September 29, 2014

0245, 1259 BELARUS - The map and the flag of the country

Posted on 11.06.2012, 29.09.2014
I have the conviction that Belarus and Ukraine broke away from Russia in 1990s for purely political reasons; ethnic and linguistic differences between the three being minimal, not to say also that they share the same history.

History: Many of the Russian principalities were first gathered under the flag of Kievan Rus, its dissolution in the 13th century following the Tatars attacks leading to separation of northern Russians from Belarusian (White Russians) and from Ukrainians. Moscow principality, became more stronger, shook the Tartar yoke in the late 15th century, conquering many of the Russian lands and becoming Grand Duchy of Moscow. Starting with Ivan the Terrible, the rulers took the title of "Grand Duke of all the Russias", but White Ruthenia (Belarus) and Ukraine remained under the rule of Grand Duchy of Lithuania (subsequent Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) until 1795, when both were annexed by the Russian Empire (except a small part of Ukraine, Galicia, which remained under austrian control).

Language: Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Ruthenian have a high degree of mutual intelligibility, i.e. the speakers of any of these languages can readily understand without a previous study, and without the need for translation, many scholars claiming that they are dialects of the same language, and not different languages.

Name: "Belarus" corresponds literally with the term "White Rus" (White Ruthenia). The name first appeared in the chronicles of Jan of Czarnków (1381), as "Alba Russia" (in latin), and its first use to refer to Belarus was in the late 16th century. Regarding the meaning of the appellation "white", opinions are divided, two being more reliable: one that claims that relate to the lands populated by early Christianized Slavs (in opposition to Black Ruthenia, predominantly inhabited by pagan Balts), and one that claims that relate to the old Ruthenian lands that were not conquered by the Tatars.

Of course that all these arguments are less important than the inhabitants will, so if the Belarusians want to live in their own state, so be it.

September 28, 2014

1257, 1258 NETHERLANDS (Aruba) - Divi-Divi Trees on Eagle Beach

Mostly flat, with only a few hills, and without inland water, Aruba isn't the stereotypical tropical island of lush, steamy forests and constant rains. Its best-known geographical feature is its white-sand beaches, which are the basis of an active tourism industry. One of these beaches, considered by many one of the best beaches in the world is Eagle Beach, known also as home of two of the most photographed and renowned divi-divi trees in Aruba, with its trademark silhouette pointing in the direction of the Caribbean.

The Divi-Divi Tree (Caesalpinia coriaria), called Watapana in the Arawak language, is an endemic bush in the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), which rarely reaches a height of 9 m, and is permanently bent, at nearly a right angle, with Medusa-like branches seemingly swept back by the wind. It is Aruba's natural compass, always pointing in a southwesterly direction due to the trade winds that blow across the island from the north-east. All attempts to plant this tree in other parts of the world have proved futile. That is why divi-divi is the national tree of Curaçao, and is also very common and popular on Aruba.

1256 UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Office at Geneva

Apart from the Headquarters situated in New York City, the United Nations has three regional headquarters, opened in Geneva (Switzerland) in 1946, Vienna (Austria) in 1980, and Nairobi (Kenya) in 2011. These help represent UN interests, facilitate diplomatic activities, and enjoy certain extraterritorial privileges, but only the main headquarters in New York contains the seats of the principal organs of the UN.

1255 UNITED NATIONS - Non-Violence

The complex which houses the United Nations Headquarters in New York City is notable not only for its buildings, but also for its gardens and outdoor sculptures. One of the iconic sculptures is the Knotted Gun, called Non-Violence, a bronze statue of a Colt Python revolver with its barrel tied in a knot, which was a gift from the Luxembourg government. It was made by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd after the singer, songwriter and peace activist, founder member of the Beatles, John Lennon was murdered in New York on 8 December 1980. There are currently 16 copies of the sculpture around the world, nine of them in Sweden. Since 1993, the Non-Violence sculpture is the symbol of The Non-Violence Project, a non-profit organisation, promoting social change with violence prevention education programs.

September 27, 2014

1252 TUNISIA - Amphitheatre of El Jem (UNESCO WHS)

El Jem, or El Djem, was built by the Romans on a former Punic settlement, under the name Thysdrus. In a less arid climate than today's, Thysdrus, which became part of the Roman province of Byzacena, prospered especially in the 2nd century, at the time of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138), when it became an important center of olive oil manufacturing for export. It was the seat of a Christian bishopric, which is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees. By the early 3rd century AD, it rivaled Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) as the second city of Roman North Africa, after Carthage.

