Friday 29 April 2011


Main Market Square, Kraków

Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland and from 1038-1596 was the capital. The scene shows the carriages waiting in the Market Square for passengers, it is a popular tourist destination.  The centre of Kraków has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. The beautiful renaissance building on the postcard is the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) which is, and was, a centre of trade. Nowadays apart from shops it also houses galleries of 19th century Polish art.  On the left is St Mary's Basilica, a brick built Gothic church rebuilt in the 14th Century. Every hour a trumpet signal is played from the taller tower. This commemorates the 13th Century trumpeter shot in the throat while sounding an alarm before the Mongol Golden Horde attacked the city. The midday trumpet is played on Polish radio every day.

My sender, Mateusz, ambition is to study at the university of Science and Technology here, he was visiting Kraków when he bought this card, and is studying hard.  The university is a nice link to the card's stamp
 Graphic Designer:- Anna Niemierko
one of the 2010 'Minerals' set. What a beautiful colour. This is chrysoprase, a word from the Greek, chrysos (gold) and prasinos (greenish).  The largest deposit of this mineral in Europe is in Lower Silesia, Poland, it is also possibly the largest amount in the world. The green in chrysoprase varies from apple to dark green depending on the amount of nickel in the rock. I think it would make very pretty jewellery.

Thank you Mateusz, good luck with the exams.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Field Birds

Spot the bird. The names may be unfamiliar, but maybe handy to know when meeting a Dutch birder. My sender, Marjo, says I will see most of the Dutch field birds on this postcard.  As she says, they are familiar sights in England too. So interesting to see the Dutch for swallow is zwaluw and buzzard, buizerd. Our countries have more in common than just birds.  I heard a curlew calling this week on the marshes, one of my favourite sounds, or maybe I should have called it a wulp. Next time I walk through the park I will see the coot nesting, and perhaps call them meerkoet.

The card came with an interesting set of stamps
left to right, 1) Juliana Regina, 2) a 1987 Red Cross stamp with wonderful graphics, designed by Max Kisma, famous for his font designs. This  (one of three) is the result of hundreds of designs and collage images which he manually drew, cut and pasted then digitised on a computer.  3) Lastly one of the 1988 set celebrating the art of the avant-garde CoBrA group founded in 1948. So named after the cities they lived and worked in, Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam.  This is a stamp of the signature of Constant with a symbol of the Cobra group. The stamp that completes it is
Constant's painting of 1950 'Fallen Horse'. For the story of  CoBrA in stamps, yes isn't the internet wonderful, see here   

Thank you Marjo, great card.

Monday 25 April 2011

Cruising on the Kiel Canal

Cruise ships on the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal, or the Kiel Canal, 61 miles that connects the North Sea to the Baltic Sea, cutting out the journey round the Jutland peninsula.  It is said to be the busiest artificial waterway in the world.  In 2010 there were an average of 87 ships a day (a number which excludes small and pleasure boats),  using this route. Because of the numbers there are special traffic rules for large ships using the canal, however most large cruise ships cannot pass under the bridges so cannot use it. As can be seen the ones on this card are small enough, although there does not seem to be a lot of room to spare on the main picture of the Holland-America Line ship Prinsendam.  The ship top left, the MS Norwegian Dream, has special funnels and masts that can be lowered for passage.  The stacked decks of the large modern cruise liner are not very attractive but the smaller ones like Arielle and Astor here have more classic and graceful lines. 

My sender likes to travel and is looking forward to June when she will go on a cruise, not through the Kiel Canal, but to Iceland and Svalbard seeing some amazing landscapes.  The card came with
one of the pretty flower definitives and the 2010 stamp commemorating 20 years of German unification with the crowds waving flags in front of what I think may be the German parliament.  Every year since the fall of the Berlin wall and the unification of west and east Germany the 3rd October is a national holiday and a specific place is designated for the main celebration. This year it will be Bonn.

Thank you Lulo, happy cruising.    

Sunday 24 April 2011


 Sailing Dinghies
We are having glorious weather at the moment, the perfect time to mess around in boats. I think these two stamps portray the colour and speed of sailing beautifully. Whether out for the day on the lakes and seas or
 Racing Keel Yachts
the more serious business of trying to win a race.

