May 27, 2013

0659 FINLAND (Satakunta) - Bronze Age Burial Site of Sammallahdenmäki (UNESCO WHS)

Sammallahdenmäki is a Bronze age burial site in the village of Kivikylä, on a hill in a remote area off the road between Tampere and Rauma. Originally, it was near the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, but the land has risen, so now it is 15km from the sea. It was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999, under the name Bronze Age Burial Site of Sammallahdenmäki, and includes 36 granite burial cairns dating back more than 3,000 years, from 1500 BC to 500 BC. Four of the cairns were excavated by archaeologist Volter Högman in 1891, including Kirkonlaattia (Church Floor), an unusual rectangular cairn covering 16 x 19m with a flat top, and Huilun pitkä raunio (long ruin of Huilu), which is surrounded by an ancient stone wall.

May 24, 2013

0657 HUNGARY (Komárom-Esztergom) - The Basilica of Esztergom

Esztergom, one of the oldest towns in Hungary, was a long time a frontier town, as also its name say it (the Old Slavonic name, Strěgom, means guard post). Erected by Celts, then conquered by Romans, who turned it into an important frontier point on the boundary of the province of Pannonia, the town was mastered successively by Germans and Avars. At about 500 AD, Slavic peoples settled there, in the 9th century, the region being part of Great Moravia. After the arrival of the Magyars, Géza chose Esztergom as his residence in 960, and his son, future Stephen I, was born in his palace built on the Roman castrum on the Várhegy (Castle Hill). Here, in Esztergom, he was baptised and later crowned. For almost 300 years it was the center of the country's political and economic life, and it has retained its importance even after moving the capital to Buda. Only the Ottoman conquest in 1526 brought a decline of the city.

May 23, 2013

0656 THAILAND (Kanchanaburi) - The Bridge on the River Kwai

Until 1957, when was released the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, world public opinion didn't know much about how was built the Burma Railway. The largely fictional film plot is loosely based on the building in 1943 of one of the railway bridges over the Mae Klong - renamed Khwae Yai in the 1960s - at a place called Tha Ma Kham, 5km from the town of Kanchanaburi. This railway, also known as the Death Railway, was a 415km railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), built by the Empire of Japan during WWII, to support its forces in the Burma campaign.

May 22, 2013

0655 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / Gelderland) - Devils House in Arnhem

Located on both banks of the river Nederrijn (Lower Rhine) as well as on the stream Sint-Jansbeek, Arnhem was first mentioned in 893, received city rights in 1233 and entered the Hanseatic League in 1443. In fact it arose on the location where the road between Nijmegen and Utrecht/Zutphen split, and only when the Rhine's flow was changed in 1530 was located on the river. In the 19th century, it was a genteel resort town famous for its picturesque beauty, being known as The Little Hague of the East. To those passionate about the history of the WWII Arnhem is known due to the Operation Market Garden, about which I wrote a little here and here.

May 21, 2013

0654 GERMANY (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) - Zeesenboot on Bodden

A bodden is a special realm, split between sea and land, without really belong to any of them. Isn't a lake, because has connections with the open sea. Isn't a bay, because is almost completely enclosed by peninsulae, spits and islands. Isn't neither a lagoon in the true sense of the word, because freshwater inflow from the mainland and saltwater inflow from the open sea varies continuously, depending on many factors, resulting a fluctuating salt gradient and a distinctive ecosystem. Located along the southwestern shores of the Baltic Sea, primarily in Germany's state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, especially around the island of Rügen, Usedom and the Fischland-Darss-Zingst peninsula, are traditionally good fishing areas.

May 20, 2013

0651 POLAND (Pomerania) - Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (UNESCO WHS)

This castle (Ordensburg Marienburg in German, that means Mary's Castle), built by the Teutonic Knights after the conquest of Old Prussia on the southeastern bank of the river Nogat, is the largest castle in the world by surface area, and the largest brick building in Europe. The Teutonic Order (on its full name Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem) had been created in Acre (present-day Israel), but when this stronghold fell to Arabs, it moved its headquarters to Venice, and then in Poland. The construction of the castle lasted until around 1300, and it became more important in the aftermath of the conquest of Gdańsk (Danzig) and Pomerania (1308), becoming the Order's administrative centre.

