December 31, 2013

0931 GERMANY (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) - Rügen

Located off the Pomeranian coast in the Baltic Sea, Rügen is Germany's largest island by area. The "gateway" to Rügen island is the city of Stralsund, where it's linked to the mainland by road and railway. The coast is characterized by numerous sandy beaches, lagoons (bodden) and open bays (Wieke), as well as projecting peninsulas and headlands. Rügen is very popular as a tourist destination because of its resort architecture, the diverse landscape and its long, sandy beaches. The main body of the island, Muttland, is surrounded by several peninsulas, among which is Jasmund, where is located Jasmund National Park, famous for its vast stands of beeches and chalk cliffs like King's Chair (in the first postcard, first top left, besides the name of the island), the main landmark of Rügen island. This park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, as part of the site Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany.

In the first postcard are, from left to the right, from the top left corner:
1. Sellin Pier - located in the seaside resort of Sellin. The first 508m long pier with a restaurant, built in 1906, was destroyed by fire in 1920. In 1925 a new pier was built, but was also destroyed, this time by ice, in the winter of 1941/1942. A new pier, including a restaurant, was opened in 1998. At 394m it is the longest pier on the island.

2. Cape Arkona - a 45m high cape which forms the tip of the Wittow peninsula, just a few kilometres north of the Jasmund National Park. On the cape there are two lighthouses, a navigation tower (built in 1927 - in the foreground), two military bunker complexes, the Slavic temple fortress of Jaromarsburg and several tourist buildings (restaurants, pubs and souvenir shops).

4. Granitz Hunting Lodge - located in the vicinity of the seaside resort of Binz. Was built on the highest hill in East Rügen, the 107m above sea level high Tempelberg, in the years 1838 to 1846 by order of Prince Wilhelm Malte I of Putbus, based on a design by Berlin architect, Johann Gottfried Steinmeyer in the style of the North Italian Renaissance castellos.

In the second postcard is the highest lighthouse (35m) in Cape Arkona, seen from the smaller lighthouse (19.3m), built of brick in 1826-1827, based on plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Called also the Schinkelturm (Schinkel Tower) was taken out of service in 1905. It is the second oldest lighthouse on the German Baltic Sea coast after the Travemünde Lighthouse. The largest tower was built in 1901-1902 right next to the old tower. It is made of brick and stands on an octagonal granite base. For 90 years its light source was two arc lamps, but they were replaced in 1995 by a Metal-halide lamp.

0930 IRELAND (Leinster) - Ha'penny Bridge - part of The Historic City of Dublin (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

The Ha'penny Bridge, an old iron footbridge over the River Liffey, officially named Liffey Bridge, is one of the most photographed sights in Dublin and is considered to be one of city's most iconic landmarks. Built in 1816 from cast iron, it was originally called the Wellington Bridge (after the Duke of Wellington). Before the Ha'penny Bridge was built there were seven ferries, operated by a William Walsh, but these were in a bad condition and Walsh was informed that he had to either fix them or build a bridge.

December 30, 2013

0141, 0929 JAPAN (Kansai) - Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) (UNESCO WHS)

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)

Posted on 09.03.2012
In 794, Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Heijō-kyō to Heian-kyō (tranquility and peace capital), located in a region far from the powerful Buddhist clergy, who began to get involved in the affairs of the Imperial government. This city will be renamed in the 11th century Kyoto (capital city), and will remain the Japan's capital for over 1,000 years (with an interruption in 1180), until the transfer of the imperial court to Tokyo in 1869. In 1945, Kyoto was on the list of targets considered by United States to be hit with atomic bombs, but in the end it was replaced by Nagasaki. The city was also largely spared from conventional bombing, and as a result it's one of the few Japanese cities that still have many historic buildings. As result, in 1994 UNESCO chose 17 locations within the city of Kyoto and its immediate vicinity to form a World Heritage Site, under the name Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities).

