April 30, 2013

0622 SPAIN (Castile and León) - Old City of Salamanca (UNESCO WHS)

0622 Old and New Cathedral in Salamanca

Situated approximately 200km west of Madrid and 80km east of the Portuguese border, on several hills by the Tormes River, Salamanca is the oldest and most important university city in Spain. Built by Celts and conquered by Carthaginians in the 3rd century B.C., it then became a Roman settlement (Helmantica) before being ruled successively by Alans, Visigoths and Moors. After the battle of Simancas (939) the Christians resettled this area.

April 29, 2013

0620 & 0621 PORTUGAL (Porto) - Historic Centre of Oporto (UNESCO WHS)

Located along the hillsides overlooking the Douro river estuary in northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European centres, with a 2,000-year history. At the beginning an outpost of the Roman Empire, Portus Cale (considered to stand at the origin of the name "Portugal"), the town became, with the arrival of the barbarians, an important administrative and trading centre, and was established as part of the Castilian realm in the 11th century, after a short period of Moorish domination.

The first period of expansion came with the construction in 1374 of a new town wall protecting the two urban nuclei - the original medieval town and the extramural harbour area. In 1387 it was the site of the marriage of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, which has been concluded with a military alliance between Portugal and England, in effect even today (the world's oldest recorded military alliance). Between 15th and 17th centuries it played a crucial role in the Portuguese Age of Discovery. In 1996 Historic Centre of Oporto was designed an UNESCO World Heritage Site, because "is a townscape of high aesthetic value, with evidence of urban development from the Roman, medieval, and Almadas periods. The rich and varied civil architecture of the historic centre expresses the cultural values of succeeding periods - Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and modern."

Undoubtedly, all these are important, but probably that the city is known first for port, the fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley. In the 13th century it was already transported to Porto in flat sailing vessels named barcos rabelos (in the first postcard). Although not in use anymore, still today we can admire these graceful vessels belonging to the Port Wine Companies in the banks of the Douro river. Every year on June 24, St. John's Day, is held a race of Rabelo boats, an important and popular event of the festivities of Porto city.

April 27, 2013

0587 & 0618 MYANMAR / THAILAND - Kayan Lahwi

Posted on 05.04.2013 and completed on 27.04.2013
The woman on the postcard is part of the ethnic subgroup Kayan Lahwi (also called Padaung). The Kayan is in its turn a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Myanmar. In the late 1980s due to conflict with the military regime in Myanmar, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area. Among the refugee camps set up there was a Long Neck section, which became a tourist site. Although some countries are willing to accept a number of refugees, Thai authorities didn't let go to Kayan Lahw, because it would lose earnings from tourism.

Women of this tribe are known for wearing brass coils (in spiral) that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one, and more turns are added. The weight of the brass (up to 10 kg) pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Many ideas regarding why the coils are worn have been suggested, often formed by visiting anthropologists, who have hypothesized that the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes. Contrastingly it has been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism. The coils might be meant to protect from tiger bites, perhaps literally, but probably symbolically.

The full set of neck rings is made from three separate coils, the main neck coil and a wider coil near the shoulders with a small coil wrapped around it at 90 degrees. Few women wear this full set. Brass coils are also worn around the legs. The rings rubbing against the skin can cause discomfort and abrasions over a period of time. Some of the women, especially the young ones, don’t want anymore to be human exhibits and removed their coil. Contrary to popular belief, this has no effect on women's health, only a slight discomfort that lasts 3-4 days.

0617 IRELAND (Munster) - Will you come to Limerick?

"There was an Old Man of Kilkenny,
Who never had more than a penny;
He spent all that money,
In onions and honey,
That wayward Old Man of Kilkenny."

April 25, 2013

0616 PERU (Cusco) - Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (UNESCO WHS)

"Dimly I began to realize that this wall and its adjoining semicircular temple over the cave were as fine as the finest stonework in the world. It fairly took my breath away. What could this place be?" wrote Hiram Bingham III in the book Lost City of the Incas, published in 1948, after 37 years of the discovery of the fabulous Machu Picchu. Even now, after another 66 years, it isn't known why was built this city, that was its goal, and why was abandoned.

