Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Turku and a stamp fest

The Finnish flag flies over Turku harbour. I can almost hear the yachts and tall ship's rigging rattling in the breeze. The building bottom right is the medieval keep of Turku Castle as seen from the harbour side. Its image also appears on Finland's popular mustard Turun Sinappi (Turku Mustard).

Turku is located on the south west coast of Finland and is the home town of my sender.  It will be the European Capital of Culture in 2011.  Turku is the oldest city in the country and was the capital, until Finland became part of the Russian Empire in 1809, and then the capital moved to Helsinki.

This neatly links to the pretty envelope my Postcrosser sent me, on which was part of a miniature set of stamps
 issued in January 2009 called "The First Steps Towards Independence".  After the Russo-Swedish war of 1809 Finland's connection with Sweden was severed and Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire.  The background of the sheet shows the Diet of Porvoo (painted by RW Ekman in 1858) which established the Principality of Finland when Tsar Alexander I agreed to govern Finland in accordance with its laws. It would not be until 1917 that the country gained true independence.

The person depicted in the stamp is Count Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1757-1814) who was chairman of the Committee for Finnish Affairs and is considered one of the fathers of Finnish independence.  Also on the card itself there was
one of the 2010 joint Japan/Finland issue of  postage stamps for the festive season. One set portrayed a Finnish Christmas and this is one of the set of Japanese designed stamps and how the festival is seen in Japan.

Thank you Jassica for the wonderful stamps and card.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Aon Phranang Beach, Thailand

We are coming to the end of the coldest December since records began here, how wonderful to have this card drop through my letterbox. I suddenly felt quite cheery. This area of Thailand is described as "towering limestone cliffs, soft white sand beaches, small coves and offshore islands"  The longtail boats in the picture transports to and from Aon Phranang beach and also to Princess Cave in the distance which is the home of a mythical princess.  The beach is described as secluded and tranquil where rock climbers can be watched scaling the cliffs. The limestone cliffs in this area are a popular destination for climbers. I'd stick to the beach and listen to the Andaman Sea lapping onto the shore while the sun shone down.

The card came with a complete set, wow,  of the August 2010 issue of
Orchid stamps, in particular, Rhynchostylis gigantia which are native to south east Asia. They grow from a single base and are different from all other families of orchids. Their stems are short and strong. Certainly strength would be needed to hold up these exuberant blooms.  The flowers are fragrant and only bloom once a year.

The little stamp with balloons is from a set of six memorable words definitive stamps issued in 2010. This one says congratulations.  The others in the set
are, left to right swasdee (the Thai greeting with hands together), happy birthday, thanks, love, miss you and congratulations. We have sets of stamps for similar occasions which the Royal Mail call 'Smilers'.  Appropriately my sender sends me "greetings from Thailand, the Land of Smiles" and, as might be guessed, is a collector of stamps.

Thank you Sathitporn for brightening my winter day

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Wallace's Present to Gromit

Boxing day, the 26th December, was traditionally the time to open presents rather than Christmas Day. There are many theories to the origin of this tradition and of course Wikipedia can be relied on to come up with a few.  However nowadays its Christmas morning that the pretty paper covered parcels are opened and I have now a great pile of books to read, practical and pretty scarves and jewellery to wear at the drop of a hat, no, one thing  I didn't get, hats.

Wallace has given Gromit a bone covered jumper which he may have to grow into.  Of course Wallace invented the Knit-O-Matic machine. The sheep goes in one end, is washed and sheered and out pops a freshly washed sheep at the other end, plus a freshly knitted sweater from that very wool. However the evil cyber-dog Preston subverted the machine for his own evil plans in "A Close Shave". (Sheep rescue clip here)

My sender, like me, could not resit these W and G cards, it is now a Christmas tradition that some of the films appear on television.  She comes from Rutland in England and says many people haven't heard of it. It is the smallest county in England, whose moto is appropriately  Multum In Parvo (much in little).  Probably most famous for the Rutland Water reservoir, a place of many wildfowl and the most spectacular Ospreys.