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), officially named Rokuon-ji (Deer Garden Temple), was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. In 1397 the villa was purchased by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex. When Yoshimitsu died, in 1408, the building was converted into a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect (dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Kannon) by his son, according to his wishes. During the Onin war (1467–1477), all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down. In 1950, the pavilion was also burned down by a novice monk mentally ill. The present pavilion structure dates from 1955, when it was rebuilt. The reconstruction is said to be a copy close to the original, although some doubt such an extensive gold-leaf coating was used on the original structure.
The Golden Pavilion is a three-story building, each floor using a different architectural style: the first one, Hôsuiin (Chamber of Dharma Waters), a large room surrounded by a veranda, is rendered in shinden-zukuri style (Heian Period), the second one, Chôondô (Grotto of Wave Sounds or Tower of Sound Waves), is built in the buke style of Samurai houses, and the third one, Kukkyôchô (Superb Apex), is built in traditional Chinese chán (zen) style, with cusped windows and ornamentation. A Chinese phoenix crowns the eaves, and the top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. The pavilion functions as a shariden, housing relics of the Buddha (Buddha's Ashes), and was an important model for later works, as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion Temple) and Shōkoku-ji, both also located in Kyoto.

It is set in a magnificent Japanese strolling garden, an suggestive example of Muromachi period garden design, which illustrate the harmony between heaven and earth. The building extends over a pond, called Kyōko-chi (Mirror Pond), that reflects the building, as can be seen in the picture. A small fishing deck (tsuri-dono) is attached to the rear of the pavilion building, allowing a small boat to be moored under it. The largest islet in the pond represents the Japanese islands. The four stones forming a straight line in the pond near the pavilion are intended to represent sailboats anchored at night, bound for the Isle of Eternal Life in Chinese mythology.

Posted on 30.12.2013

the pagoda of Tō-ji (East Temple)

Tō-ji (East Temple) is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect, which until the 16th century had a partner, Sai-ji (West Temple), the two standing alongside the Rashomon, gate to the Heian capital. Formally known as Kyō-ō-gokoku-ji (The Temple for the Defense of the Nation by Means of the King of Doctrines), was founded in the early Heian period (796). Its pagoda, dating from the Edo period, has 54.8m height, and is the tallest wooden tower in Japan. On the 21st of each month, a famous flea market (Kōbō-san) is held on the grounds of Tō-ji. The grounds also house an academically rigorous private school, Rakunan.

0928 CANADA (Alberta) - The rugged Alberta Badlands

Badlands are a type of dry and barren terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. Canyons, ravines, gullies, hoodoos, winding channels and other such geological forms are common in badlands, which often have a spectacular colour display that alternates from dark black/blue coal stria to bright clays to red scoria. The term is a translation from les mauvaises terres, words coined by early French trappers and traders who traveled on the White River area in North Dakota. Still earlier in history, Sioux Indians also referred to the barren and rugged landscape of South Dakota as Mako Sika, meaning land bad.

0927 MALAYSIA - A fishing village

There is a long and rich maritime heritage in the culture of almost every coastal village and town of the Peninsular Malaysia, known also as West Malaysia (formerly Malaya). Besides, seafaring has been an integral part of the coastal peoples of South East Asia for hundreds of years as evident by the still enduring traditional craft of boat building in several parts of Malaysia. The mangrove lined protected coastline and warm tropical currents in the blue offshore waters offer a rich variety of harvest which include shellfish such as clams and snails, crustaceans such as prawns and lobsters, and fish from snappers and groupers to large pelagics which are caught offshore. Many of these fishing villages are situated at the estuary and river delta mouths and while most have modernised, the boats, from simple perahus to estuary boats to offshore trawlers, are still made of traditional tropical hardwood that resist the ravages of seawater.

December 29, 2013

0926 GERMANY (Hamburg) - Speicherstadt and Chilehaus with Kontorhaus District - Chilehaus (UNESCO WHS)

The Hamburg Kontorhaus District is an office district (the first in Europe) built to serve the functions arising from creation of the Speicherstadt (warehouse district - the largest timber-pile founded warehouse district in the world, built between 1883 and 1927). It forming one of the most impressive German urban settings of the 1920s, and is characterised by a high degree of stylistic consistency. The foremost of these buildings is the ten-story office building named Chilehaus, built by Fritz Höger in 1922-1924, a masterpiece of German Brick Expressionism.

0925 UNITED STATES (New Mexico) - A Zuni Governor

The Zuni are a federally recognized Native American tribe, one of the 21 surviving pueblos in the 21st century. The majority of them live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in the McKinley and Cibola counties in the western part of New Mexico, but in addition to the reservation, the tribe owns trust lands in Catron County (New Mexico) and Apache County (Arizona). In 2000, 10,228 people were enrolled as Zuni. They traditionally speak a language isolate that has no known relationship to any other Native American language. It seems that the Zuni have maintained the integrity of their language for at least 7,000 years.

