October 29, 2013

0853 International Postcard Week

A few days ago I received from Brenda Perez (the owner of the wonderful blog 9teen87spostcards) this collectible postcard, edited (in only 250 copies) for the first ever International Postcard Week celebration. It was between 5 and 11 October, on October 9th being celebrated World Post Day. A wonderful initiative, about which you can find details here.

About the stamp, a Global Forever First-Class Mail International one (1.10 USD), I wrote here.

sender: Brenda Perez (9teen87spostcards)
sent from Palm City (Florida / United States), on 07.10.2013

October 28, 2013

0852 CHILE - Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System (UNESCO WHS)

It is known that the Inca road system was the most extensive and advanced transportation system in pre-Columbian South America. The network was based on two north-south roads with numerous branches, the best known portion of it being the trail to Machu Picchu. Part of the roads was built by cultures that precede the Inca Empire, notably the Wari culture, and during the Spanish colonial era parts of this system were given the status of Camino Real (Royal Road). Imagine stone paving up to 20m wide, dressed steps climbing heights of over 4500m, walkways over water and suspension bridges spawning raging rivers. Envision single runners, chasquis, carrying messages on knotted strings called quipus at lightening speed in relay from one end of the empire to the other or imagine thousands of troops marching in line, their footsteps thundering in approach. Or visualize the Inca himself, seated on a litter lined with feathers and plated with gold and silver, being carried by more than 80 lords, the road before him being swept and adorned with petals.

October 26, 2013

0850 NIGERIA - Durbar Festival

Nigeria has many festivals that date back to the time before the arrival of the major religions, and which are still occasions for masquerade and dance. The local festivals cover an enormous range of events, from Mada Dancers harvest festivals and betrothal festivals, to the investing of a new chief and funerals. From a religious perspective, Nigeria is apparently divided equally between Islam and Christianity between north and south, but in country still survives also the belief in traditional religious practices. So generally in the south is celebrated the Christian calendar, and in north the Muslim one.

0649 & 0849 CROATIA (Šibenik-Knin) - The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 17.05.2013 and completed on 26.10.2013
Šibenik, located on the Dalmatian coast, distinguishes from the majority of the settlements situated along the Adriatic coast (established by Greeks, Illyrians or Romans) through the fact that it was founded by Croats, in the 10th century. Disputed and successive mastered by the Republic of Venice, Byzantine Empire, Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Bosnia, it reached in the end, in 1420, under the control of the Venetian, situation that will be maintained until 1797, when became part of the Austrian monarchy (Austria side after the compromise of 1867). After WWII, despite the claims of Italy, Šibenik became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (subsequent Yugoslavia).

The most important building in the town is Cathedral of St. James (Katedrala sv. Jakova), also the most important architectural monument of the Renaissance in Croatia. Built entirely of limestone from a nearby stone quarry and marble from the island of Brač by local and Italian masters, it is considered "a unique and outstanding building in which Gothic and Renaissance forms have been successfully blended", in which are mixed the influences of three culturally different regions (Northern Italy, Dalmatia, and Tuscany).

October 25, 2013

0848 MONTENEGRO (Kotor) - Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor (UNESCO WHS)

Located at the deepest end of Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor), in a triangle bordered by Adriatic Sea, the river Skurda and St. John hill, Kotor has a long history, extended until the Illyrian times.  The romans named it Acruvium, and ruled it until the fall of the Western Roman Empire, when it became part of the Byzantine Empire for several hundred years, with brief interruptions, under the name Dekaderon. Between 1185 and 1371 it was one of the coastal towns which were part of the Medieval Serbian state, under the management of dynasty Nemanjic, who gave it the name Kotor. Then it was an independent republic for almost 30 years (1391-1420), but, because of the danger represented by Ottoman Empire, in 1420 the people from Kotor voluntarily gave the management of the town to the Venetian Republic. Renamed Cattaro, it was part of the Venetian Albania province until 1797, except for brief periods of Ottoman rule (1538-1571, 1657-1699). After the Treaty of Campo Formio, it passed to the Habsburg Monarchy until 1918, when became a part of Yugoslavia and officially became known again as Kotor.