May 17, 2013

0650 GERMANY (Saxony-Anhalt) - Die Grüne Zitadelle von Magdeburg

Born at Vienna in 1928 and became, to maturity, citizen of New Zealand, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) is one of the best-known artists of the end of the 20th century, but also one of the most controversial. Half-Jew (his mother was Jewish), he avoided persecution under the Nazi regime joining the Hitler Youth, and due to the experiences from that period he had always an strong anti-totalitarian position. Maybe that's why his works were remarked firstly by bright colours, organic forms, rejecting the straight lines, and a strong individualism.

May 16, 2013

0648 AUSTRALIA (Western Australia) - Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral

0648 Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral

St Francis Xavier Cathedral is the first Catholic Church in Geraldton, a port in the Mid West region of Western Australia, and is considered by many to be the greatest work of John Hawes, architect and priest. He designed the building intending to "avoid any slavish imitation of past styles (and) to give character and expression to the building by austere simplicity of design and by harmonious proportions of the several parts… Solidity and massiveness have been chosen rather than prettiness and elegance".

May 12, 2013

0645 FINLAND (Uusimaa) - Fortress of Suomenlinna (UNESCO WHS)

Due to the expansion of Russia in the 18th century in the Baltic Sea, Sweden, until then the dominant power in this sea, had to develope its fortifications from Finland, in those times still part of the Swedish kingdom. As part of this plan, in 1748 it commenced the construction of the gigantic Sveaborg (Fortress of Svea) on six islands (Kustaanmiekka, Susisaari, Iso-Mustasaari, Pikku-Mustasaari, Länsi-Mustasaari and Långören) located near Helsinki, intended to defend the city, but also to be an important naval base.

May 8, 2013

0635 FINLAND (Central Finland) - Petäjävesi Old Church (UNESCO WHS)

The Petäjävesi Old Church (Petäjäveden vanha kirkko) is a wooden church located in Central Finland region, on a peninsula where Lakes Jamsa and Petäjävesi meet, at about 1 km away from the town of Petäjävesi. Built in 1763-1764 by a peasant master-builder, was actually completed in 1821 by his grandson, who added the bell tower at the west end. When a new church was erected in 1879, the old one went out of use, being repaired only in the 1920s, when an Austrian art historian drew attention to its historical and architectural value.

0634 GERMANY (North Rhine-Westphalia) - Schlosspark Benrath

Set near Düsseldorf, in the middle of a large park and surrounded by water features, Schloss Benrath (Benrath Castle) is a Rococo maison de plaisance, a testimony to late-Baroque taste. Erected for the Elector Palatine Charles Theodore by his garden and building director and garden supervisor, Nicolas de Pigage, it was begun in 1755 and completed in 1770. A combination of palace and park was planned from the outset here, the "architectural oeuvre", "garden oeuvre" and "water oeuvre" forming a whole.

May 7, 2013

0633 SPAIN (Catalonia) - Palau de la Música Catalana - part of Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona (UNESCO WHS)

Probably the most important work of the Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850-1923), highly influential on the movement Modernisme català, is the Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music), a concert hall in La Ribera, Barcelona, built between 1905 and 1908 as a home for the choral society Orfeó Català. Its exuberant design is typical for the movement, the curves predominating over straight lines, dynamic shapes being preferred over static forms, and rich decoration, that emphasizes floral and other organic motifs, being used extensively.

0632 MOROCCO (Souss-Massa-Drâa) - The Ichbakan village

Located on the High Atlas Mountains, at 2,100m altitude, after the impresive gorge of Tessaout River (actually an oued), which allowed the deposit of fertile silt washed from the mountains, Ichbakan is a Berber village composed by two distinct agglomerations, placed at 500m from each other, each perched on its peak around a tighermt, a fortified granary which was in the past the defensive core of the inhabitants. Between the two agglomerations are walnuts and grain fields. In summer, the herds are on the heights, apart from a few cows which returning to the barn in the evening. Ait Affans, who inhabit this mountainous enclave, are among the most isolated populations of the Atlas. In the winter, six months a year, Tessaout, swollen by snowmelt, cut the communications with the outside world.