The card came with that other object of the imagination that also has many aficionados 
one of the 2007 stamps issued to commemorate the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow, the last in the series of Potter books, some of the book covers and this stamp were designed by Jason Cockroft.  It came through the post unstamped, or perhaps it was delivered by owl
Thank you Lisa, 'cracking' postcard.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Mail

Salthouse Post Office Post Box LA13 20
I was about to take a picture of the postbox where I post all my mail, with its fresh coating of snow, when out of the corner of my eye saw the red Royal Mail postal van appear, click. Could I get it again, on no the lights are turning green
it was on its way 'post-haste' delivering parcels.  The 'post must get through' delivering letters and cards
 Furness Abbey Approach from Abbey Road
like this one. A painting of the ruins of the12th Century Furness Abbey, built in local sandstone.  It sits in a natural amphitheatre, which when the Cistercian monks settled there, was called the Vale of the Deadly Nightshade.  Whenever I see one of John Duffin's paintings on a postcard it gets added to my collection.  Although he now lives in London he paints the place where he was born (Barrow in Furness) extensively. This is actually a Christmas Card which I am sending via the web to you my reader and sending wishes for a Merry Christmas.

A joint post for Gemma of Greyscale Territory's Weekend Mailbox and Beth of The Best Hearts Are Crunchy's Postal Friendship Friday.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Potsdam sounds like a wonderful place, described as a town of palaces, castles and parks, with a series of interconnecting lakes around the city. In the 17th and 18th Centuries it was the summer residence of Prusian kings and German emperors.  It is my senders ex home town and she likes to send British postcrossers the ones with some English looking buildings. Spot which two they are.

You couldn't get more english than the top left Shloß Cecilienhof which was actually built to look like an English Tudor house and is based on a house I have actually seen, Bidston Court on the Wirral (a peninsular near Liverpool). Cecilienhof was the last palace built by the Hohenzollen family and Emperor Wilhelm II erected it for his son. Like many of the palaces in Postsdam it is part of the UNESCO world heritage site of palaces and parks.

The fairy tale house top right is the Teehaus, or Chinese Tea-house and was built for Frederick the Great in the 18th Century to adorn his flower and vegetable garden, it reflects the love of chinoiserie that swept Europe at that time. This building mixes oriental and rococo, I'd love to have a look inside.

Middle left:- Russische Kirche, the oldest Russian Orthodox church in western Europe, called the Alexander Nevsky Memorial Church.

Bottom left - Hollandisches Viertel, the Dutch Quarter is in the heart of Potsdam with many cafes, pubs, arts and crafts shops. 134 houses were build of red brick on 4 squares by Jan Bourman in the 18th Century.

Middle right - Schloß Babelsberg was built in 1835-1849 as the summer residence for Emperor William I in the English Gothic style. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and is also part of the UNESCO site.

Bottom left - Brandenburger Tor, the gate commissioned by Frederich II in 1770, the side passages added later in 1843.

A marvellous mixture of styles and shapes in all the buildings and, as my sender says, the city has a quite an international face.  The card, alongside the German definitive flower stamps had a nicely themed

October 2010 commemorative stamp of a 1582 town-house in Epingen located in the Baden-Wuerttemberg region. 

Thank you Denise I can see why your heart still lives in beautiful Potsdam

Monday, 20 December 2010

China Steam Loco

Type HP Steam Locomotive (China)

A conundrum, this card also says GJ99005 (10-1). The GJs don't seem to look like this, HP was a prototype for the QJ class but was a different wheel format. Or perhaps HP stands for High Pressure, a boiler that operates at pressures well above what would be considered normal,...whoosh goes quick.  GJ or Gong Jian class was a construction worker class built between 1958-1961 usually for steel industry transportation so maybe that is what it is. Despite looking at wonderful pictures of steam trains travelling across China I know no more. No matter its a great card.

My postcrossing friend Xu who sent me the card likes travelling by train and sums up the pleasure of this mode of transport, sitting by the window to see the scenery, sleeping through the miles at night and talking with strangers. My sentiments too, although I cannot like her get up in the morning from a overnight trip and eat instant noodles, maybe one day in China, who knows.  But Xu quotes something that applies to both life and travelling:
"Happiness is a journey, not a destination"

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Parkgate Post Box

CH64 493

The sign says it all "Nicholls Famous Ice-Cream". Its not easy taking a picture juggling an ice cream (lemon meringue in case you were wondering). If this was summer the queue would be out of the door but on this sunny winter day there was only need of two members of staff to serve the small queues trying to make their minds up which flavour to choose. The postbox outside is there because it is also doubles as a Post Office. Located inside behind the postbox are twirling racks of cards and YES postcards.  So here is one I bought of The Parade, Parkgate before Nicholls and the postbox arrived. The building to the right is now a school (although it has recently closed)
The sea wall is worn down in the middle by the number of children who have walked on top of it through the years. It appears in 1916 it was already started to wear. I love this family group having their picture taken and the men behind carrying what must be a basket of shellfish.

Gemma of Greyscale Territory is the hostess of Weekend Mailbox, post anything remotely to do with mail. 