October 23, 2013

0847 PHILIPPINES (Cordillera Administrative Region) - An Ifugao dance

Ifugao is a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon, covering a mountainous region characterized by rugged terrain, river valleys, and massive forests, and is famous for its rice terraces (about which I wrote here), included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995. The terraces were constructed by the ancestors of the Ifugao people (people of the hill), who still live and work as in the past. They are named Igorot (mountain people) by non-Cordilleran, and are different from other tribes in the area in culture, tradition, language, and idealism. In the past they were feared head-hunters, just as other tribes in these mountainous regions. Igorots may be divided into two subgroups, who prior to Spanish colonisation didn't considered themselves as belonging to a single ethnic group: one who lives in the south, central and western areas (adept at rice-terrace farming), and one who lives in the east and north. They may be further subdivided into five ethnolinguistic groups: the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Isnag (or Isneg/Apayao), Kalinga, and the Kankanaey.

October 19, 2013

0846 RUSSIA (Moscow Oblast) - The mansion house in Marfino

Marfino, a rural locality located several kilometers northeast of the town of Lobnya, on the right bank of the Ucha River, is notable for an old aristocratic estate, of which main house (sometimes referred to as a palace), standing on a hill, was built in the 18th century, being rearranged in the 1830s in the Gothic revival style by architect Mikhail Bykovsky. The brick house has two floors and a rectangular shape, and two more houses are located at the sides. A staircase descends from the palace to the pond, and the bridge over the pond, originally built in the 18th century, was also remodeled in 1830. After the revolution of 1917, the estate was nationalized, in 1933 it was transferred under the Ministry of Defense, and currently hosts a sanatorium.

October 18, 2013

0845 VENEZUELA (Nueva Esparta) - The fortress La Galera, in Juan Griego

Juan Griego, the most northern port in Venezuela, located on the northern side of Margarita Island, in the Caribbean Sea, was named after Juan the Greek, a navigator born in Seville in the early 16th century, who developed a prosperous business of transporting captive Indians from the island to Santo Domingo. The city began to receive importance in 1811, during the Venezuelan War of Independence, and in 1816 it was used by Simon Bolivar for returning from Haiti. In 1904, the government moved the capital of the island from Juan Griego to Pampatar, but nevertheless the cultural activities continued to bloom in the city.

October 17, 2013

0843 RUSSIA (Republic of Karelia) - Railroad bridge across the Shuya River

Shuya (Suojoki in Finnish) is a small river (has only 194km in length) and flows out of Lake Suoyarvi through Lake Logmozero into Lake Onega. It freezes up in November - January and stays icebound until April - first half of May. In nowadays is a good rafting river for the beginners and families, and also for short trips. The wooden railroad bridge across the Shuya River shown in the postcard was probably build once with the Murmanskaya Railway (1914 -1916), which traversed Karelia, connecting Murmansk with major Russian cities, its goal being rather strategic than economic. This photo was taken in 1916 by Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944) as part of his work to document the Russian Empire in the period between 1904 and 1916. Probably that the pyramid structures that are seen at the level of the water were designed to hinder the ice floes to strike the bridge pillars.

About the stamps

The first stamp was issued on August 8, 2013, to celebrate the XIV World Championships in Athletics 2013, which held in Moscow between 10 and 18 August 2013. The stamp features competing athletes and the logo of these championships.

October 16, 2013

0058, 0151, 0842 CHINA (Shanxi / Inner Mongolia / Hebei) - The Great Wall (UNESCO WHS)

China (and also India) seems to use another scale than Europe. Whether it comes to population, surface, the height of the mountains, the extent of the forests, the rivers flow rate or God knows what something else. One of the figures stuck in my memory for years is 400,000. So many prisoners of war executed a Qin commander after the Battle of Changping, in the 3rd century BC. Burying they alive, but this is another aspect of the story. About the same time, Hannibal slaughtered at Cannae, in probably the most important but also the bloodiest battle of the European antiquity, 70,000 troops, of those 86,000 how many had the fabulous Roman army. As I said, a completely different scale.

Is also the case of the Great Wall of China. In Europe have been also built, mainly by the Romans, extensive fortifications to defend the borders, such as, to give just two examples, Trajan’s Wall (to the today territory of Romania, Moldova and Ukraine) and Hadrian’s Wall (in Roman Britain, at the other edge of the Empire). Both have several tens of km. Great Wall of China has about 6,260 km, if we don't count the tranches and the natural barriers.