0924 GREECE (South Aegean) - The volcanic island Nisyros

Located in Aegean Sea, between Kos and Tilos, the volcanic island Nisyros is part of the Dodecanese group of islands and has a shape approximately round, with a diameter of about 8km. According to Greek mythology, it was formed when Poseidon cut off a part of Kos and threw it onto the giant Polybotes to stop him from escaping. From geological point of view,  was constructed within the past 150,000 years, with 3 separate eruptive stages, ranging from explosive and effusive andesitic eruptions to effusive and extrusive dacitic and rhyolitic activity.

December 28, 2013

0921 LAOS (Vientiane Province) - Vang Vieng

Located on the Nam Song river, north of Ventiane, the tourism-oriented town Vang Vieng is best known for the karst hill landscape surrounding it. Even if was founded around 1353, it knew a significant expansion only during the 1964-73 Vietnam War, when the US developed an Air Force base and runway that was used by Air America. In more recent times, the town has grown due to the influx of backpackers attracted by the opportunities for adventure tourism in a limestone karst landscape. But tourism isn't only positive for the community, because, as Brett Dakin wrote, "each time a young Australian woman strolls down the street in a bikini, a bearded American smokes a joint on a guesthouse terrace, or a group of Koreans tumbles drunkenly out of a restaurant, it saps a little more of the essence of a town like Vang Vieng."

December 27, 2013

0918, 0919 FRANCE (New Aquitaine) - Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion (UNESCO WHS)

Located at 35km northeast of Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion is one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux. Its history goes back to prehistoric times, and in 27 BC began the Roman occupation, with the first vineyards by grafting new varieties of grape on the Vitis biturica that grew naturally in the region. The first Christian monasteries appeared in the 7th century, and the town was named after the monk Émilion, who lived in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. Actually the monks started up the commercial wine production in the area. As the region was on the Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostela, from the 11th century onwards it experienced great prosperity. It retained the medieval appearance until the 18th century, when its fortifications were dismantled, and this had an adverse effect on the vineyards, only after 1853 starting to recover. In the 18th century the quality of its wines was recognized as exceptional. During the Second Empire the production of red wines in the region became generalized, replacing the white wines that had been most common in the medieval period. Nevertheless Saint Émilion wines weren't included in the 1855 Bordeaux classification, the first formal classification being made in 1955.

The relief of the region is characterized by a stratum of limestone which disappears to the north, being replaced by a heterogeneous mixture of clayey sands and gravels. Before viticulture predominated, medieval and Renaissance castles were built on dominant sites as seigniorial residences. Settlements are characterized by modest stone houses, found in small groups, for the use of vineyard workers. The chais (wine storehouses) are large functional rectangular structures built from stone or a mixture of brick and stone, with tiled double-pitched roofs. The primary grape varieties used are the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc are the only two wines currently classified as Premiers grands crus classes A (First Great Growths category A). There are then 13 Premiers grands crus classés B and 53 grands crus classés. In addition, a large number of vineyards are classified as Grand Cru. Because it is an outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

December 26, 2013

0917 PALESTINE (Nablus) - Nabulsi soap

Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, in the northern West Bank, at 49km north of Jerusalem, Nablus is a city with a history of over two millennia that entered in 1995 under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority, become in 2012 the State of Palestine.Founded by Romans in 72 BC, the city knew in the 5th and 6th centuries a conflict between the Christians and Samaritans, which climaxed in a series of Samaritan revolts against Byzantine rule. In 636 it came under the rule of the Islamic Arab Caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab, and in 1099 the Crusaders took control of the city, leaving its mixed Muslim, Christian and Samaritan population undisturbed. Conquered by Saladin in 1187, then by the Mamluk in 1260, it was incorporated in Ottoman Empire in 1517. After the loss of the city to British forces during WWI, Nablus was incorporated into the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922, and later designated to form part of the Arab state of Palestine under the 1947 UN partition plan. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the city was captured and occupied by Transjordan, which subsequently unilaterally annexed it, until its occupation by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

December 25, 2013

0916 CANADA (Ontario) - Post Office and Town Clock at Eganville

Eganville is a small community occupying a deep limestone valley carved at the Fifth Chute of the Bonnechere River, in the township of Bonnechere Valley (formed in 2001 by the union of Grattan, Sebastopol, South Algona and Eganville). The power of the river has been harnessed since 1848, but it was John Egan's grist mill that gets credit for stimulating the town's growth, which took his name. In 1911, a great fire destroyed many of the buildings in Eganville. A year later, the Municipal Building was erected, and served as the village post office until 1973. In 2001 the building became the home of the Bonnechere Museum and one of the most well known symbols of Eganville.