April 24, 2013

0613 FRANCE (Île-de-France) - Pont des Arts - part of Paris, Banks of the Seine (UNESCO WHS)

Placed in downstream of the Pont Neuf, very close to it, the Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge which crosses the Seine River and links the Institut de France and the central square of the Palais du Louvre, named Palais des Arts under the First Empire, which can be seen on the postcard in background, in the right. On the location of the present day bridge was built between 1802 and 1804 the first metal bridge in Paris, initially conceived by the engineers Louis-Alexandre de Cessart and Jacques Dillon to resemble a suspended garden, with trees and banks of flowers. In 1977 it was closed to circulation, because it was weakened by bombardments sustained during WWI and WWII, and by the collisions caused by boats.

April 23, 2013

0612 GERMANY (Bavaria) - Old Town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof (UNESCO WHS)


Located in Bavaria, at the confluence of the Danube and Regen rivers, Regensburg owes its foundation to Celts (Radasbona), but the Romans were the ones who built there a strong fort (Castra Regina). As seat of the Agilolfing ruling family, it became in 530 the capital of Bavaria, and it will maintain this status since the first half of the 13th century. Actually the 12th and 13th centuries were the Regensburg's golden age as trade center, but also as the cultural centre of southern Germany, in 1245 becoming a Free Imperial City. It adopted the Protestant Reformation in 1542, and between 1663 and 1806 it was the seat of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire. In WWII it was home to both a Messerschmitt Bf 109 aircraft factory and an oil refinery, so it was severe bombed by the Allies, and between 1945 and 1949 it was the site of the largest Displaced persons (DP) camp in Germany.

0611 UNITED KINGDOM (Scotland) - St. Kilda (UNESCO WHS)

The archipelago of St Kilda, the remotest part of the British Isles, lies 66 km west of Benbecula in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, in the North Atlantic Ocean, and represents the remnants of a long-extinct ring volcano rising from the seabed plateau. Regarding the archipelago's name, there are several theories, but none seems to be satisfactory, especially there isn't known a saint by the name of Kilda. The largest island in the group is Hirta, which comprises more than 78% of the land area of the archipelago.

April 21, 2013

0610 HUNGARY (Veszprém) - A horse-drawn wagon in Ajka

As said Bernadett, this postcard is part of a series published in 2009, when the city Ajka, situated in the hills of Bakony, in western Hungary, celebrated 50 years of existence. At first glance it seems a bit strange the presence of a postcard showing a horse-drawn wagon in such a series devoted to a mining town founded in 1960, even if the Hungarians are passionate about horses and have a long tradition in their breeding, but things are not so, because the settlement, named after the Ajka clan, was first mentioned in 1214, to the age of the Árpád dynasty, when it was already about a hundred years old.

April 20, 2013

0609 CROATIA (Šibenik-Knin) - Kornati National Park and Telašćica Nature Park (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

In the central part of the Croatian Adriatic, in the northern part of Dalmatia, on the meeting point of Šibenik and Zadar islands, is situated a group of 140 islands, the densest in the Mediterranean Sea, called Kornati. Because of its exceptional landscape beauty, interesting geomorphology, diversity of the coastline and especially because of the rich biocoenoses of the marine ecosystem, greater part of the Kornati maritime zone has been declared a national park in 1980, and in 2007 was included on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Site, under the name Kornati National Park and Telašćica Nature Park.

April 19, 2013

0608 BRAZIL (Santa Catarina) - A Tyrolean settlement in the south of Brazil

No, isn't a mistake! The overwhelming majority of the more than 5,000 inhabitants of Treze Tílias (Dreizehnlinden in German), a municipality located in the state of Santa Catarina, has Austrian ancestors. It was founded on 13 October 1933 by Andreas Thaler, former minister of agriculture in Austria, who managed, despite strong political opposition, to obtain funds and to persuade some impoverished peasant families from Tyrol and Vorarlberg to emigrate in Brazil, where to start a new life. He drowned in circumstances insufficient explained during a flood in 1939, but the emigration continued until 1959, when the Austrian economy has fully recovered.

April 18, 2013

0606 GEORGIA (Samtskhe-Javakheti) - Vardzia-Khertvisi (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

0606 Vardzia

Vardzia-Khertvisi, comprising a vast territory in the upper reaches of the Kura River (Mt'k'vari in Georgian) basin, and spread over 18 km from Khertvisi (Medieval residence) to Vardzia is significant in many respects: unique natural conditions contributing to the specific microclimate and landscape, historical context and diversity of cultural heritage.Vardzia is a cave monastery site excavated in the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Kura River.

