September 30, 2013

0819 FINLAND (Southwest Finland) - Archangel Michael's church in Turku

In 1894, when won the competition for the building of this church, Lars Sonck only just graduated from Helsinki Polytechnic Institute, and had long time to become one of the prominent figures of National Romanticism. Archangel Michael's church is a distinguished example of the neogothic style, built of red brick, with a roof made of grey green slate from Norway. It is a long church with three aisles, galleries and a multifaceted choir. In addition to the main entrance there are also doors at each corner of the church. The main spire rises to a height of 77 meters from the foundations.

0454 HUNGARY (Budapest) - Heroes' Square - part of Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue (UNESCO WHS)

0454  Heroes' Square in Budapest

Located at the end of Andrássy Avenue, next to City Park, Heroes' Square (Hősök tere) is one of the major squares of Budapest, rich with historic and political connotations. The central site of the square is the Millennium Memorial, with statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century (Árpád, Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba, and Töhötöm) and other outstanding figures of Hungarian history (on the left colonnade - Stephen I, Ladislaus I, Coloman, Andrew II, Béla IV, Charles I, Louis I; on the right colonnade - John Hunyadi, Matthias Corvinus, István Bocskay, Gabriel Bethlen, Imre Thököly, Francis II Rákóczi, Lajos Kossuth).

September 25, 2013

0817 UZBEKISTAN (Tashkent) - Navoi Theatre in Tashkent

The Navoi Theatre (Alisher Navoi State Academic Bolshoi Theatre) in Tashkent, one of the only 3 theatres that were given the status of Grand in the erstwhile Soviet Union, is also one of the leading centers of performing arts in Central Asia. Designed by the acclaimed architect Alexey Shchusev (who also built a mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow), it was named after Alisher Navoi (1441-1501), "the founder of Uzbek literature", and even "the founder of early Turkic literature".

0816 NEW ZEALAND (South Island) - Church of the Good Shepherd

Situated on the shores of Lake Tekapo, in the South Island of New Zealand, amongst the natural beauty of the lake and the mountains, the Church of the Good Shepherd was the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin. The foundation stone was laid by H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, on January 15th, 1935, and the completed church was dedicated by the Bishop of Christchurch on August 3rd, 1935. Designed by Christchurch architect R.S.D. Harman (1896-1953), and based on sketches by a local artist, Esther Hope (1885-1975), it is arguably one of the most photographed in New Zealand, and features an altar window that frames stunning views of the lake and mountains.

September 24, 2013

0815 GUATEMALA - Mayan weavers

As also in the south of Mexico, in Guatemala the tapestry of traditional textiles is even today a prominent feature in the indigenous Mayan communities. Since pre-Colombian times, women have hand-spun and hand-woven their families' traje (clothing) using the age-old back-strap loom. According to the Ancient Mayan Quiche (Kee-Chay) tradition, Ixchel, the female moon goddess has been weaving in this method since the beginning of time. In the back-strap loom, the tejedoras (weaver) physically creates the necessary tension to weave strands of dyed-cotton through the suspended threads. Using this loom, women throughout the Western highlands of Guatemala create the fabric panels that compose their intricate traditional clothing, including huipiles (blouses), tzutes (head wraps) and fajas (fabric belts).

Huipil (from the Nahuatl word huīpīlli) is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America. It is a loose-fitting tunic, generally made from two or three rectangular pieces of fabric which are then joined together with stitching, ribbons or fabric strips, which an opening for the head and if the sides are sewn, opening for the arms. Lengths of the huipil can vary from a short blouse-like garment or long enough to reach the floor.

Each region in the Western Highlands of Guatemala exhibits a distinct weaving pattern, color palette, and material composition. Much like a national flag, women wear their traditional traje as a proud representation of their hometown roots despite the fabric’s historical connection to the Spanish conquest. It is widely explained that colonial officials forced each community to wear a certain color and pattern to help in tax collection practices. Furthermore, these community-specific fabrics were used by the central government during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) to target specific indigenous communities. Rebel-sympathizing villagers throughout the Quiche region were targeted by the Ríos Montt regime. As a result, many women were forced to hide their traditional traje or exchange their huipiles for those of a neighboring region. However the Mayan women survived and  their weaving continued.

0814 INDONESIA (Sulawesi) - A Torajan with a tedong bonga

I wrote about Toraja and their special houses here, but I didn't say anything about the importance of water buffalo in their society, in lives, but also in death. In lives, wealth is counted by the ownership of water buffaloes. Together with pigs, buffaloes are the main animals in Toraja’s culture to be sacrificed in every ceremony, especially in Rambu Solo or Toraja’s funeral ceremony and Rambu Tuka or its thanksgiving ceremony. As a special animal, buffaloes in Toraja can be extremely expensive. One big "white” buffalo can be priced to tens of millions rupiah. In the postcard is a tedong bonga, a local variety, with a unique black and white colouration.

September 22, 2013

0812 CHINA (Jiangsu) - Zhouzhuang, the Venice of China

Located 30 km southeast of the city of Suzhou, Zhouzhuang, China's oldest water town, known as Zhenfang Lane in ancient times, is noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses and the elegant watery views. Called Yaocheng in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), it was part of the King of Wu, and in the mid of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) became a distribution center of food, silk, ceramics, arts and crafts in the south of China.

