July 31, 2013

0776 FRANCE (Corsica) - Calanche of Piana (UNESCO WHS)

After longer or shorter periods of time when was occupied successively by Carthaginians, ancient Greeks, Etruscans, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Saracens, Lombards, and Franks, island of Corsica, located in the Mediterranean Sea, north of the (now Italian) island of Sardinia, was taken into possession by Genoese in 1347, who governed it until 1729. Independently for few years, it was conquered by France in 1769. In general, Corsica is known for its pirates and smugglers, and because it was the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, but this island has many other things which worth known and appreciated, from natural beauties, to the history and traditions.

July 30, 2013

0775 GERMANY (North Rhine-Westphalia) - Glaselefant in Hamm

Founded on 1226 by Count Adolf I of the Mark, Hamm was member of the Hanseatic League, and in 15th century became one of the most powerful towns in the region. Ham means "corner" in the old Low German dialect, and the name of the city derives from the description of its location in the corner of the Lippe river and the narrow Ahse affluent, in the northeastern part of the Ruhr area. During the 19th and early 20th century, Hamm has been one of the West German mining towns.

0773 SWITZERLAND (Bern) - Old City of Bern (UNESCO WHS)

The city of Bern, Bundesstadt (federal city, de facto capital) of Switzerland since 1848, was founded in 1191 and grew to become the biggest aristocratic city-state north of the Alps and a major power in the Old Swiss Confederacy. The medieval city center, named The Old City, built on a narrow hill surrounded on three sides by the Aare River, has remained essentially unchanged since its construction during the 12th to the 15th century, despite the major fire from 1405, and the substantial construction efforts from the 18th century.

0772 FINLAND (Ostrobothnia) - Kvarken Archipelago (UNESCO WHS)

Because "affords outstanding opportunities for the understanding of the important processes that formed the glaciated and land uplift areas of the Earth's surface", the Kvarken Archipelago (Finland) and the High Coast (Sweden), situated in the Gulf of Bothnia, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. The 5,600 islands of the archipelago feature unusual ridged washboard moraines (De Geer moraines), formed by the melting of the continental ice sheet, 10,000 to 24,000 years ago. As a consequence of the process of rapid glacio-isostatic uplift, whereby the land, previously weighed down under the weight of a glacier, lifts from the sea, the islands appear and unite, peninsulas expand, and lakes evolve from bays and develop into marshes and peat fens.Vegetation is typical of the west Eurasian taiga with a mix of alpine, boreal forest and wetland communities.

July 28, 2013

0771 BOLIVIA (La Paz) - La Paz

On his full name Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace), the administrative capital of Bolivia is located in the western part of the country, at an elevation of roughly 3,650m above sea level, being the world's highest de facto capital city, or administrative capital (Quito is the highest legal capital). The city sits in a "bowl" surrounded by the high mountains of the altiplano. Overlooking it is towering triple-peaked Illimani (in the postcard), which is always snow-covered and can be seen from several spots of the city.

July 27, 2013

0769, 0770 JAPAN (Chūgoku) - Museum of Folkcraft in Kurashiki

Kurashiki is one of Japan's great old merchant towns, located along a scenic canal at the foot of Mount Tsurugata, and its white-walled storehouses escaped WWII largely unscathed, are beautifully preserved and open for exploration. It was the site of clashes between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the Heian period. During the Edo period, when it became an area directly controlled by the shogunate, Kurashiki did heavy trade with the capital in rice, sugar, and other goods, and later, during the Meiji Restoration, it became known for textiles. The old merchant quarter, Bikan historical area, contains many fine examples of 17th century wooden warehouses (kura) painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi. The area has no electric poles in order to make the area more closely resemble the look of the Meiji period.

Museum of Folkcraft in Kurashiki, opened in 1948 as a project of the Okayama Prefecture Folkcrafts Association, is housed in three vintage structures connected by narrow corridors and old stairwells, actually renovated rice storehouses typical of the city. With the striking contrast of its white walls and black roof tiles, one may say the structure itself is an excellent example of Japanese folkcrafts. Inside, some 1,000 old and new works from around the world are on display, including pottery, woven and dyed textiles, gold work, stone carving, woodwork lacquerware, washi paper, bamboocraft and glass work.

Japanese culture is diverse, but despite this, in terms on the interior of the houses, the aesthetic is one of simplicity and minimalism, made with attention to detail and intricacy, in generally based from ideals of Taoism, imported from China. Traditional interiors incorporate natural materials (fine woods, bamboo, silk, rice straw mats, and paper shōji screens), used to keep simplicity in the space that connects to nature. Natural color schemes are used and neutral palettes including black, white, off-white, gray, and brown. The size of rooms can be altered by interior sliding walls or screens, named fusuma. Cupboards built into the wall hide futon, mattresses pulled out before going to bed, allowing more space to be available during the day. To cover the floor are used tatami, rice straw floor mats. 

