October 31, 2014

1324 NEPAL - Manaslu, Mountain of the Spirit

Manaslu, which means "Mountain of the Spirit", also known as Kutang, or Pung-Gyen (The Bracelet), the eighth highest mountain in the world (8,156m), is located in the Mansiri Himal, in the northern Himalayan range, in the west-central part of Nepal. The mountain's long ridges and valley glaciers offer feasible approaches from all directions, and culminate in a peak that towers steeply above its surrounding landscape, and is a dominant feature when viewed from afar. It was first climbed on May 9, 1956 by Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu, members of a Japanese expedition. It is said that "just as the British consider Everest their mountain, Manaslu has always been a Japanese mountain". Until May 2008, the mountain has been climbed 297 times with 53 fatalities.

October 30, 2014

1322 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam

Built between 1603 and 1611 in Amsterdam Renaissance style, as a pseudo-basilica in Gothic style, after a design by Hendrick de Keyser (buried in the church in 1621), the Zuiderkerk (Southern church) was the city's first church built specifically for Protestant services. It was used for church service until 1929, since 1988 serving as a municipal information centre. The distinctive church tower, which dominates the surrounding area (it has around 75m high including the wooden spire), wasn't completed until 1614 and contains a carillon of bells built by the brothers Hemony, installed in 1656 along with four bells which are rang monthly.

October 29, 2014

1321 GUYANA - Kaieteur Falls

Located on the Potaro River, in Kaieteur National Park, Kaieteur Falls were discovered in1870 by the British geologist Charles Barrington Brown. They have 226m high from its plunge over a sandstone and conglomerate cliff to the first break, and are among the most powerful waterfalls in the world, with an average flow rate of 663 cubic metres per second. In other words, this single drop waterfall is about four times higher than the Niagara Falls, and about twice the height of the Victoria Falls. In terms of the human heritage of this area, it was said to still be inhabited by native Amerindians. In fact, Kaieteur Falls was said to be named after an Amerindian chief by the name of Kai who gave his life by canoeing over the falls. Apparently he did this in order to protect his tribe from a rival Carib tribe by means of divine intervention (i.e. I guess the Great Spirit would intervene if Chief Kai sacrificed himself). The word "teur" meant falls in the native Amerindian language so technically it would be redundant to include the word "Falls" in Kaieteur.

1320 VIETNAM - Hồ Chí Minh (1890-1969)

Hồ Chí Minh led the Vietnamese nationalist movement for more than three decades, fighting first against the Japanese, afterwards against the French colonial power and then against the US-backed South Vietnam. He was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in 1945, becoming also its prime minister (1945-1955) and its president (1945-1969). Today, he has in Vietnam an almost god-like status, still being called Uncle Ho. In 1987, UNESCO officially recommended to Member States that they "join in the commemoration of the centenary of the birth of President Ho Chi Minh by organizing various events as a tribute to his memory", considering "the important and many-sided contribution of President Ho Chi Minh in the fields of culture, education and the arts" and that Ho Chi Minh "devoted his whole life to the national liberation of the Vietnamese people, contributing to the common struggle of peoples for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress". In his honor, after the Communist conquest of the South in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

October 26, 2014

1319 UKRAINE (Donetsk Oblast) - Sviatohirsk Lavra

Named also the Holy Mountains Lavra, due to the surrounding mountains, Sviatohirsk Lavra is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery (a lavra) located on the right bank of the Seversky Donets River. The first monks settled in the area in the 14th century, but the first written mention of the monastery was in 1526, and in 1624 it was officially recognized as the Sviatohirsk Uspensky Monastery. During times of the Crimean Khanate it was invaded a couple of times, being restored in 1787, and in 1844.

1317 IRAQ (Nineveh) - The Dominican Clock Church in Mosul

With a rich ancient history, Mosul was an important trade center which linked Persia and the Mediterranean, so it was allways a cosmopolitan city. Christianity was present among the indigenous Assyrian people as early as the 2nd century, and later the city became a center for the Nestorian Christianity (it contains the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah). After the annexation to the Rashidun Caliphate, the Islam became the dominant religion, but the city maintained, more than 1300 years, until Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over it in 2014, a multicultural and multi-religious mosaic, despite the institutional ethnic persecution by various political powers.