When I was a kid, I imagined that the Great Wall is a stone snaking line, continuous from one end to another of northern China, and was built in a relatively short period of time. Great was my surprise when I learned that in fact the wall is a phylum of walls, following different directions and being built (from the materials specific to the traversed areas) during the 2,000 years, since the 5th century BC. The most famous part, which appears in many pictures, was built in the 14th century, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who attempted to stop the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes who came from the north. As one of the most impressive constructions ever raised by man, The Great Wall couldn't miss in the list of UNESCO World Heritage, in which was included in 1987.

The watchtower at Laoniuwan (Pianguan County, Shanxi) - posted on 03.12.2011
Laoniuwan Valley (located in Pianguan County, Shanxi, and named also "old ox valley", after a hillside that resembles an ox head on its Inner Mongolian side) is considered one of the most beautiful valleys in China because it’s the place where contry's two greatest symbols - the Great Wall and Huang He (the Yellow River) - meet. The Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, is the second-longest river in China (after the Yangtze) and the sixth-longest in the world. On a cliff located on the bank of Yellow River is a well-kept watchtower (the one that appears in the first postcard) made of bricks, called Wanghe Tower, or "watch river tower". It was built in 1544 by a Shanxi governor and reinforcements were added later. It was used to observe the enemies and sending messages by burning wolf waste.

Pianguan County own a total of 500 km long of Great Wall, including, apart from the most commonly found Ming-dynasty Great Wall, also Great Wall of Zhao States during the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), and Great Walls of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC) and the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 557). Besides the walls, the military defense system also including over 1,000 towers and 49 castles.

The Great Wall at Guantunbu (Fengzhen County, Inner Mongolia) - posted on 21.03.2012

The earliest wall in Inner Mongolia was constructed by the Zhao States during the Warring States Period (476BC - 221BC), from Wei County of Hebei Province in the east to Bayannur of Inner Mongolia in the west. Only certain parts of the wall still stand today, north of Hohhot City (a wall built of rambled earth, as well as bricks at some parts with less earth), and in Baotou (98m long, 5.8m wide and 3.4m high, badly damaged). After Qin Shihuang created the first unified Chinese empire in 221 BC, he sent the general Meng Tian to drive the Xiongnu from the region, and incorporated the old Zhao wall into the Qin Dynasty Great Wall. A section was discovered in Bayannur City and ruins of beacon towers were found every 0.5 km to 1.5 km near the wall. There are also relics of houses, believed to be the military fortress of the wall, at the highland not far from the wall.

On the Worrad Grassland north of Inner Mongolia, two Han Dynasty Great Walls traverse the grassland to the northwest into Mongolia. According to archaeologists, the walls were constructed in 102 BC during the Western Han Dynasty (206BC - 24AD). The one in the north is called the Han Dynasty Outer Great Wall, while the one in the south Han Dynasty Inner Great Wall. The Liao, Jin, and Yuan dynasties, who ruled Northern China throughout most of the 10-13th centuries, had their original power bases north of the Great Wall proper; accordingly, they would have no need throughout most of their history to build a wall along this line. The Liao carried out limited repair of the Great Wall in a few areas, however the Jin (1115-1234) did construct defensive walls in the 12th century, but those were located much to the north of the Great Wall as we know it, within today's Inner and Outer Mongolia.

After the Yuan Dynasty was evicted by the Han-led Ming Dynasty in 1368, the Ming rebuilt the Great Wall at its present location, which roughly follows the southern border of the modern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (though it deviates significantly at the Hebei-Inner Mongolia border). The Ming established the Three Guards composed of the Mongols there. The Great Wall measures 150 km in Qingshuihe County. About 7,000 towers were discovered, including 5,000 beacon towers, 6 fortresses, 5 passes, and many water gates. Most of the towers are well-preserved, and has a width of 15-19m and a height of 20-22m. Many sections of the Great Walls in Inner Mongolia are badly damaged, mainly by wind and sand storm, but also by human. Research shows that 90% of the locals don’t even know the existence of the Great Walls in Inner Mongolia!