July 26, 2013

0768 FRANCE (Brittany) - La Vieille

The Pointe du Raz (Beg ar Raz in Breton language) is a promontory that extends into the Atlantic from western Brittany, and, even if it isn't the westernmost extent of France (that would be Pointe de Corsen, just to the north), is considered "the end of the world", France’s equivalent of Land’s End, in the southern UK. It is named after the Raz de Sein, the dangerous stretch of water between it and the island of Sein (Enez Sun in Breton). As can be seen in the postcard, is a wild and dramatic place of crashing waves and strong winds. It became popular in the 19th century, thanks to its appearance in the works of Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo, who were enchanted by its stark beauty.

July 25, 2013

0767 NEW ZEALAND (South Island) - Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along Koekohe Beach, at a place named Kumara, midway between Hampden and Moeraki townships in North Otago. According to Maori legend, the origin of the boulders dates from the loss of the Arai-te-uru, one of the large sailing canoes that came from Hawaiki. On her quest south for the precious greenstone, the canoe was wrecked near Shag Point (Matakaea). The reef which today extends seawards is the canoe's petrified hull, while close by, in the shape of a prominent rock, stands the petrified body of her commander. Strewn along the beach are the boulders which represent the eel baskets, calabashes, and kumaras washed ashore from the wreck. The name Moeraki (Moerangi) means "drowsy day".

0169, 0646, 0647, 0766 POLAND (Mazovia) - Historic Centre of Warsaw (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 11.04.2012, 14.05.2013, 25.07.2013
The legend attributes the Warsaw name to a fisherman Wars and his wife Sawa, a mermaid who lived in the Vistula River and who Wars fell in love with. Nice legend, but actually Warsz was a 12th/13th century nobleman who owned a village located at the site of today's Mariensztat neighbourhood. Unlike other old cities of Poland, such Krakow or Poznan, Warsaw is a relatively young city, which really became important in 1596, when King Sigismund III Vasa moved the court from Kraków to Warsaw. So the capital of Mazovia became the capital of the Polish Crown, and of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, primarly due to its central location between the Commonwealth's capitals of Kraków and Vilnius. This location was the city's luck, but, given the troubled history of Poland, it has also brought it a lot of misfortune, being pillaged and burned several times.

The largest catastrophe suffered by the city was also the latest, during the WWII. Germans planned destruction of the Polish capital before the start of war, what they did after the Warsaw Uprising (1 August – 2 October 1944), under express orders of Hitler. Monuments and government buildings were blown up by Verbrennungs und Vernichtungskommando (Burning and Destruction Detachments), so that about 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle. By January 1945, about 85% of the buildings had been destroyed: 10% as a result of the September 1939 campaign and other combat, 15% during the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943), 25% during the Warsaw Uprising, and 35% due to systematic German actions after the Uprising.

In terms of population, the situation was even more terrible. In the Uprising, ca. 170,000 people died, from among which only 16,000 were insurgents, and after that all the civilians (ca. 650,000) were deported to the transit camp in Pruszków (Durchgangslager Pruszków). In general, during the German occupation (1939–1945) ca. 700,000 people died in Warsaw, i.e. more than all Americans and British. Thus, if the city had reached 1,300,000 inhabitants in 1939, at the end of 1945 had only 422,000 inhabitants.

After WWII, the Warsaw's Old Town (Stare Miasto), bounded by Wybrzeże Gdańskie, along the bank of the Vistula, and by Grodzka, Mostowa and Podwale Streets, was meticulously rebuilt. As many of the original bricks were reused as possible. The rubble was sifted for reusable decorative elements, which were reinserted into their original places. Bernardo Bellotto's 18th-century vedute, as well as pre-WWII architecture students' drawings, were used as essential sources in the reconstruction effort. The heart of the area is the Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta), which dates back to the end of the 13th century. The houses around it represented the Gothic style until the great fire of 1607, after which they were rebuilt in late-Renaissance style and eventually in late-Baroque style by Tylman Gamerski in 1701.

Besides the market itself, with its restaurants, cafés and shops, in the first postcard also appear (at the bottom, from left to right):

Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph, commonly known as the Carmelite Church (Kościół Karmelitów) - a Roman Catholic church built in 1692-1701 to the plan of Józef Szymon Bellotti, best known for its Neoclassical-style façade, erected by Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, who commissioned the Hungarian architect Efraim Szreger. It was one of the few buildings only slightly damaged during the WWII.