0915 GERMANY (Bremen) - The statue of the Town Musicians

The bronze statue on the western side of the Town Hall, near its entrance, is undoubtedly the most famous and most photographed representation of Die Stadtmusikanten (The Town Musicians), which portrays the donkey, dog, cat and rooster of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale. The donkey's front legs are shinier than the rest of the statue, as rubbing them is thought to bring good luck. The statue was commissioned by the Verkehrsverein der Freien Hansestadt Bremen e.V. and created by Gerhard Marcks (1889-1981), being installed in 1953, initially on loan from Marcks' workshop. Dr Hanns Meyer, head of the tourism organisation, appealed to Bremen's community spirit and collected donations to make the animals' home permanent. Aided by a loan from the city, the pyramid of animals standing one on top of the other was purchased for 20,000 deutschmarks.

0914 CHINA (Hong Kong) - A man with a rickshaw

The rickshaw began as a two or three-wheeled passenger cart, called a pulled rickshaw, generally pulled by one man with one passenger, and it is believed to have been invented in Japan in the 1869, after the lifting of the ban on wheeled vehicles from the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). The first known use of the term was in 1887, and originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (jin = human, riki = power or force, sha = vehicle). Pulled rickshaws created a popular form of transportation, and a source of employment, within Asian cities in the 19th century, but their popularity declined when cars, trains and other forms of transportation became widely available.

December 16, 2013

0406, 0407 & 0906 BRAZIL (Federal District) - Brasilia (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 08.12.2012, and completed on 16.12.2013
I received the first postcard from this post on December 5 (even if the postmark is from December 4), the day that has passed away, at the age of almost 105 years, the architect Oscar Niemeyer, one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture, best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, among which is the one from the first picture, housing the National Congress. In the master's obituary,  The Economist wrote: "More than any other individual, Oscar Niemeyer could claim to have created Brazil's image as a self-consciously modern country. Brazil's most famous architect turned the functionalism of Le Corbusier into a sensual minimalism that was at once daring and restrained. His motto was not that form follows function but that form follows beauty. Like the functionalists he worked in reinforced concrete, but found poetry in it. He rejected right angles in favour of the liberated, sensual curves found in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman - shapes displayed in the stunning setting and bright, clear sunlight of his home city, Rio de Janeiro."

In September 1956, soon after he assumed the Brazilian presidency, Juscelino Kubitschek visited Niemeyer and spoke to the architect about his most audacious scheme: "I am going to build a new capital for this country and I want you to help me […] Oscar, this time we are going to build the capital of Brazil." Niemeyer organized a competition for the lay-out of the new capital, and the winner was the project of his master and great friend, Lúcio Costa. Following, Lúcio designed the plan of the city, and Niemeyer the buildings, such as the residence of the President (Palácio da Alvorada), the House of the deputy, the National Congress of Brazil, the Cathedral of Brasília, diverse ministries, and residential buildings.

Built ex nihilo in only four years, between 1956 and 1960, in the Brazilian Highlands, in the barren center of the country, at hundreds of kilometers from any major city, Brasilia benefited from new concepts of city planning: streets without transit, buildings floating off the ground supported by columns and allowing the space underneath to be free and integrated with nature. Initially, all the city's apartments were owned by the government and rented to its employees, so that the ministers and common laborers have shared the same building. Of course, the next presidents changed this concept.

The National Congress building (the first postcard), located in the middle of the Monumental Axis, the main avenue in Brasília, consists of two semi-spheres (the left one is the seat of the Senate, and the right one is the seat of the Chamber of the Deputies), which have between them two vertical office towers. The design suggests a balance, with two opposing sides intersected by a symbol of equality. The Congress also occupies other surrounding office buildings, some of them interconnected by a tunnel.

