named like that in 1768 in honor of French diplomat César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin, is the second largest island of the Seychelles, lying 44 km north east of Mahé. In the heart of the island is Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, an area which was untouched until the 1930s and still retains primeval palm forest in a near-natural state, with six endemic palms, among which is Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica), the sole member of the genus Lodoicea. Also unique to the park is its wildlife, including birds such as the rare Seychelles Black Parrot, mammals, crustaceans, snails, and reptiles.