The Jinshanling section (Lunaping County, Hebei) - posted on 16.10.2013

This section of the Great Wall, located in the mountainous area in Luanping County, at 125km northeast of Beijing, is connected with the Simatai section to the east, and was first built in the sixth century during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589). Some distance to the west lies the Mutianyu section. It is 10.5 km long with 5 passes, 67 watchtowers and 2 beacon towers. During the Ming Dynasty, General Qi Jiguang improved the structure of the wall by making it higher and denser, and by building double walls at strategic sections. As can be seen in the postcard, the Jinshanling Great Wall is like a giant dragon, curving its path over the mountain peaks whose line it follows. The Great Wall from Simatai in Beijing to Jinshanling in Hebei is the best preserved stretch, but it isn't fully renovated, so it has a more natural ambience than other stretches of the wall that have been completely rebuilt.

October 15, 2013

0841 CHILE - La Cueca

By Decree No. 23 published in the Official Journal on 18 September 1979, cueca became the national dance of Chile. Among other arguments, the main was that within the wide range of Chilean folk dances, this had the highest level of diffusion and historical significance. Their presence can be recognized throughout the country, varying the choreographic and musical forms as the geographical area in which it is interpreted, but always keeping a common pattern that makes it a dance unique and differentiated. It has had two predominant functions: first, entertainment, bailándose in boarding and parties with great fanfare, secondly, the documentary function, as it acts as a transmitter of the oral tradition of popular singers voice.

October 14, 2013

0840 BENIN - On the beach

Benin is a narrow, north-south strip of land in west Africa, between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, bordered by Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. During the colonial period (until 1960), but also some years after independence (until 1975), the country was known as Dahomey, being renamed Benin in 1975, after the body of water on which the country lies - the Bight of Benin - which, in turn, had been named after the Benin Empire.

October 13, 2013

0559, 0839 ITALY (Sicily) - Taormina and Isola Bella (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Posted on 16.03.2013 and completed on 13.10.2013
As is said in the submission for the inclusion of the site Taormina and Isola Bella in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Site, "Taormina's fortune in all times is closely linked to its extraordinary location, lying on a narrow terrace above the sea formed by typical variously coloured calcareous rocks which ensured its fame in ancient times. Its coloured marbles can still to be found in monuments and private dwellings. Owing to its position, the town has always been considered as a natural fortress of great strategic and political importance, as it allowed the control over the eastern coast of Sicily. As a proof of its important role as a fortified town, parts of the walls surrounding the ancient built-up area still remain."

Inhabited by the Siculi before that the Greeks to base their colony, Tauromenion was a prosper town, which has retained importance even after the Roman conquest. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it continued to rank as one of the more important towns of Sicily, and was one of the last places retained by the Byzantines. Taken by the Arabs in 902, and totally destroyed after two uprisings, it was captured by the Normans in 1078, further sharing the same fate as Sicily under the Angevins, then under the Crown of Aragon and finally under Spanish suzerainty. In 1675 it was besieged by the French, but under the Bourbons dynasty of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies it didn't have a relevant role. Starting from the 19th century, Taormina became a popular tourist resort, among those who visited it being Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia, Goethe, Nietzsche or Wagner, and later D. H. Lawrence, Truman Capote, Halldór Laxness and  Evelyn Waugh.

The present town of Taormina occupies the ancient site, on a lofty hill which forms the last projecting point of the mountain ridge that extends along the coast. One of the town's attractions is Piazza IX Aprile (in the postcard), which affords a splendid view of the Greek theater, the bay of Giardini Naxos and the Mount Etna. On the other side of the square stands the former Gothic Saint Augustine's Church (turned in nowadays into the town library) and the 17th Century Church of Saint Joseph. The square also leads to the oldest part of Taormina through the Porta Di Mezzo, upon which stands the Clock Tower, dates back to 12th century and is a reconstruction of the original one destroyed during the French invasion in the 17th century. Why IX Aprile (9th April)? It was on this day in 1860 when news was received that Garibaldi had landed at Marsala to commence the liberation of Sicily.