View Larger Map

Over time the estuary has silted up so the sea no longer comes up to the sea wall.

Friday, 17 December 2010


Eeva sent me this postcard from Finland which wishes Merry Christmas (Hyvää Joulna) and (ja) also on the back Happy New Year (Onnellista Uutta Vuotta).

There have not been lynx in Britain for thousands of years but this one, the Eurasian Lynx, largest of the four species, (the others are Iberian lynx, which is an endangered species, the Canadian lynx and the North American bobcat) is making a bit of a comeback in the forests of European and Siberian. In the early 20th Century they had declined to about 700 but now have increased considerably from this low point. Their habitat is remote forests and those large furry paws hit the ground and spread like a natural snowshoe. I can just imagine them padding silently through the snowy forests, their thick fur giving protection from the cold. The tuffs on the ears aid hearing and those forward facing predator eyes can spot their prey from some distance. The card came with some wary looking
reindeer.  Lynx would only go after large prey like these in winter when food is scarce, and Santa Clause doesn't need them for his deliveries.

Beth at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy is the hostess of Postcard Friendship Friday

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Finland's Wintery Coast

Eeva sends me this card of the Finnish coast in winter. When she sent it it was snowing in Helsinki and she says the sea and lakes have got a white coat. Our snow has gone but it is forecast to return tomorrow, but as we sit on the west coast with the warm gulf stream running past out to sea it rarely gets as snowy as this card.

It came in an envelope with one of the Finnish Christmas stamps
of Santa Claus, reindeer, the northern lights, fells and the rising moon as he delivers Christmas mail. It is designed by Tommi Vallisto who shows the special kind of darkness in Lapland (he studied at the University of Lapland).The Finnish post office call it Tunturimaisema postimerkki which I think means Mountain Landscape Stamp. Eeva also attached a sticker of
Merry Christmas / Hyvää Joulua.  And the same to you.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Chinese Dwellings, Xidi

Xidi Dwellings (Qing Dynasty), Yi County

The Xidi village in China was originally called Xichuan (west river) because of the streams that pass through it from the surrounding mountains. In 2000 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its "graphic illustration of a type of human settlement created during a feudal period and based on a prosperous trading economy".  The prosperity of this village peaked in the 18th and 19th centuries when there were 600 residences. Most of these types of villages disappeared in the 20th century so the 124 residences that survive in Xidi from the Ming and Quing dynasty are important historic remnants, many are open to the public.

My sender likes these type of ancient dwellings their detail and figures on the wall and eaves. They remind me of the ones that sometimes provide the background in wushu films, but without the flying martial arts. The story of the growth of Xidi could probably come from one of those films.
"The Hu family from Wuyuan (Xinan), adopted a son of the Tang Emperor Zhaozong (888-904) after the Emperor was forced from his throne in 904, naming him Hu Changyi. One of his descendants moved his family from Wuyuan to Xidi in 1047. The construction of a number of important private and public buildings began at around that time. From the mid-17th century until around 1850, the Hu family was influential in both commerce and politics. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, members of the family became imperial officials, while many also became graduates of the Imperial College".

Thank you Xu for this unique card.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Gran Via, Madrid

 Calle Gran Via esquina Calle Alcolá      

A wonderful confection of buildings at the start of the Gran Via, as the city life flows down it.

The Gran Via in the centre of Madrid is a premier shopping area and also, as can be seen, a showcase of early 20th Century architecture. Its origin was in the 19th Century when urban planners decided that a new thoroughfare was needed to link Calle Alcalá with the Plaza de España.  Many buildings were demolished to further this plan, it was described as "an axe blow on the map", decades past and construction had still not commenced. The press ridiculed this non starting project calling it the Gran Via (the Great Road). Eventually in 1904 the plans were passed to start building and 25 years later the street was complete to become indeed the Great Road, the planners had a sense of humour.

Its most famous building is the one on the card, the Edificio Metrópolis built between 1907-11, designed by Raymond Février in the French Beaux-Arts style. Originally there was a statue depicting a Phoenix with Ganymede sitting on its wing however when Metrópolis Seguros bought the building in 1972 the previous owners took the statue with them. Always tricky moving house. As well as cleaning and renovating the building Metrópolis Seguros installed the statue that can be seen today of the winged goddess Victory.

Now I mentioned this was a shopping area and the Italianate building to the right has been the home of the exclusive (read expensive) jewellers Grassy since 1952. As can be seen the building chimes in appearance with the Metrópolis which was what the architect Eladio Laredo aimed to achieve when it was built on a similar shaped piece of land in 1916. Speaking of chimes the building also houses a museum of antique clocks.