About the stamp I wrote here.

sender: Hanane (direct swap)
sent from Taroudant (Morocco), on 05.02.2013

May 6, 2013

0631 VIETNAM (Southeast) - Ho Chi Minh City

Only this is writed on the postcard: Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh - the same thing in vietnamese). I don't see the link between this photo depicting two vietnamese women in traditional clothes (áo dài - a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over pantaloons) who crosses a makeshift footbridge, and the largest city of the country, now Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon (when it was the capital city of the French colony of Cochin-china and later the capital of the republic of South Vietnam).

May 5, 2013

0630 ROMANIA (Suceava) - Painted eggs from Moldoviţa

Easter is the most important Christian feast, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary. First Council of Nicaea in 325 established that the "Easter is in the first Sunday after the first full moon which falls on or after the vernal equinox." However, primarily due to the used calendar (but also due to the different algorithms used), Orthodox Christians on the one hand and the Catholics and Protestants on the other, usually celebrate Easter on different days. This year the Catholics and the Protestants have celebrated Easter on March 31, and the Orthodox celebrate it today, on May 5. I'm Romanian, and as most Romanians I'm Orthodox, so today I celebrate the Easter, and this postcard seems to me most appropriate for today.

May 4, 2013

0629 LAOS (Luang Prabang) - Nang Songkran at Luang Prabang

Songkran refer to the celebration of the New Year by the people from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, but also by the some minorities of Vietnam, Yunnan province of China, Sri Lanka and eastern of India, when the sun transits the constellation of Aries, the first astrological sign in the Zodiac. In Laos is also named Pii Mai, and lasts generally for three days, from April 13 to April 15, with few exceptions, like Luang Prabang, where lasts a week. The first day is the last day of the old year, the second is the "day of no day", and the last one marks the start of the new year.

0628 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - The stolen bikes in Amsterdam

This postcard is one of the unusual that I've received so far regarding the subject. Besides canals, architecture, museums and liberal atmosphere, Amsterdam is also known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. The earliest well-known community bicycle programme, so-called White Bicycle Plan, was started in 1965 in this city. Now, bike racks are ubiquitous, because 60% of all journeys in the inner city are made by bicycle. On the other hand, each year about 100,000 bicycle (between the existing 100,000,000) are stolen and 25,000 of them end up in the canals, which therefore must be constantly cleaned. It's what do the people from the image.

May 3, 2013

0156, 0238, 0627 GERMANY (North Rhine-Westphalia) - Der Neue Zollhof and other stuff from Düsseldorf

Posted on 25.03.2012 and completed on 05.06.2012 and 03.05.2013
Grown on the mud and the sand of the east bank of the Lower Rhine, where the delta of the River Düssel flows into the Rhine, almost a thousand years ago, Düsseldorf granted the town privileges în 1288. Rival of the older and wealthy Cologne (located just 40 km upstream, which today means 18 minutes by Regional Bahn), the city has constantly developed as commercial, but also as cultural center, both under the dukes of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and under the house of Wittelsbach, peaking during the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm II (r. 1690-1716). Strongly affected by the Napoleonic Wars, Düsseldorf enjoyed a revival by the mid-19th century, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Heavily bombed by the allies in WWII, in 1946 Düsseldorf was made capital of the new federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Located now centrally within The Blue Banana, in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, is one of the country's five global cities (together with Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin). The city itself has only 590,000 inhabitants (of which 110,000 are foreigners), but this doesn’t prevent to be one of the top telecommunications centres in Germany, and also one of advertising and fashion industries.

In the largest picture on the first postcard, but also in the second one, can seen Der Neue Zollhof (New Customs House), located in Unterbilk. The complex, consisting of three separate buildings, was designed in a style commonly considered deconstructivism by American architect Frank O. Gehry (which designed, among others, Olympic Fish from Barcelona, and Dancing House from Prague) and was completed in 1998. Floorplans and facades of all three buildings are curve and lean (constructed of concrete flat slab), reason for them being likened to leaning towers. Each building has a different facade cladding - the outer two in white plaster and red brick respectively; the central building's stainless steel facade reflects material and shapes of its two neighbour buildings. Otherwise geometry, massing and exterior material, provides each of the buildings with a unique identity. The buildings currently occupied primarily by… warehouses.