October 25, 2014

1315 PAKISTAN (Punjab) - Taxila (UNESCO WHS)

Now, Taxila (in Sanskrit Takshashila, literally meaning City of Cut Stone or Rock of Taksha) is a small town situated about 32km north-west of  Islamabad, but the ancient settlement was a noted centre of learning at least several centuries BC, and continued to attract students from around the old world until its destruction in the 5th century by the Huns. Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas, the ancient and the most revered Hindu scriptures, and the Eighteen Silpas or Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science. Situated at the pivotal junction of India, western Asia and Central Asia, Taxila also illustrates the different stages in the development of a city on the Indus that was alternately influenced by Persia, Greece and Central Asia. It is a vast serial site, that includes a Mesolithic cave and the archaeological remains of four early settlement sites, Buddhist monasteries, and a Muslim mosque and madrassa.

October 24, 2014

1314 UNITED STATES (Vermont) - The Arlington Green Covered Bridge

Arlington is a little town in Vermont, with only 2,317 inhabitants, known only by history lovers, because was the capital of the Vermont Republic (1777-1791). Near the town, off Vermont Route 313, is the Arlington Green Covered Bridge, which crosses Batten Kill. The picturesque red bridge was built in 1852 using the Towne Truss design. Looking through the bridge one catches a glimpse of the Inn on Covered Bridge Green, now a bed & breakfast and formerly the home of painter Norman Rockwell between 1943 and 1954. The Inn was built in 1792. The view from the south (on the postcard) shows the steel cables which hold the bridge in place during storms. The cables are typical of all these bridges. On August 28, 2011, the bridge was damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Irene, but it was fixed in the following months and has since reopened.

1313 PORTUGAL (Coimbra) - University of Coimbra - Alta and Sofia (UNESCO WHS)

In Coimbra are many archaeological structures which date back to the Roman era (the well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus for example), and also buildings from the period when it was the capital of Portugal (1131-1255), but this city is best known for its University. During the Late Middle Ages, with the decline of Coimbra as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, it began to evolve into a major cultural centre, helped by the university finally established there in 1537. The university, one of the oldest in Europe,  influences educational institutions of the former Portuguese empire over seven centuries, receiving and disseminating knowledge in the fields of arts, sciences, law, architecture, town planning and landscape design. It demonstrates also a specific urban typology, which illustrates the far-ranging integration of a city and its university.

October 21, 2014

1311 ITALY (Sicily) - The castles of Erice


On Sicily’s westernmost coast, dominating the city of Trapani below it, the Egadi Islands to the southwest, and Monte Cofano to the east, stands the city of Erice, perched high atop the mountain of the same name, Greek as origin (Eryx), even if the settlement was founded by Phoenicians. Conquered by Aghlebids in 831 and renamed Cebel Hamid, in 1167 was occupied by Normans, who renamed it Monte San Giuliano, name that survived until 1934. Erice’s exceptional location on a plateau rising 751m above sea level contributes to a remarkable preservation of its medieval atmosphere, from the streets paved in marble to the stone walls enclosing flower-laden internal courtyards where family life unfolds undisturbed. The scene is further enchanted by the drifting fog that envelops the city and surrounding pine forest.

October 20, 2014

1310 NETHERLANDS (Aruba) - The Casibari Boulders


Near Ayo village, about 3.2 km from the natural bridge towards Casibari (now defunct) are located the monolithic rock boulders named Ayo Rock Formations. The Arawak people, the earliest settlers on the island of Aruba, used to visit this formations and carved paintings in rocks called petroglyphs while performing religious rites. One of the unusual and notable rock formations is the Casibari Boulders, which are tonalite rocks seen to the north of Hooiberg. They are reddish brown in colour and rise above the desert landscape giving a panoramic view of the island. They are located amidst cacti, and lizards are commonly encountered here. The boulders have unusual shapes resembling birds and dragons. There is no plausible explanation yet for the presence of these unusual wind-carved boulder formations on a flat sandy island.

1309 SUDAN - Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe (UNESCO WHS)

The Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe, a semi-desert landscape between the Nile and Atbarah rivers (the modern region of Butana), was the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. The property consists of the royal city of the Kushite kings at Meroe (on the east bank of the Nile, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum), the nearby religious site of Naqa and Musawwarat es-Sufra.