An entry to Sunday Stamps hosted by Viridiasn Postcards

Wednesday 20 April 2011


A faithful friend looking down the line for a train to arrive. When I picked this up from my letterbox I just went, aww.  Of course this photograph features the bête noir of steam train photographers, overhead electric lines. But as there is not a train in sight they nicely add distance.  I can imagine standing on this station, the wooden boards warm in the sunshine and the train speeding down the line. 

I'm trying to ignore the damage caused by the mail system to the bottom corner, have they acquired a giant rubber recently, this is the second postcard I have received with a mark of this kind.

My sender, Sonja, is a baker-confectioner, two of my favourite things. I love going to countries and tasting the different cakes, pastries and bread. Perhaps in Finland I'll start with omena piirakka (apple pie) or this weekend, mämmi, a Finnish Easter speciality consisting of rye-malt, rye-meal, treacle, and orange peel; eaten with cream and sugar.  I can't imagine what that tastes like.

The card came with one of the 2009 Aurora borealis stamps which
with this one I now have two of the three stamp set.  

Thank you Sonja for this cute card.       

Monday 18 April 2011

The Family

A painting called "The Family" by Sergei Ivanov. Where are they going in the snow?  The young girl in blue with an angelic face leading the procession.  Wherever it is they are well wrapped up against the cold.  My sender, Kati, tells me they are a 19th Century family.  I have been unable to find a lot of information on the artist apart from his lifespan 1864-1910 and that his main subjects were the history of Russia, peasant life and the Russian Revolution of 1905. He was a member of a group of artists called the peredvizhniki, (the wanderers) who were realist painters portraying the life of Russians at that time, both the harshness and the beauty. "The Family" can be seen in The Russian Museum, St Petersburg , a place no doubt to find out more about the painting and Sergei Ivanov.  The postcard came with two
of the 2008 Belarus definitives of Garden Flowers. These the peony and the lily.

Thank you Kati for this beautiful postcard.

Sunday 17 April 2011


I didn't think I would have anything for this weeks Sunday Stamps on the theme of Easter or religion so I went off to find something symbolic like rabbits or eggs, but after a root through an old box of stamps discovered this stamp, issued by Burundi in Easter 1969.  The other bonus was I discovered an artist I had never heard of, Antoine Caron (1521-1599), not many of this French artist's works survive. He was a painter at the French court and the description of this says so much in a single sentence -

"his work reflects the refined, though highly unstable atmosphere at the court of the House of Valois during the French Wars of Religion 1560-1598".  

As can be seen Caron elongated his figures, I wonder if that was the reason he was chosen, for one of the other stamps in the set  is of an El Greco painting. Of course once I'd seen the detail of a floating and dancing Christ I had to see if I could find the context of the Caron painting which changes the view of the image entirely.
The painting can be seen in the Musée départmental de l'Oise in Beauvais, located in the centre of the city by the cathedral, it looks a fascinating place. 

Sunday Stamps is hosted by Viridians Postcards here

Saturday 16 April 2011

Tatton Park Post

 Post Box Number WA16 83
A George VI (1936-52) postbox with its curly G at Tatton Park in Cheshire. A deer park, lake, mansion and 50 acres of gardens. Something for everyone. The postbox is just around the corner from the shop, which of course sells postcards. 

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Lets Go To San Francisco

A sight familiar to any film-goer, the undulating hills of San Francisco features in many of them either with trolley cars or with motor cars bouncing down at high speed. Alcatraz has been the star rather than the backdrop in many famous films, Bird Man of Alcatraz, Escape from Alcatraz, The Rock, the list goes on. I've never known the names of the street but the card puts me in the picture

"Cable cars passing on the Hyde Street line atop Russian Hill. Alcatraz can be seen in the distance"

My sender, Arlene, went to San Francisco for the weekend and fell in love with the city, finding the people to be so friendly. She had fun riding the cable cars. I envy her that ride I would love to hang on the side step and swoop down the hill, possibly with my head full of Judy Garland's Trolley Song, "ding ding ding went the trolley..", although technically that is from a different city ("'Meet Me In St Louis').  According to the SF Cable Car site the gripman will alert you to potential hazards on the way down. Don't know what they are, car chases perhaps.