Church of Our Lady Queen of the Polish Crown (Katedra Polowa Wojska Polskiego) - built in the early 17th century, completely destroyed during the war with Sweden (1655-1660), and reconstructed in baroque style between 1660 and 1681. Restored in the years 1923-1933, destroyed again in 1944, and rebuilt after WWII, since 1991 was officially commissioned as the Polish Army field cathedral.

Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) - On the square is a column of King Sigismund III Vasa from 1644, the oldest and symbolic monument of the city (a work of Clemente Molli). On the right you can see the Royal Castle, the official residence of the Polish monarchs from 1526 to 1795, burned by the Germans in 1939 and then completely destroyed. The rebuilding of the Royal Castle complex will have been finalized in 1995. It can be also seen in the third and fourth postcard.

0765 ITALY (Sicily) - Mount Etna (UNESCO WHS)

As one of the world’s most active and iconic volcanoes, and also as an outstanding example of ongoing geological processes and volcanic landforms, Mount Etna was one of the 19 sites added to the World Heritage List this year, on the 37th session of the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, held between 16 and 27 June in Cambodia.

Located on the east coast of Sicily, close to Messina and Catania, this stratovolcano, the tallest active volcano on the European continent (3,329m), lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Its almost continuous eruptive activity continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other Earth science disciplines. The volcano also supports important terrestrial ecosystems including endemic flora and fauna and its activity makes it a natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south.

Eruptions of Etna follow a variety of patterns, but rarely threaten the inhabited areas around the volcano. Since the year AD 1600, at least 60 flank eruptions and countless summit eruptions have occurred, nearly half since the start of the 20th century. The most destructive eruption since 122 BC was in 1669 and produced lava flows that destroyed at least 10 villages on its southern flank before reaching the city walls of the town of Catania. 

July 24, 2013

0764 INDIA (Sikkim) - Kangchenjunga

Gaurav, who send me this postcard, say that depicts K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth, after Mount Everest, but it isn't so. As it is written on the postcard, but also how looks the peak, it's about Kangchenjunga (called by the locals Five Treasures of Snow), the third highest mountain in the world (8,586 m), located in a section of the Himalayas called Kangchenjunga Himal, on the boundary between Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim. Two of the five peaks are in Nepal, and the other three (main, central, and south) are on the border of North Sikkim and Nepal.

0763 THAILAND (Buriram) - Prasat Hin Muang Tum - part of Phimai, its Cultural Route and the Associated Temples of Phanomroong and Muang Tum (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Prasat Hin Muang Tum (in translation, according to some sources "stone castle of the humble city", and to others "low land castle") is a 1,000 years old Khmer temple complex, located in North East Thailand, near another better known Khmer complex, Phanom Rung, not far from the border with Cambodia. Built primarily in Angkor style, during a time when large parts of Thailand were controlled by the Khmer empire, in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, was created as a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, although Vishnu was also worshipped there.

July 23, 2013

0762 UNITED KINGDOM (England) - Canterbury Cathedral, St. Augustine's Abbey, and St. Martin's Church (UNESCO WHS)

In 597 arrived in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent Saint Augustine, with 40 monks and some Frankish priests, sent by Pope to Christianize Bretwalda (King) Æthelberht, who was married a Christian princess, Bertha, daughter of Charibert I the King of Paris. Because the main town of the kingdom was Canterbury, the saint founded an episcopal see here and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that now heads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion. Because Christ Church Cathedral, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church "reflect milestones in the history of Christianity in Britain", they were included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1988. 

0761 KYRGYZSTAN - Komuz player in national clothes

The komuz (qomuz), an ancient fretless string instrument, is the best-known national instrument and one of the better-known Kyrgyz national symbols. It is generally made from a single piece of wood (usually apricot or juniper), has three strings traditionally made out of gut, and is used either as accompaniment or as a lead instrument in a wide variety of musical styles, including aytysh (a song competition between akyns), and the recitation of the lengthy verse epic Manas or other heroic and lyric poetry. The names of parts of the komuz are often allusions to body parts, particularly of horses.

July 22, 2013

0497 & 0758 BRAZIL (Minas Gerais) - Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 06.02.2013 and completed on 22.07.2013
Some people, when get from life more than they deserved, think should thank to someone, more precisely to give, in one form or another, a part of what they got. In nowadays there are a lot of projects, of "causes", in which they can involve, but some time ago things were much simpler: they contented of divinity, building churches or at least making donations, as allowed him the pocket and the soul. Not a few among the works of art of the past were based on such motivations. Among the people of this type was the Portuguese adventurer Feliciano Mendes, who commissioned in the 18th century (to fulfill a vow made while he was desperately ill) the twelve sculptures of old testament prophets which adorn the forecourt of the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Matosinhos in Congonhas, a Brazilian city located in the state of Minas Gerais. Since 1985 UNESCO included this basilica to the World Heritage Sites list, under the name Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas.