1250 MEXICO (Querétaro) - Historic Monuments Zone of Querétaro (UNESCO WHS)

Santiago de Querétaro, the capital and largest city of the state of Querétaro, located in central Mexico, at 213km northwest of Mexico City, was founded on 25 July 1531, when during a battle between the Spanish and the natives of the area, an eclipse occurred during which Saint James on a white horse carrying a pink cross supposedly appeared, causing the natives of the areas to surrender. The old colonial town of Querétaro is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town, which is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries.


The kumintang is the name given to several distinct styles, techniques and forms in music and dance, probably originating in the areas used by early Spanish chronicles to denote a province centering around what is known as Batangas, on the southwestern part of Luzon. Early 19th-century travelers' accounts often mention the kumintang as a Tagalog "chant national", describing them as dance-songs performed by pairs of men and women, with texts concerning love and courtship. All accounts mention a glass of coconut wine passed from hand to hand by the dancers as they sing. Jean Baptiste Mallat describes it as a pantomimic dance where the man runs around and gestures to a woman, and finally pretends illness to get the woman's full attention. In the 20th century, Francisca Reyes-Aquino dubbed as kumintang the circular hand and wrist movement also known as the kunday. Among present-day afficinados of musical and dance events called awitan and pandangguhan in and around the city of Batangas, kumintang also refers to a guitar-plucking style, considered the most melodious and beautiful of all guitar styles accompanying the old kinanluran style of pandangguhan dance songs.

September 26, 2014

1247 UNITED STATES (North Carolina) - North Carolina map and flag

Located on the Atlantic coast, between South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, and known as the Tar Heel State and the Old North State, North Carolina has a wide range of elevations, from sea level to 2,037m at Mount Mitchell (the highest point in the Eastern US), consisting of three main geographic sections: the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the Piedmont region, and the Appalachian Mountains and foothills. Its capital is Raleigh, founded in 1792 specifically for this purpose, and its largest city is Charlotte. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical climate zone. In the past five decades, North Carolina's economy has undergone a transition from heavy reliance upon tobacco, textiles, and furniture-making to a more diversified economy with engineering, energy, biotechnology, and finance sectors.

September 25, 2014

1246 AFGHANISTAN - Paghman Valley

Located very near for the capital Kabul, west of the city, the fertile Paghman Valley is one of the most visited places, mostly for the Paghman Gardens, arranged by King Amanullah after his 1927-1928 tour of Europe, India and Iran. Paghman, a small village at the bottom of the Hindu Kush, became a holiday retreat with villas and chalets as well as the summer capital. The region seriously suffered during the soviet war in Afghanistan, but also after becoming a Mujaheddin battleground at the close of the 20th century.

1245 ROMANIA (Sălaj) - Baking moşocoarne on House-Museum of Ligia Bodea

Although in nowadys it has a population only slightly more than 800 inhabitants, the village Iaz in the commune Plopiş (Sălaj County) is known throughout the country due to the House-Museum of Ligia Bodea, which hosts an ethnographic collection with hundreds of folk costumes, thousands of ceramic pots, glass icons and dowry chests, and other traditional objects. The museum has a short history, but very special. In 2003, at the death of his grandmother, Ligia Bodea, who was then only 12 years old, persuaded his parents to not demolish the old house, built around 1880. She also kept in good condition the objects with which had grown, as ordained them her grandmother, and began to gather other from the village. Amazed by the girl's tenacity, her parents were also involved and thus the house became a museum, extending then on the yard, where, in an gazebo, are exposed various agricultural machines. Ligia dreams of a ecomuzeu and, until be able to fulfill this dream, participates in exhibitions and cultural projects, teaches children to paint icons on glass, and talks to the elders, because the memories of the old world must not disappear along with them.

September 24, 2014

1243 PORTUGAL (Lisbon) - A shoeshiner in Lisbon in 1987

In Western civilization, the occupation of shoeshiner was probably one of the most ephemeral, appearing in the early 20th century and disappearing in most European countries before its conclusion. However, shining shoes still is an important source of income for many children and families throughout the world. Some shoeshiners offer extra services, such as shoe repairs and general tailoring. Although this occupation is generally regarded with condescension, quite a lot well-known and high profile people started their working life as shoeshiners, including singers and presidents, such as James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, the human rights activist Malcolm X, or the brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

September 23, 2014

0636-0644, 1241-1242 ROMANIA (Suceava) - Churches of Moldavia (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 11.05.2013 and 23.09.2014
This series of postcards, named Patrimonio and depicting Churches of Moldavia (listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1993 and 2010), has for me and my collection a particular importance, and the reasons are very well founded. It hasn't yet appeared on the market, so I'm the first who had the joy of receiving it, through the courtesy of Marius Vasiliu, author of the photographs, and of Terra Design, the printing house in Gura Humorului which issued them. I must say that the collaboration between Marius and Terra Design is already old, and this isn't the first very special achievement of this tandem, in previous years being edited numerous postcards (normal or folded), related primarily to the Bukovina's traditions, and its cultural and artistic heritage, but also to the present of this historical region and its inhabitants. You can find some of them on the official website of the printing house, here.