Thank you Arlene , yes I enjoyed the card

Monday 11 April 2011

Yippee New Bike

It is just the weather for taking a bike ride at the moment and this happy postcard invites you to hop on board. It is a 1966 advert for the junior Batavus bicycle. I love the look on the faces of the group of children, one the proud owner and his overjoyed friends. At least that is how I read it. My sender, Norbert, tells me Batavus is one of the oldest brands in the Netherlands. It is also the right weather for cycling in the Netherlands for he tells me it is 15 degrees centigrade at "clog level", with dry humour.

The card came in an envelope with lots of stamps
a combination of Euro and pre 2002 guilder stamp. On the left are the two Euro stamps by the side of the 45 guilder stamp. The one on the extreme right is from the 1979 Dutch literary series, this one for Joost Van den Vondel, a 17th Century writer and playwright "master of the lyric".  The colourful one next to it is the 1977 Child Welfare issue which at first I thought was a clown acrobat, but couldn't understand the theme of "Danger to Children". Unless it was beware of circuses.  Then I turned it around:
and realised it was a box of matches, not to be played with.  The Child Welfare stamps are issued every year with a different theme, they always seem to be one of the most attractive of the Dutch stamps.

Thank you Norbert for the stamps, card and newspaper.

Sunday 10 April 2011


Flowers are a popular theme with postal authorities, indeed I only received some on a Belarus postcard this week, but for Sunday Stamps I am journeying to China who have issued some lovely flowers stamps over the years. The pretty painting above is on the cover of a philatelic item of commemorative stamps celebrating the Chinese Rose issued in 1984.
The butterfly theme follows from the cover with their postage marks. I wonder how many varieties of roses there are in the world.?  There must be thousands.  The booklet calls it the "queen of flowers" and from its wild origins to its ornamental cousin this beautiful flower lives up to that name. I like reading the names of roses in garden centres, some are so imaginative.  These Chinese Roses have some evocative names - Shanghai Spring, Pujiang Rosy Dawn, Pearl, Black Whirlwind, Battlefield Yellow Flower, and the Blue Phoenix
Which are listed in the inside cover.
 Lets walk in a rose garden:

Roses by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) 

You love the roses - so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!

Viridians Postcards is the hostess of Sunday Stamps whose theme this week is flowers of any kind.

Saturday 9 April 2011


 Postbox No LA8 111
In the summer this will just be a postbox with a green tree behind it, but before the leaves appear it can be seen in its surroundings. When I looked up its Post Office name I smiled because it is called Dreamlands, Stainton. I don't think there will be another postbox called Dreamlands.  Its name comes from the nearby farm, I wonder if it was someone's dream place.   Stainton is a scattering of houses, on either side of a beck which divides the hamlet. The postbox is by the side of Stainton Beck, just downstream of the old packhorse bridge. In the golden age of postcards the packhorse bridge would have a postcard to itself, the photographer perhaps wading out into the stream to take it full on, however this happy snapper
kept to dry land. A pleasant place to post a card on a sunny day. 

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Hong Kong

90% of the daily journeys in Hong Kong are by public transport, making it the highest rate in the world. The only bus route I could read on this photo was 70, and from that I discovered that this is most likely the Exchange Square Bus Terminus in the centre of Hong Kong, near the stock exchange. Are these two women and child heading for the number 70?  If they are it will be heading to Aberdeen, not of course the Scottish city, but Aberdeen harbour on the south shore of the island.

The black and white makes this photo rather timeless, designed as though laying on top of a Hong Kong map, which I spent a happy five minutes squinting at.

My sender is waiting for a postcard from a guy she cares for who she has known for a long time. He travelled to England and promised to send a card  once he had got used to "new atmosphere". Maybe he has a bit of culture shock because she thinks he must have forgotten, and has now has lost touch. Anybody out there promised to send a postcard to Amanda in  China?  Make her happy and send one now.

The card came with a pretty stamp
 of two Asian Restarts floating over blossom. One of two China Birds stamps issued in 2002.