0838 UNITED KINGDOM (Scotland) - Heart of Neolithic Orkney (UNESCO WHS)

0838 Skara Brae

Heart of Neolithic Orkney refers to a group of Neolithic monuments found on the Mainland, one of the islands of Orkney, consisting of a large chambered tomb (Maeshowe), two ceremonial stone circles (the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar) and a settlement (Skara Brae), together with a number of unexcavated burial, ceremonial and settlement sites. It is an exceptional testimony to an important indigenous cultural tradition which flourished over 500-1,000 years but disappeared by about 2000 BC.

October 12, 2013

0837 JAPAN (Tōhoku) - Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land (UNESCO WHS)

For four generations, in Heian period (794-1185), between 1087 and 1189, Hiraizumi was the home of the family Hiraizumi Fujiwara, and at the same time the de facto capital of Oshu (an area containing nearly a third of Japan), an important political, military, commercial, and cultural centre, rivaling Kyoto. The area was based on the cosmology of Pure Land Buddhism, which spread to Japan in the 8th century, and represented the land that people aspire to after death, as well as peace of mind in this life. In combination with indigenous Japanese nature worship and Shintoism, Pure Land Buddhism developed a concept of planning and garden design unique to Japan. Following, Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land, comprises five sites, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011.

October 11, 2013

0833-0836 ROMANIA (Braşov) - Traditional wedding at Rupea

0833 Bride from Rupea in traditional clothes

Moment with deep resonances in the universe of Romanian village, the wedding is one of the most important ritual thresholds that the human being must pass to fulfill its existence. The formation of the new family (intrarea tinerilor în rândul lumii - the entry of the young in line with the rest of the world) was and continues to be an event for the entire community, to which all the villagers bring their contribution. The weddings weren't held at random, but in those times when the works were appeased. Câşlegile de toamnă (between the Cross Day and shrovetide for the Christmas Fasting), along with Câşlegile de iarnă (between Christmas and Shrove Tuesday for Lent), represented once the time for the weddings.

0834 Godmother from Rupea in traditional clothes

Of course there are differences between the customs of various regions of the country, but the main thread and the meanings are the same. Below I will try to do a synopsis of a wedding in Rupea, a settlement located halfway between Braşov and Sighişoara. From Thursday until Tuesday, with the peak on Sunday, at the homes of the bride and of the bridegroome, take place many ceremonial scenarios. Virtually every gesture, word, song, garment, jewel, loses its original function, becoming a sign with symbolic value of the ceremonial ranks of bridegroom, bride, couple's parents, godparents, heralds, horsemen, wedding guests etc.

0835 Bride, godmother and guests
 at a traditional wedding in Rupea

Friday, before the wedding, chemătorii (the heralds) walks through the village to invite people to the wedding. Saturday was carried cinstea (the foods from which will be prepared the dishes for wedding), and the bridegroom received as gift from the bride cârpa de pus la brâu (the cloth for put to the waist), woven from cotton with alesături (ornamentation of fabrics by separating and combining, by hand, after a pattern, of the yarns of warp and weft).

0836 Bride from Rupea
in the day after the wedding

Sunday, at the groom's house, were gathered călăraşii (the horsemen), and one of them takes the bridegroom's flag, then he climbed into his wagon and headed to the godfather's house, accompanied by the young men on horseback. There, one of the horsemen received the godfather's flag, and the godparents, the lad of godfather, and the girl of godfather join to the procession, in another wagon, on their way to the bride's house. Of course, didn't lacked the musicians.

October 10, 2013

0832 VENEZUELA (Nueva Esparta) - The Basílica of Our Lady of the Valley

Located on the Margarita Island (Isla de Margarita - situated off the northeastern coast of Venezuela, in the Caribbean Sea), at halfway between the cities of Porlamar and La Asunción, El Valle del Espíritu Santo was founded as the capital of the island in 1529. In the village there is one of the most visited temples of the island and from whole Venezuela, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Valley, built in the late 19th century, and decreed Basilica Menor by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

October 9, 2013

0831 UNITED KINGDOM (England) - Winter light over Oxford

Even if in nowadays has a diverse economic base, Oxford is known worldwide mainly as a university town and home of the University of Oxford, the oldest in the country and in the English-speaking world. Its buildings demonstrate examples of every English architectural period since the arrival of the Saxons, being known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of Oxford's university. This postcard illustrates well what wanted to say the poet.