The Churches of Moldavia are eight Orthodox churches built between 1487 and 1583, in a time when the increasing threat of the Ottoman Empire and then pressures exerted by the Protestant Reformation were an ongoing concern for the princes of Moldavia, boyars and the Orthodox Church. The architecture of these churches has been developed over the 15th century, in a cultural ambience marked by the influence of Byzantium and Serbia. In terms of the plan were adopted original solutions with a development trend in length, some Gothic elements stressing the originality of this architecture that blends the Byzantine and Gothic traditions. The silhouette of the buildings, strongly individualized by the broken line of the roofs, contributes decisively to define specific aspect of this architecture. But the most distinctive element of these churchs are the external paintings, which cover all the facades, masterpieces of mural painting, with a consummate chromatism and a remarkable elegance of the figures. In addition, not fewer of the topics chosen for the paintings, mostly taken from the Bible and the Holy Scriptures, are encountered only here.

• PROBOTA (Church of St. Nicholas and the Catholicon of the Probota Monastery)


Erected in 1530, Probota Monastery served as the royal necropolis (1522-1677), here being the tombs of the Voivode Petru Rareş (illegitimate son of Ştefan cel Mare, and founder of the monastery) and Ştefan Rareş (son of Petru Rareş), Lady Elena Rareş and other members of the princely family of Moldavia. Plundered in 1622 by thieves, was later restored by Voivode Vasile Lupu, and in 1677 was dedicated to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Greeks monks who were installed there totally neglected the conservation of the ensemble. After secularization of monastic estates (1863), the buildings have been degraded further, the cells and princely houses being consumed by fire in the early 20th century. It was restored in several stages, 1934-1937, 1986, 1992-2001, and in 1993 the monastery was re-established, as a nuns community. Recent restoration revealed, under a layer of newer painting, the original painting of great artistic value. The church's distinctive note is given by the vault painted, which remind of the vault of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

ARBORE (Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist)

Erected in 1503, was the court chapel of Luca Arbore, pârcălab (burgrave) of Suceava, one of the great boyars of Ştefan cel Mare, beheaded in 1523 from the command of Ştefăniţă Vodă. Being founded by a boyar, it has no towers, and was designed in a simple form, stunning  through its great stylization, but in its construction can be observed some architectural innovation and a great equilibrium of proportions. Mural painting, executed in 1541 by Dragoş Coman from Iaşi, is characterized by the exceptional durability of the blue pigment. Was preserved the tomb's ark of the monastery's founder, considered the most valuable funeral mark in Gothic style in Bukovina. Instead, the boyar's court completely crumbled over time, being destroyed by fire. The interior painting was severely damaged, but however can be seen clearly enough, and the exterior one, including scenes populated by many characters in constant motion, has a rare artistic value.

MOLDOVIŢA (The Church of the Annunciation of the Moldoviţa Monastery)

Built by Petru Rareş in 1532, Moldoviţa Monastery is surrounded by walls and towers for defence, as a fortress, in that time being situated at the northern border of Moldavia. Between 1610 and 1612 was built clişarniţa (the abbot's house), where were kept the treasures of the church, but also operated a school of copyists and miniaturists. Moldoviţa's frescoes were painted by Toma of Suceava in 1537. The predominantly yellow-and-blue paintings on its exterior represent recurring themes in Christian Orthodox art: a procession of saints leads up to the Virgin enthroned with the Child in her lap, the Tree of Jesse, the Siege of Constantinople, which commemorates the intervention of the Virgin in saving the city of Constantinople from Persian attack in A.D. 626. The Last Judgment covers the entire surface of the west wall. Sister Maika, who has been living in the monastery for more than 50 years, says that it is "the holy scriptures in color". Moldoviţa and Humor are the last churches built with an open porch, a hidden place above the burial-vault, and with Gothic-style windows and doors.