September 20, 2013

0666, 0810, 0811 GREECE (Attica) - Acropolis of Athens (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 03.06.2013 and completed on 20.09.2013
When we say Acropolis, our thoughts immediately fly to Athens, although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the term being a general one, which designate a citadel built upon an area of elevated ground with a defensive purpose. The fact is that the Acropolis of Athens had such a significance in history, that it's commonly known as "The Acropolis" without qualification. So I will use it myself in this way. Located on a flat-topped rock that rises 150m above sea level, the Acropolis was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC. In the Mycenaean era was built a massive wall around the hill, which will serve as the main defense until the 5th century and will shelter the main religious buildings of Athens. Totally destroyed by the Persians during the Greco-Persian Wars, Acropolis was rebuilt during the Golden Age of Athens (460–430 BC), under the leadership of Pericles, and in the near future. Since then dates all its major buildings, to the construction of which participated famous architects as Ictinus, Callicrates and Mnesicles, and the great sculptor Phidias.

The Parthenon (the tallest building in the first two postcards), a temple dedicated to the maiden goddess Athena, built between 447 and 432 BC, is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the culmination of the development of the Doric order. It is regarded also as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy, western civilization and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. The Parthenon was built under the general supervision of the artist Phidias, the architects being Ictinus and Callicrates. The funds were partly drawn from the treasury of the Delian League, which was moved from the Panhellenic sanctuary at Delos to the Acropolis in 454 BC. Some studies conclude that many of its proportions approximate the golden ratio. The most characteristic feature in the architecture and decoration of the temple is the Ionic frieze running around the exterior walls of the cella, which is the inside structure of the Parthenon.

Another magnificent building is the Erechtheion, an temple built between 421 and 406 BC by Mnesicles, the sculptor and mason of the structure being Phidias. Its eastern part was dedicated to Athena Polias, while the western part served the cult of Poseidon-Erechtheus and held the altars of Hephaestus and Voutos, brothers of Erechtheus. It was built of marble from Mount Pentelikon, with friezes of black limestone from Eleusis. It had elaborately carved doorways and windows, and its columns were ornately decorated and painted, gilded and highlighted with gilt bronze and multi-colored inset glass beads. On the north side, there is a large porch with six Ionic columns, and on the south, the famous "Porch of the Maidens", with six draped female figures (caryatids) as supporting columns (in the third postcard). Although of the same height and build, and similarly attired and coiffed, the six Caryatids are not the same: their faces, stance, draping, and hair are carved separately; the three on the left stand on their right knee, while the three on the right stand on their left knee. 

Because Acropolis of Athens and its monuments "are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world", it was designated an UNESCO WHS in 1987.

0809 SPAIN (Catalonia) - Park Güell - part of Works of Antoni Gaudí (UNESCO WHS)

Built betwen 1900 and 1914, after Gaudí's plans, on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Park Güell is even today one of the largest architectural works in south Europe. Inspired by the English garden city movement it was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, which included a large country house (Larrard House or Muntaner de Dalt House), next to a neighborhood of upper class houses called La Salut (The Health). Park Güell is the reflection of Gaudí’s artistic plenitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase (first decade of the 20th century).

September 19, 2013

0808 INDIA (Tamil Nandu) - Bharathanatyam dance

Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance form, popular chiefly in the state of Tamil Nadu, which denotes various 19th- and 20th-century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers called Devadasis. Considered to be a fire-dance, the mystic manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body, it is one of the five major styles (one for each element) that include Odissi (element of water), Kuchipudi (element of earth), Mohiniattam (element of air) and Kathakali (element of sky or aether). The name Bharatanatyam was coined in the 1930's to represent the three major elements of dance in the three syllables of the word Bharatha - bhava (facial expression), raga (melody), and tala (rhythm).

September 17, 2013

0807 GREECE (South Aegean) - Delos (UNESCO WHS)

The island of Delos, located near the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, is, without doubt, one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece, bearing traces of the succeeding civilizations in the Aegean world, from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the palaeochristian era. It had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Established as a culture center, Delos had an importance that its natural resources could never have offered. The island has limited water resources and no productive capacity for food, so even in 2001 it has a population of only 14 inhabitants. In 1990, UNESCO inscribed it on the World Heritage List, citing it as the "exceptionally extensive and rich" archaeological site which "conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port".

September 1, 2013

0167 & 0806 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - The island of Europe's last battlefield

Posted on 08.04.2012 and completed on 01.09.2013
Until to receive this postcard, I didn't know anything about the Texel island, the largest and most populated of the Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea (an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, as "the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world, with natural processes undisturbed throughout most of the area"), and also the westernmost of this archipelago, which extends to Denmark. Well, here took place at the end of WWII the Georgian Uprising (Opstand der Georgiërs), later called Europe's last battlefield, because virtually ended on May 20, 1945, so after Germany's general surrender (May 8). 

Only few know that, despite the racial politics of the Third Reich, the German army had in composition units formed from troops without Aryan blood, such as Indians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Turkmens, Tatars, Arabs etc. Among these units was the Georgian Legion, formed from émigrés living in Western Europe and Soviet prisoners of war who were enlisted, while facing certain death from starvation, disease, forced labor and brutality in POW camps. The 822nd battalion of this legion, consisted of 800 Georgians and 400 Germans, was posted to Subsection Texel on February 1945. Preparations started in late March for a move of several companies to the Dutch mainland to oppose Allied advances led to the rebellion of which I mentioned previously.

Shortly after midnight on the night of 5-6 April 1945, expecting an Allied landing soon, the Georgians rose up and took control of nearly the entire island. All the 400 Germans were killed while sleeping in the quarters they shared with Georgians, who used knives and bayonets. Members of the Dutch resistance participated and assisted the Georgians, who failed however to capture the naval batteries on the north and the south of the island.