1308 UNITED STATES (Massachusetts) - Russel House Tavern in Cambridge

Located at the first convenient Charles River crossing west of Boston, Newe Towne (later named Cambridge) was one of a number of towns (including Boston, Dorchester, Watertown, and Weymouth), founded in 1630s by the 700 original Puritan colonists of the Massachusetts Bay Colony under governor John Winthrop. The original village site is in the heart of today's Harvard Square, a large triangular area at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Brattle Street, and John F. Kennedy Street. Adjacent to Harvard Yard, the historic heart of Harvard University, the Square (as it is sometimes called locally) functions as a commercial center for Harvard students, as well as residents of western Cambridge and the inner western and northern suburbs of Boston.

October 19, 2014

1307 RUSSIA (Murmansk Oblast) - Kirovsk, in the Arctic Circle

Founded in 1929 as Khibinogorsk, the name that it wore until 1934, Kirovsk is a town located at the spurs of the Khibiny Mountains on the shores of the Lake Bolshoy Vudyavr, 175km south of Murmansk, on the Arctic Circle. Its occurrence was due to the expedition led by Alexander Fersman in 1920s, which discovered large deposits of apatite and nepheline. By the end of 1930, its population grew to ten thousand people, and a mining and chemical plant was under construction. It was renamed after Sergei Kirov, a prominent early Bolshevik leader killed in 1934 by a gunman at his offices in the Smolny Institute. Now, the population of Kirovsk it's about 29,000.

October 18, 2014

1306 TOGO - Women from the north of the country

Togo, one of the smallest countries in all of Africa, a strip of land between Ghana and Benin, with exit to the  Gulf of Guinea, is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture. The largest religious group in country are those with indigenous beliefs. In Togo, there are about 40 different ethnic groups, the most numerous of which are the Ewe and Ouatchis in the south. Also found are Kotokoli or Tem and Tchamba in the center and the Kabye people in the north.

1301-1305 UNITED STATES (Hawaii) - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (UNESCO WHS)

1301 Fountaining and lava flow
from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō on January 31, 1984

The Hawaiian islands were (and continue to be) continuously formed from volcanic activity initiated at an undersea magma source called a hotspot. As the tectonic plate beneath much of the Pacific Ocean moves to the northwest, the hot spot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes. Due to the hotspot’s location, the only active volcanoes are located around the southern half of the Big Island. In 1916, this area, which encompasses Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive subaerial volcano, was designated national park.

1302 Kilauea - Halemaumau fire pit eruption, December 26, 1967

Volcanic eruptions have created a constantly changing landscape, and the lava flows reveal surprising geological formations. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna. Climates range from lush tropical rain forests, to the arid and barren Kaʻū Desert. The park is also rich in archaeological remains particularly along 'the coast with native villages, temples, graves, paved trails, canoe landings, petroglyphs, shelter caves and agricultural areas. Extensive ruins of stone structures dating back to the time of Pa'ao (a high priest) in 1275 are present.

1303 Kilauea lava show

Mauna Loa, meaning Long Mountain in Hawaiian, has probably been erupting for at least 700,000 years, and may have emerged above sea level about 400,000 years ago. Mauna Loa is a typical shield volcano in form, taking the shape of a long, broad dome extending down to the ocean floor. Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor, and very fluid; eruptions tend to be non-explosive and the volcano has relatively shallow slopes. Its most recent eruption occurred from March 24 to April 15, 1984. No recent eruptions of the volcano have caused fatalities.

1304 Kilauea and Mauna Loa

Kīlauea, at 300,000 to 600,000 years old and going above sea level about 100,000 years ago, it is the second youngest product of the Hawaiian hotspot and the current eruptive center of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. Because it lacks topographic prominence and its activities historically coincided with those of Mauna Loa, Kīlauea was once thought to be a satellite of its much larger neighbor. Structurally, Kīlauea has a large, fairly recently formed caldera at its summit and two active rift zones. Its entire known history has been an active volcano. Kīlauea's current eruption dates back to January 3, 1983, and is one of the longest-lived eruptions in the world.

1305 Kilauea and Mauna Loa

Puʻu ʻŌʻō, often translated as "Hill of the ʻŌʻō Bird", is a cinder cone in the eastern rift zone of the Kīlauea volcano which has been erupting continuously since January 3, 1983. By January 2005, 2.7 cubic kilometers of magma covered an area of more than 117 square kilometers and added 0.93 square kilometers of land to the Southeast coast of Hawaiʻi. So far, the eruption has claimed 189 buildings and 14 kilometers of highways, as well as a church, a store, the Wahaʻula Visitor Center, and many ancient Hawaiian sites, including the Wahaʻula heiau.