In the background of the second postcard is Rheinturm (Rhine Tower), a 240.5m high concrete telecommunications tower, built between 1979 and 1981. It houses a revolving restaurant and an observation deck at a height of 170m. As a special attraction, there is a light sculpture on its shaft which works as a clock, the biggest digital clock in the world. This sculpture was designed by Horst H. Baumann and is called Lichtzeitpegel (Light Time Level).

The other five figures illustrate in the first postcard, from left to right, are:
● a sculpture made by Horst Antes in 1986-1987, located in Bertha von Suttner Square, behind the Düsseldorf Central Station (Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof)
● promenade along the banks of the Rhine to the Medienhafen. In background can seen the Theodor Heuss Bridge, also known as the Nordbrücke (North bridge), a cable-stayed bridge built from 1953 to 1957, the clock tower of the ancient collegiate church of St Lambertus, and castle tower
● Central Station (Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof)
● Galeria Kaufhof 'an der Kö' (on Königsallee), a department store located centrally on Düsseldorf’s internationally renowned shopping boulevard in the heart of the city, between the Altstadt and Schadowstrasse.

0619, 0625, 0626 GERMANY (Bavaria) - Bad Tölz

Posted on 28.04.2013 and completed on 03.05.2013
Located in Upper Bavaria, on the Isar River, Tölz was mentioned for the first time in 1180, and in 1331 it became a market town, with an extensive Marktrechte, due to the fact that there was on a crossroads for the salt and lumber traffic on the river. A great fire destroyed large parts of the town in 1453, but soon it was reconstructed, and flourished again. It became also famous for crafts with the beautiful coloured chests, cases and beds. In 1845, iodine was found close to the town, so Markt Tölz became Bad Tölz (spa resort) in 1899. During the WWII near the town was an officers' training school for the Waffen-SS, and also a subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp.

In the second postcard is the historic Marktstrasse (Market Street), with Stadtmuseum (City Museum) and Bürgerbräu, which is characterized by Lüftlmalerei, frescoes illustrating Bavarian myths, religious scenes, fairytales or architectural trompe-l'œil found on many buildings. Lüftlmalerei is common for Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria) and its name may be derived from an Oberammergau house called Zum Lüftl, which was the home of facade painter Franz Seraph Zwinck (1748-1792). On the buildings can be seen also the town's flag, with the colours black and gold, and Bavaria's flag, with the colours white and blue.

A climb to Kalvarienberg (Calvary) is rewarded not only by the wide view of the Isar valley and the city, but also by a baroque church with the double two slim towers, Krone von Tölz (Crown of Tolz). The Holy Stairs can be found inside the church; these stairs were initially built outdoors and the church was built over it later on. In addition, visitors can take a look at the Golgotha hill with its larger-than-life crucifixion ensemble, which was erected in 1735. Another cruciform church with a holy sepulcher was built at the base of the hill between 1723 and 1726.

May 2, 2013

0624 SPAIN (Community of Madrid) - Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid (UNESCO WHS)

Originally a property of the Hieronymite monks, now a monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine, the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is an historical residence of the King of Spain, located in the town with the same name, about 45km northwest of Madrid, at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat.

May 1, 2013

0217, 0623 UNITED KINGDOM (Gibraltar) - Aerial view of Gibraltar

0217 Aerial view of Gibraltar (1)

Posted on 23.05.2012, 01.05.2013
For the ancient Greeks, this was the west edge of the world. Gone to fulfill the tenth labour ordered by King Eurystheus, i.e. to fetch the red cattle of Geryon, Hercules marked the place where Libya meets Europe with two rocks, one on each shore, to immortalize his journey. Since then, these promontories were named Pillars of Heracles (Hercules for Romans). The 14 km of water that separates Africa from Europe have never been an obstacle for those who wanted to cross from one continent to another, be they Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines or Muslims.

0623 Aerial view of Gibraltar (2)

Actually, the Muslim Berber general who led the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711-718 A.D., Tariq ibn Ziyad on his name, gave the current name of the Mons Calpe, respectively Gibraltar (Jabal Tāriq - mountain of Tariq). Strait of Gibraltar was also, during many hundreds of years, a easy way to pass from the Mediterranean into the Atlantic or vice versa. And all those listed before did it easily, plus the Vikings, Venetians, Spaniards and others, including pirates of all nations, only the development of artillery complicating things later.