Thank you Pak for the cards. 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Ekaterinburg, Russia

"Shop "Parizhsky shik" (Paris Glamour), Pokrovsky Ave (named after the Protection of the Virgin). Nowadays it is Malyshev Street"

When I first saw this card I thought it was an old building stood in front of new ones but as I peered closer realised that it was an old black and white photograph at the place where the shop had stood.superimposed on top of a photograph of the street as it is now. It is a concept that could be done in many towns, like my own, where wonderful buildings have been knocked down in the past.

Ekaterinburg is probably most commonly remembered as where, after the Russian Revolution in 1918, the Tsar and his family were executed  in Ipatiev House. The house no longer stands as it was demolished in 1977 on instruction from the Politburo.  Now the newly built Church of the Blood stands there.

The vast landmass of Russia spreads from Europe to Asia and Ekaterinburg sits on the border between the two continents. Founded in 1723 on the eastern side of the Urals by the River Iset it is named after Saint Catherine, patron saint of miners.  Its first big industry was a large iron-making works and it is still a place of industry and research centres. During World War 2 many factories were relocated away from the war torn areas to the west so production could continue and a large part of the Hermitage's art collection was also temporarily transferred here.

Ekaterinburg is a great cultural centre for it has several dozen library, 30 museums and is famous for its many theatres.  I think my sender will find lots to do for she is staying in this town although she lives 99 kilometres away in the small town of Bogdanovich. If she takes the train the timetable will still refer to Ekaterinburg by its Soviet name, Sverdlovsk. The other exciting thing about the city is that it is an important railway junction for the Trans-Siberian Railway or Trans-Mongolian Railway, I've just had an imaginary journey here  My sender likes to travel although she would like to come in the other direction to the UK. The card came with
the 2009 definitive Kremlin stamps. Two 10R of Astrakhan Kremlin and the 3.00 of the Rostov Kremlin plus one of the 1998 .10 definitives of a combine harvester in a field.

Thank you Julia for this interesting card. 


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Wallace & Gromit Post Early

 More postboxes for Gemma at Greyscale Territory's Weekend Mailbox meme. Post anything remotely to do with mail such as stamps, postcards, old letters, mailboxes etc. Visit her pictures of very individual Australian mail boxes.        Here is my mail:-

A postcard of the Christmas stamp for large items. It replicates the 1st Class stamp but the robin on top of the  postbox is missing and what is out of sight on the other stamp appears to the left, the criminal mastermind Feathers McGraw about to throw a snowball at Gromit.  If the films are familiar you will know that Wallace and Gromit live at 62 West Wallaby Street.  With the usual Aardman Animations detail the postbox replicates the familiar postbox sign but signposting the nearest post office for the last collection as Wallaby Street.

As Britain appears to have disappeared beneath feet of snow and temperatures plummet (the coldest place is the village of Altnaharra in Scotland minus, yes  -22°) this stamp turns out to be rather prescient. Nick Park must have liked the postbox theme for the books of 1st and 2nd class Christmas stamps feature it as well. As Wallace might say "Cracking good job Gromit".

Friday, 3 December 2010

Wallace & Gromit's Christmas

This year the Royal Mail December stamps feature Nick Park's detailed claymation portrayals of Wallace and Gromit's Christmas. Here is the one for European postage. We are all enjoying sticking fun stamps of all values on envelopes and soon our Christmas cards. The stamps are very small so the Royal Mail's set of postcards are great for seeing all the detail. Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?  Every time I passed the garden landscaping firm round the corner from my house they seemed to be getting fresh deliveries of fir trees.

Every family have their own Christmas tree traditions so as one would expect Wallace is in charge of tree decorations while Gromit hands over the baubles.  The fairy/angel is always the last thing on top of the tree but the arch nemesis of the Aardmans Animations film 'The Wrong Trousers',  Feathers McGraw, has got there first.  Even arch nemesis enjoy Christmas.

Beth at the Best Hearts Are Crunchy is our hostess for Postal Friendship Friday.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Come Play

The Golden Retriever is an energetic dog so this one is just waiting for some fun times. That gorgeous strokeable coat is very waterproof as they were originally bred to retrieve game fowl.    They are also very intelligent so may outwit their human owner. My sender has a golden retriever of her own and tells me it is very clever dog because she can do many tricks.   The card came with a suitably doggy stamp
of a Jack Russell, part of a set of popular Finnish dog breeds issued in 2008 and illustrated by Katriina Viijaman-Rissanen.  As you may guess my senders Postcrossing profile says she likes dogs, dogs, dogs.

Thank you Leena, that is one cute canine.