April 17, 2013

0604 NORTH CYPRUS - Famagusta, the Ghost Town

Located on the east coast of Cyprus, in a bay between Cape Eloea and Cape Greco, and home to the deepest harbour on the island, Famagusta is de jure the capital of Famagusta District of the Republic of Cyprus, and de facto capital of Gazimağusa District of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. Founded in 300 BC by Greeks settlers, it remained for a long time a fishing village, then a small port. The things have changed radically with the downfall of Acre (1291), the last major stronghold of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, followed by an influx of Christian refugees and the passing under the rule of the French Lusignan dynasty. Thus the village became one of the richest cities in Christendom.

April 16, 2013

0603 POLAND (Lower Silesia) - Książ Castle

Located on a rock cliff on the bank of the Pelcznica RiverKsiąż Castle (Zamek Książ), often called "the Pearl of Lower Silesia", is surrounded by the forest, within a protected area called Książ Landscape Park. The original fortification was destroyed in 1263 by Ottokar II of Bohemia, but 25 years later Bolko I, Duke of Świdnica and Jawor, built a new castle. It passed through several hands (including of the Hussites) until 1482, when it was destroyed again. In 1509 it became the property of Hoberg family (from 1714: Hochberg), who owned it until 1941, when was taken by German State partly to pay taxes, partly as punishment for the "treason" of Hans Heinrich’s eldest children: one served in the British army, the other in the Polish one. During WWII was part of the Project Riese, which consisted in the building of seven underground military complexes of the Nazi Germany. In 1945 the castle was occupied by the Red Army, and all artifacts were lost or destroyed.

April 15, 2013

0600 GEORGIA (Tbilisi) - Tbilisi Historic District (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

0600 Tbilisi - Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue

Founded in the 5th century in the heart of the Caucasus by Vakhtang Gorgasali (the monarch of Georgia's precursor Kingdom of Iberia), Tbilisi has served as Georgia's capital for nearly 1500 years, and its proximity to east-west trade routes made the city a point of contention between various rival empires. Located on the both banks of the Kura River (Mt'k'vari in Georgian) and dominated by Mount Mtatsminda, Narikala fortress and the Kartlis Deda monument, Tbilisi Historic District is the center of the Old Tbilisi.

April 14, 2013

0599 POLAND (West Pomerania) - Ducal Castle in Szczecin

The castle in the postcard was the seat of the dukes of Pomerania-Stettin of the House of Pomerania (Griffins), who ruled the Duchy of Pomerania from 1121 to 1637.  Actually the Duchy of Pomerania and House of Pomerania are one and the same thing, because the duchy originated from the realm of Wartislaw I, a Slavic Pomeranian duke, the founder of the House of Pomerania, and ceased to exist in 1637, with the death of Bogislaw XIV, the last member of the house, when it was partitioned between Brandenburg-Prussia and Sweden. Located on the south shore of the Baltic Sea, between the rivers Recknitz in the west and Vistula in the east, after the WWII Pomerania was partitioned between East Germany and Poland.

April 12, 2013

0597 ROMANIA (Iaşi) - Church of the Three Hierarchs in Iaşi (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Erected between 1637 and 1639 in the heart of Iaşi, the then capital of Principality of Moldavia, Biserica Trei Ierarhi (Church of the Three Hierarchs) reflects the aspiration of the founder, the Voivode Vasile Lupu, towards the Byzantine world. The edifice was dedicated to the saints Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, that places it in a world that was why of the Church Fathers, defenders of Nicene Dogma and of the unity of the Church. Built of limestone blocks carved and shaped, glued together with molten lead, the church complies the typical plan of the contemporary Moldovan churches, with three apses polygonal to outside and semicircular to inside, with three windows each. The uniqueness of the monument comes from the continuous network of ornamentation carved in stone that covers the exterior walls with mainly Armenian, Georgian, Persian, Arabic and Turkish models, but also with Russian, Baroque or indigenous inspired elements. Paul of Aleppo, the Syrian who passed by Moldova in 1653, wrote that the church "amazes the mind of the one who sees it", and the Turk Evlia Celebi, in 1659, that "there's no way to describe it with language or with feather." The original painting was done by Russian masters Sidor Pospeev, Iakov Gavrilov, Deico Iakovliev şi Pronka Nikitin, the best painters in the court of the Tsar, aided by Moldovans Nicolae Zugravul and Ştefan Zugravul (zugrav means dauber).