The JK Memorial (the second postcard) is a museum opened on September 12, 1981 and dedicated to Juscelino Kubitschek, as I say, the founder of the city of Brasilia. On site are the body of JK, many belongings as his personal library, and photos of him as both his wife Sarah. Featuring works designed by Athos in the outdoor area, a stained glass window designed by artist Marianne Peretti on the vault and a 4.5m sculpture authorship of Honorius Peçanha.

In the third postcard is the Monument to the Candango, known also as Os Guerreiros (The Warriors), a work in bronze of the Italian Brazilian sculptor Bruno Giorgi. It is the centerpiece of Brazil's governmental plaza, Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Plaza), and was erected to pay homage to the thousands of workers who built Brasilia, whose nickname were "candango". The sculpture has become the symbol of the city.

December 15, 2013

0895, 0896, 0904 & 0905 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Colonial City of Santo Domingo (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 10.12.2013 and completed on 15.12.2013
Discovered by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage (1492), the Hispaniola island, located in Greater Antilles archipelago, between Cuba and Puerto Rico, was the site of the first European colony, founded in 1493, but also of the oldest European city in the Americas, Santo Domingo, dating to 1496 (officially to 1498). Expeditions which led to Ponce de León's colonization of Puerto Rico, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar's colonization of Cuba, Hernando Cortes' conquest of Mexico, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa's sighting of the Pacific Ocean were all launched from Santo Domingo, known as the "Gateway to the Caribbean". In June 1502 the city was destroyed by a hurricane, and the new Governor rebuilt it on the other side of the Ozama River. The original layout of the city can still be appreciated today throughout the Ciudad Colonial (Colonial City), declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.

Known colloquially as Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone), the Ciudad Colonial is located on the west bank of the Ozama River, which bisects the city. The central public space of the district is Parque Colon (in the first postcard), a square that borders the cathedral and has a late-19th-century bronze statue of Christopher Columbus in its center. The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 1540. It once held the title Primate of the Americas, it has since been the only Archdiocese to have held this title. The building combines elements of both Gothic and Baroque with some lavish plateresque styles as exemplified by the high altar chiseled out of silver. Of note, the remains of Christopher Columbus were once housed at the cathedral, before their final resting place in the Faro a Colon.

Calle del Conde (The Count's Street - in the second postcard), one of the oldest streets in Santo Domingo, is a pedestrian-only street that includes several notable commercial buildings of the early 20th century and connects Parque Colon with the Puerta del Conde and Parque Independencia. The name ‘El Conde’ honours the Conde (Count) of Peñalba, who defeated the English in the 17th century. This is the street where everyone comes to Promenade and it is packed with shops, cafés and restaurants, from cheap fast food to authentic local places that have a good reputation. The Conde is also lined with street vendors selling toys, paintings, split coconuts, CDs, DVDs and empanadas.

The Alcázar de Colón (Columbus Alcazar - in the third postcard) is America's first castle, once the residence of Don Diego Colón, a son of Christopher Columbus. The building houses the Museo Alcázar de Diego Colón, whose collection exhibits the Caribbean's most important ensemble of European late medieval and Renaissance works of art. It is an impressive construction of coralline blocks that once housed some fifty rooms and a number of gardens and courtyards, although what remains today is about half the size it once was. It was from here that many expeditions of conquest and exploration were planned. In 1586, the palace was sacked by Sir Francis Drake and his forces. By the mid-18th century was abandoned, being restored between 1955 and 1957.

The Museo de las Casas Reales (in the fourth postcard) is a monumental complex that includes the former Palace of the Governors and the building of the former Royal Audiencia of Santo Domingo, dating back to the 16th century. The original architectural structure has undergone a number of changes through the country's history. In 1807, during the period of French sovereignty over the Eastern part of Hispaniola, the general Louis Ferrand gave the facade a classical architectural style. The building was later restored to its original 16th-century appearance, and was established in 1973 as a museum to highlight the history, life and customs of the inhabitants of the Spanish colony.

About the stamp

Frankly, I don't know if it is a stamp or just a label, as the ones used for priority mail. It looks like a stamp, was issued by Instituto Postal Dominicano (INPOSDOM), and was postmarked, but has also a bar-code and a number. Furthermore, it seems that it has an universal face value (official mail / priority mail / by air mail). I didn't find anything else about this stamp / label nor even on this institution's site and on its philatelic blog.