October 16, 2014

1300 PANAMA - Pollera de gala (Festive polleras)

There are many traditions that have been adopted as characteristic of Panama's nationality, but among all of these probably no single expression stands higher than the pollera, the women's national dress. Along with the other traditional Latin American dresses, the pollera descended from the Spanish dress of the 16th and 17th centuries, although it's hard to indicated its exact point of origin. Behold what wrote Nieves de Hoyos, director of the Museo del Pueblo Espanol, in an article published in the Revista de Indias of December, 1963: "The origin is in Spain, but not from the regional Spanish dress, which contrary to general opinion did not develop its current form until the eighteenth century or later. The pollera in Panama evolved from the Spanish feminine dress of the seventeenth century, not from the court dress with its grand hoops covered with velvets and embroidered silks embellished with laces, gold, and silver threads - the dress which immediately comes to mind to most people because they have frequently seen the pictures of Velazquez. In the seventeenth century, as in any other time, contemporary with the beautiful court dresses there was the daily house dress, which in this epoch was generally white with a full skirt of two or three ruffles embroidered or appliqued in floral designs. This description is, simply, the pollera."

October 15, 2014

1299 FRANCE (New Aquitaine) - Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux

Lying along the Garonne River, 24km above its junction with the Dordogne and 96 km from its spilling into the Atlantic, in a plain east of the wine-growing district of Médoc, Bordeaux became a prosper city because it was the place from which the famous wines went to other horizons. The city is built on a bend of the river, and is divided into two parts: the right bank to the east and left bank in the west. Historically the left bank is more developed because when flowing outside the bend, the water makes a furrow of the required depth to allow the passing of merchant ships, which used to offload on this side of the river. On this bank is its historic center, Port of the Moon, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Bordeaux isn't only a city of the past, but also one of the present.

October 14, 2014

0954, 0955, 1298 UNITED STATES (Arizona) - Grand Canyon Railway

Posted on 08.01.2014 and completed on 14.10.2014
The Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) is a 103km-long passenger railroad, which operates between Williams (Arizona) and Grand Canyon National Park South Rim. The first train arrived to Grand Canyon on September 17 1901. Competition with the automobile forced the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to cease operation of this railway in 1968. Its fate seemed sealed, but in 1988 was bought by Max and Thelma Biegert, who restored it, and the first train has ran on September 17, 1989. The Grand Canyon Depot, owned by the National Park Service, remained the northern terminus for passengers of the line. In 1995 the GCR introduced vintage diesel locomotives, reconditioned 1970s EMD F40PH (in the second postcard), and a year later steam locomotive No. 4960 (in the first postcard) made its first run on the line after being fully restored. No. 4960 (a 2-8-2 locomotive) was built in 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, and operated a freight and coal hauling service for the Midwestern Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad until the late 1950s.

In 2006 the GCR carry about 240,000 passengers, which reduced automobile traffic to the South Rim by 10%. In the same year Xanterra Parks & Resorts bought the Railway, but sold it in 2008 to Philip Anschutz. In 2009, as a result of popular demand, the Railway reinstated limited steam operations at the Williams Depot. After converting locomotive No. 4960 to run purely on waste vegetable oil (WVO), it began conducting steam trips on its special event train dubbed the "Cataract Creek Rambler". Over the winter of 2011/2012, engine 4960 underwent its 15-year overhaul and inspection, and returned to service in 2012 for a special Centennial Run on February 14, celebrating 100 years of Arizona Statehood. Since then, it continues to pull GCR excursions once per month during the summer months from May through September, and for special occasions.

The F40PH - a four-axle 3,000 hp  B-B diesel-electric locomotive, built in several variants between 1975 and 2000 - was originally intended to haul short- to medium-length trains on Amtrak's shorter routes. Hundreds of F40PH units were built, and many can be found in use on passenger, tourist and freight railroads today. Due to the high-pitch noise generated from its engine, the units have often been nicknamed "screamers." The largest fleet of these locomotives now operates in the Chicago metropolitan area on the Metra system, totaling 117 units. The locomotive GCRX 237, formerly AMTK 237 (in the second postcard), built in 1977 by the Electro Motive Division of General Motors at their La Grange, Illinois plant, was purchased by the GCR in 2003, at the same time with AMTK 239 and 295. In 2009 the owner decided to rebuild this locomotive, on the one hand to adapt it to its goals and on the other for environmental upgrades. More details about the rebuilding can be found here.