April 11, 2013

0596 GREECE (Attica) - Evzones at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Athens

The word evzōnos (meaning the "well-girt" men) was first attested in Homer's Iliad, being used in the following centuries to describe a type of light infantry with elite status. The military tradition of Greeks reborn after obtaining the independence, more accurate from 1833, when Otto, the first king of Greece, organized the Greek Army along new lines. The Bavarians that had come with him formed the majority of the "European" Line Infantry battalions, among these units being one rifle company, named Skirmisher or Evzone. In addition, ten light Skirmisher battalions were formed from Greeks, dressed in a uniform based on the garb of the klephts of the War of Independence. The first four elite Evzone light battalions were formed in 1867, with the task of guarding the frontier.

0595 UKRAINE (Odessa Oblast) - Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater - part of Historic Center of the Port City of Odessa (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Opera and Ballet Theater is one of the most famous edifices in Odessa, together with Potemkin Stairs. The first opera house, designed by the Saint Petersburg architect Thomas de Thomon, was opened in 1810 and destroyed by fire in 1873, and the modern building was constructed by two Viennese architects, Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer in neo-baroque style and opened in 1887. The theatre was the first building in Odessa to employ the Edison Company with electric illumination.

UKRAINE (Odessa Oblast) - Historic Center of the Port City of Odessa (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

On terraced hills that descends to a small harbor on the Black Sea, located at 30km north of the estuary of the Dniester river, there were settlements from ancient times, firstly a Greek colony, and then a Tatar village, fallen under Ottoman rule in 1529, but the city of Odessa was founded only in 1794, by a decree of the Empress Catherine the Great, after the Ottomans, defeated in the Russo-Turkish War, ceded the region to Russian Empire. The city grew rapidly, and in the 19th century Odessa was the center of the General Government of Novorossiya (New Russia).

0594 UKRAINE (Odessa Oblast) - Vorontsov Lighthouse in Odessa

0594 Vorontsovsky Lighthouse in Odessa

The Vorontsov Lighthouse is a famous red-and-white, 27.2m landmark in the Black Sea port of Odessa, named after Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, one of the governors-general of the Odessa region. The present lighthouse, a white cylindrical concrete tower (80m heigh) with a red lantern, was reconstructed in the postwar period, the old one being exploded in WWII. Before the foundation of Odessa, there existed a "seamen’s lantern", represented by a stone tower with a metallic brazier on the top, in which the fire was kept up from time to time.

April 9, 2013

0592 GERMANY (Saxony) - A steam locomotive in Neudorf, on the Fichtelberg Railway

This is one of the postcards that gave me trouble in terms of documentation, but in the end I managed to clarify things. I received it from Russia, and on the back writes "Printed in Russia, 2012". Okay, but where in (huge) Russia and what kind of locomotive is it? I started with the number, 99 786, but I found nothing. So I searched on the Internet the image and I found it on many websites, with the specification "Oberwiesenthal - Cranzhal (Fichtelbergbahn), Germany". Well, Fichtelbergbahn (Fichtelberg Railway) is a narrow gauge railway that leads from the standard gauge international line at Cranzahl (not Cranzhal) to the ski resort of Oberwiesenthal (the highest town in Germany) in the Erzgebirge mountains (Ore Mountains), today the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, but from centuries the natural border between Saxony and Bohemia.

0591 PHILIPPINES (Southwestern Tagalog Region) - Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (UNESCO WHS)

Located on the northern coast of the island of Palawan, this park offers a spectacular limestone karst landscape, the main attraction being St. Pauls Underground River Cave - a more than 24km long cave, which contains an 8.2-km-long underground section of Cabayugan River, which was the world's longest underground river until 2007, when was discovered another one longest in Yucatán Peninsula. The river winds through the cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea, and is navigable with a boat up to 4km in from the sea.

April 7, 2013

0589 FINLAND (Kymenlaakso) - Hamina and its star-shaped fortress

Located in Southern Finland, Hamina is one of the most important harbours of the country, specialises in forest products and transit cargo to Russia. The settlement named Vehkalahti, known since 1336, got the city status in 1653 as Vehkalahden Uusikaupunki (New City of Vehkalahti). During Great Northern War it was ruined by the Russian troops, and after Treaty of Nystadt (1721), when Old Finland become part of Russian Empire, Vehkalahti become the important border Swedish fortress. The fortress Fredrikshamn (name shortened by Finns in Hamina) was founded above the city ruins. During the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-1743 it was yielded to Russia, which strengthened and expanded it, but after that Finland was included entirely to Russian Empire (1809) it has lost its military value. There were no significant events in Hamina history in 20th century, apart from dissolution of Russian Empire and birth of independent Finland state in 1918.