Monday 4 April 2011

April Hours

I continue yesterday's Medieval theme with another postcard from the Très Riches Heures (Book of Hours) of the Duc de Berry.  This one portrays April, and the occupants of the castle in all their finery rather than the toilers of the soil. Some scholars have categorised the different hands who created these illustrations for the Van Limburg brothers who produced the book for Duke John.  This April one is "the courtly painter" whereas yesterdays was "the rustic painter". 

The Duc de Berry (1340-1416) was an art lover and rich enough to be a patron of jewellers, goldsmiths and painters. He had a love of collecting illuminated manuscripts such as romances, bibles, psalters and books of hours (prayer books for the layman).  After his death he left a collection of over 150 manuscripts of which 'Les Très Heures du Duc de Berry was the jewel in the crown. It is considered the most beautiful of the illuminated medieval manuscripts and the original is held by the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France. 

Sunday 3 April 2011

Medieval Life

A first day cover of stamps issued in 1986 called "Medieval Life", issued to commemorate the 900th Anniversary of the Domesday Book. In 1085 at Christmas William the Conqueror commission the monks of Winchester (the old capital of England) to compile a survey of the country he now ruled, and the land the Normans now owned, after confiscating them from the Anglo Saxons. When completed it would consist of 913 pages and cover 13,000 parts of England. This would be used for centuries after and it would not be until the 19th Century that a another survey of the population would be undertaken. Last month I completed my booklet for the 2011 census.  I could have entered it directly on the web, where there is also a version of the Domesday Book.
The Medieval Life stamps from right to left:
17p - Peasants working in the Fields
22p - Freemen Working and Town Trades
31p - Knights and retainers
34p - Lords at Banquet
The stamps were designed by the company of Tayburn and illustrated by Magnus Lohkamp. I think Lohkamp  has recreated the artwork of medieval times wonderfully.  I have a book of postcards of the Duc de Berry's (1340-1416) Book of Hours.  Contrast with the right hand stamp
the illustration for the month of March.

An entry for Sunday Stamps, the idea of Viridians Postcards. This week is a free and easy "anything you like"

Saturday 2 April 2011

St Isaac's Cathedral

I was wondering what the glittering dome by the river was in the distance on Monday's aerial view of St Petersburg so I had a look in my folder of extra large postcards of the city. And here it is. The Cathedral of St Isaac.  It was built in swampy ground by the river and 10,762 tarred pine-wood tree trunks were sunk into the ground by an army of serfs.  Not much of a forest left after that I think.  On completion the dome was then gilded by a solution that included toxic mercury, the vapours caused the death to some of those same serfs. Around the dome are a dozen gilded angels constructed of special lightweight material. 

During World War 2 the dome was painted grey. The statue outside is known as the Bronze Horseman (although it is of Peter the Great) and it is said that if it remains in this place then St Petersburg will never be conquered, so it was sandbagged during the siege of the city in WW2, and as can be seen remains unscathed. 

The cathedral used to be the largest in the city and  was built for 14,000 standing worshippers but was closed  in the 1930s and turned into a Museum of Atheism.  Today it is only used for major religious ceremonies but the dome and angels still glistens under the sunshine. 

Friday 1 April 2011

Hail to thee, Blithe Spirit

One of Valentine postcards' Birds Series. Winifred Austen (1876-1964) captures the skylark as it rises and trills its liquid song into the air (which they are doing in a carefree manner at the moment, no eggs to guard yet).  Austen, a painter, etcher and engraver of birds and animals was born in Kent.  She lived from 1926  on the Suffolk coast and the scene she shows could have come from either of those counties rolling countryside.

The card was posted in the late 1950s early 60s from one friend to another lying in Leeds Hospital. The last paragraph says "May you soon be getting up and singing like the skylark".  The song is a very evocative one and the skylark has fascinated many poets, which is why I used Shelly's first line in my heading. The musician David Hindley studied the song of the skylark and from a 48 second recording he wrote down 13 minutes of sheet music  and came to the conclusion that the structure of notes was not unlike Beethoven. Vaughan Williams was inspired to write "The Lark Ascending", which does not have the number of notes of the Skylark, but then we only have human ears, however what beautiful notes Vaughan Williams created. Here is the last part played by Hugh Bean

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