The twelve sculptures don't correspond to the Twelve Minor Prophets, but include some of the Major Prophets and prophets whose works are part of the Old Testament deuterocanon: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Obadiah, Amos, Jonah, Nahum and Habakkuk. On the postcard are three of them: Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Joel (from the foreground to the plan removed). This soapstone sculptures are works of the artist Antônio Francisco Lisboa, commonly known as Aleijadinho. "As has been pointed out on numerous occasions", said UNESCO, "with Aleijadinho, a half-breed born in Vila Rica, Baroque sculpture takes on an aesthetic dimension that is unknown to Europe."

July 21, 2013

0757 CHINA (Sichuan) - Two men from the Sichuan province

This postcard captures an image from an ancient town in the Sichuan province, located in the southwest of the country, between Himalayas, Qinling Range and mountainous areas of Yunnan, and crossed by Yangtze River. Historically known as the "Province of Abundance", because is one of the major agricultural production bases of China, it was also the base for numerous amphibious military forces and served as the ideal hiding frontier for political refugees.

July 20, 2013

0722, 0756 SWEDEN (Stockholm) - Stockholm City Hall

0722 Stockholm City Hall

Posted on 06.07.2013, 20.07.2013
Located on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island, Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset in Swedish) is the building of the Municipal Council and houses offices and conference rooms as well as ceremonial halls, and the luxury restaurant Stadshuskällaren. Erected between 1911 and 1923 after the projects of Ragnar Östberg, which have undergone many changes, it was carried out by craftsmen using traditional techniques. Were used nearly eight million dark red bricks, called munktegel (monks's brick) because of their traditional use in the construction of monasteries and churches.

0756 Stockholm City Hall - interior

The building follows a roughly rectangular plan, being built around two open spaces, a piazza called Borgargården on the eastern side, and the Blue Hall (Blå hallen) to the west. The Blue Hall, named so even it hasn't blue decorations, is known as the dining hall used for the banquet held after the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony. After the 1,300 guests have finished dining, they move upstairs to the Stadshus’s most jaw-dropping room, the shimmering Golden Hall (Gyllene Salen - in the second postcard), where 19 million gold mosaic tiles decorate the walls.

0123, 0225 & 0755 LITHUANIA (Vilnius) - Trakai Historical National Park (UNESCO - Tentative List)

0225 Trakai Historical National Park (2)

Posted on 13.02.2012, 27.05.2012, and 20.07.2013
Along the history, many territories located today in Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus were owned successively by one or other of them, whether they were called Kievan Rus, Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania or Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. If at all these "players" we add the allogeneous involved - from the east the Tatars and Grand Duchy of Moscow (become Russian Empire and later Soviet Union) and from the west the Teutonic Knights and Kingdom of Prussia (become Germany) - things get complicated in the region. So it's no wonder that Trakai was built and preserved by people of different nationalities, respectively Karaims, Tatars, Lithuanians, Russians, Jews and Poles (order is random).

0123 Trakai Historical National Park (1)

The town began to grow in the 13th century in the place named Senieji Trakai (Old Trakai), and was first mentioned  in 1337 in Teutonic Knights chronicles. When Grand Duke Gediminas has settled in Vilnius, Senieji Trakai was inherited by his son the Duke Kęstutis, who moved the town to its current location. A new castle was built in the strait between lakes Galvė and Luka, known as the Peninsula Castle, and another one, known as the Island Castle, on one of the 21 islands of Lake Galvė. At the end of the 14th century the town was in the center of a conflict between Grand Duke Jogaila and his uncle, Kęstutis. In 1392 the conflict has ended, and Kęstutis's son, Vytautas, became the Grand Duke of Lithuania.

0755 Trakai Historical National Park (3)

He spent much time in Trakai, even though its official capital was Vilnius. Here also he will die in 1430. In early 15th century he replaced the wooden fortress with a stone-built castle. Actually the principal construction material was red bricks, stone blocks being used only in the foundations and the upper parts of buildings, and.its style could be described as Gothic, with some Romanesque features. During the rule of Sigismund Augustus (r. 1548–1569), the castle was redecorated in a Renaissance style. After the establishment of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in 1569, the town's importance declined, the castle becoming a luxurious prison for the political prisoners.