HUMOR (Church of the Assumption of the Virgin of the former Humor Monastery)

Erected in 1530 by Petru Rareş and his chancellor Teodor Bubuiog, Humor Monastery was one of the first of Moldavia's painted monasteries to be frescoed and, along with Voroneţ, is the best preserved. The dominant colour of the frescoes, painted in 1535 by Toma of Suceava, is a reddish brown. The subjects of the frescoes, common to the painted monasteries of Bukovina, include the Siege of Constantinople and the Last Judgment. In 1641, Vasile Lupu surrounded the monastery with stone walls and built a massive tower with ground floor and three floors. In 1653 the Cossacks looted and torched it, and in 18th century the church was converted into a parish church. The frescoes was restored in the years 1971-1972, as also the roof and the tower. In 1991 the monastic settlement was reactivated as a monastery for nuns.

PĂTRĂUŢI (Church of the Holy Rood of Pătrăuţi)

Buit in 1487, it's the first definite foundation of Ştefan cel Mare, and her reputation comes from the narthex wall painting with a topic rare: cavalcade Holy Cross. The monastery was abandoned repeatedly, being plundered by the Cossacks, Tartars and then Poles (in 1684). In the early 18th century it was repaired, and in 1711 was reestablished convent of nuns, but only for a few decades. It was closed in 1783 and the church was converted into a parish church, in this situation being even today. In 2003 have started restoration works, being brought to light some fragments of interior fresco of inestimable artistic and historical value. The church has exterior painting only on the west wall, representing the Last Judgement. It was discovered in the 1980s and is considered the oldest exterior religious painting in Moldavia. In 1725 was built a wooden belfry, which exists today. In the churchyard there is a stone round table, also assigned by tradition of Ştefan cel Mare.

VORONEŢ (Church of St George of the former Voroneţ Monastery)

This monastery was built in less than four months in 1488 by Ștefan cel Mare, to commemorate the defeat of the Ottomans at Podul Înalt (the High Bridge) in 1475, a battle described as "the greatest ever secured by the Cross against Islam," with casualties, according to Venetian and Polish records, reaching beyond 40,000 on the Ottoman side. For this Ştefan was awarded the title "Athleta Christi" (Champion of Christ) by Pope Sixtus IV. Often known as the "Sistine Chapel of the East", the frescoes at Voroneţ, made in 1547, feature an intense shade of blue known in Romania as "Voroneţ blue". Another characteristic note is painters' rich creative imagination, who introduced folk elements in the composition. Inside the church hold the attention the pews and the armchair from the 16th century (including a royal armchair, a true masterpiece of wood sculpture), the tomb of Bishop Grigore Roşca, in the porch, and the tomb of Daniil the Hermit, in the narthex. Monastic life was interrupted in 1785 and resumed in 1991 as a nuns community.

SUCEVIŢA (Church of the Resurrection Suceviţa Monastery)

Built in 1585 by Ieremia Movilă, Gheorghe Movilă and Simion Movilă and painted in exterior around 1601, Suceviţa was not only a fortified monastery, but as well a princely residence, surrounded by high (6m), and wide (3m) walls, and guarded at the corners by four towers. The thick walls today shelter a museum that presents an outstanding collection of historical and art objects. The tombs of Ieremia and Simion Movilă - rich portraits embroidered in silver thread - together with ecclesiastical silverware, books and illuminated manuscripts, offer an eloquent testimony to Suceviţa's importance first as a manuscript workshop, then as a printing center. Is the only church of the eight which was inscribed on the UNESCO list in 2010. Like to the others, exterior and interior mural paintings is of great artistic value, being a comprehensive biblical narrative of the Old and New Testaments.

SUCEAVA (Church of St. George of the Saint John the New Monastery)

The present church of the monastery was started in 1514 by the son of Ştefan cel Mare, Bogdan Chiorul, and finished by Ştefăniţă Vodă in 1522. It was intended to be the new headquarters of the Metropolitan Church of Moldavia and was painted both inside and outside between 1532-1534, during the reign of Petru Rareş, the iconography being characteristic to the monuments builded ​​during this period. In 1589 they were brought relics of St. John the New of the old metropolitan. The iconostasis dates from 1796 and belongs to Moldavian Baroque style, remarking from the impressive sizes, ornamental and chromatic richness. The frescoes are the work of Moldavian craftsmen from the time of Petru Rareş.

1240 TUNISIA (Kairouan) - Kairouan (UNESCO WHS)

Located in the centre of Tunisia, in a plain at an almost equal distance from the sea and the mountain, Kairouan (Al Qairawān) was founded around 670, as an Arab military post for the conquest of the West. The site had housed a Byzantine garrison before the Arab conquest, far from the sea - safe from the continued attacks of the Berbers, who had fiercely resisted the Arab invasion. In the period of Caliph Mu'awiya (r. 661-680), it became an important centre for Islamic and Quranic learning, and thus attracting a large number of Muslims, next only to Mecca and Medina.