Saturday 31 December 2011

By the Seaside

 Deirdre says this is the average Dutch beach and seaside.  I always imagine dunes when thinking of the Dutch coast but this looks the perfect place to build a sandcastle and splash through the water.  "From the most northern tip of Noord-Holland to the most southern stretch of beach in Zuid-Holland there are excellent cycling and walking paths" so this card came with the perfect mode of transport to take advantage of these paths:- 

Monday 26 December 2011

Winter Tree

My sender, Edit, sent me this beautiful snowy tree in the diffused light of winter.  The magic of the season. She tells me it has not been snowing in Hungary.  We have only had a smattering here, the weather has been warm so the birds such as the one in the photo will be glad of soft ground and clear water.   

The card came with two of the Hungarian Antique Furniture definitives which they started to issue in 2001 and keep adding to
 Ornate Chair by Ignác Alpár 1896
Ornate couch by Vogel Sebestyen 1810. 

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Carol

Good King Wenceslas  looked out/ On the feast of Stephen/When the snow lay round about/ Deep and crisp and even/ Brightly shone the moon that night/Though the frost was cruel/ When a poor man came in sight gathering winter fuel
 "Hither, page, and stand by me/ If thou know'st it, telling/Yonder peasant, who is he?/Where and what his dwelling?"/ "Sire, he lives a good league hence/ Underneath the mountain/ Right against the forest fence/By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather
"Sire, the night is darker now/ And the wind blows stronger/ Fails my heart, I know not how,/I can go no longer."/ "Mark my footsteps, my good page/ Tread thou in them boldly/ Thou shalt find the winter's rage/ Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod/ Where the snow lay dinted/ Heat was in the very sod/ Which the Saint had printed/ Therefore, Christian men, be sure/ Wealth or rank possessing/ Ye who now will bless the poor/ Shall yourselves find blessing
Stamps designed by David Gentleman issued in 1973.  

Sing along with Nelson Eddy while the scenes of Prague and Wenceslas Square, the mausoleum at St Vitus Cathedral etc drift past. May you all have a blessed Christmas

 An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps

Friday 23 December 2011

Wooden Church, Russia

My sender, Yulia, tells me this 17th Century wooden church stands in the Kargopol open-air museum.  When I looked this up I discovered that this museum (founded in 1919) was based on the private collection of Kapiton Kolpakov, someone the site described as a "local petty bourgeois", (as an old lefty I smiled at that description). Today the museum consists of 17 historic monuments from the 16th to 19th Century it also has large collections of icons, books, folk dress and art.   There are also music festivals and it is a centre for Russian chime art which here happens around a winter festival called "Crystal Ringings" based around the Christian celebration of Epiphany (6 January).  I'm not sure if chime art is the decoration or ringing of the bells or perhaps it is a combination of both.  I wonder if they ring them in this church's bell tower at any time.   The beautiful church is shown reflected in what I presume is the Onega River surrounded by the lush green of summer but must also look stunning in the snow of winter. Yulia gives the name of the church as Pokrovo Vlasyevsky  but on English language sites it is usually referred to as the Church of St John Chrysostom, the name means golden mouthed for he was reputed to be an eloquent speaker. 

The town of Kargopol near where this church is located is considered one of the treasures of the Russian north and has some remarkable architecture.  It stood on a strategic trading route along the Onega River to the White Sea so was prosperous from the 16th to 19th Century, until the coming of the railway bypassed it. Unfortunately in the Soviet era some historic church buildings were destroyed but much remains in what is now a quiet town in the north.

The card came with appropriately
a stamp from this years "Headdresses of the Russian North" and this one is from the Archangelsk province, the very location of the wooden church. This would have been worn at the end of the 19th Century.  The other stamp depicts something older a closed sleigh from Moscow in 1732 (from the 2002 Old Carriages issue).  How I would love to ride enclosed in this beautiful object through a snowy Russia, it looks so wonderfully romantic.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Ladies who Lunch

 I don't know what the Aunties are having to eat but they are doing the thing you can only do with friends, taste what is on the other persons plate (which somehow always seems more interesting than your own).

Eeva tells me this is the latest Inge Löök card, oh happy days. Thank you Eeva

Sunday 18 December 2011

A Merry Yule

I changed what I was going to post for Sunday Stamps this week when I received a wonderful Christmas parcel of stamps and cards from my postcrossing friend Eeva which included these two contrasting Åland Islands stamps.  I'll start with the 2010 Inge Löök one on the right. "Christmas with the Merry Aunties".  Our merry old ladies have sawn down a Christmas tree to carry home and are dressed in Lucia gowns. Now when I looked up what Lucia gowns were it brought a whole lot of more humour to the stamp. They are usually worn by young girls (that is not going to stop the aunties) with a row of electric lights in there hair, a procession takes place on the saints day of 13th December.   Lucia is the bearer of light in the dark mid winter.  The Nordic Lucia tradition started in the 18th Century in Sweden and then spread to the Åland Islands and other Swedish speaking regions in Finland in the 1900s, now I believe most of the Nordic countries celebrate.  For the full legend, celebration and pictures see here  But lets talk of food "The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin eyes. You eat them with glögg or coffee".  Mmm.

This year's Åland stamp on the left is called "A Flower for Christmas" a picture of a hyacinth by the photographer Helene Schmitz who is famous from her close-up pictures of flowers.

Next, as the package came from Finland here are the profusion of Christmas stamps Eeva used:
This years theme - Elves, designed by the postcard artist Kaarina Toivanen, the "cuddly Christmas smiling boy elf" surrounded by balls of wool and soft toys and the "Swinging girl elf", swinging on a straw mobile. Kaarina Toivanen says "Elves are happy, contemplative, mysterious and hard-working. They love hay barns and forest creatures they appreciate tradition and are loyal. Elves are also peace-loving and they perform tasks properly"

Under the boy elf is the 2010 Christmas stamp showing the kind of darkness at this time of the year in Lapland which they call kaamos (Finnish for the polar night).  Designed by Tommi Vallisto the three reindeer draw Santa in his sleigh under the red glow of a full moon.  Maybe the stamp next to it, the 2001 Santa Claus, is a close up.


this year's winter greeting stamp showing a frosty rosehip. This is a stamp which the post office says is "perfect for winter greetings after Christmas".   Isn't that a marvellous idea.

An entry to Viridian Postcards Sunday Stamps Christmas theme.

Friday 16 December 2011

Cool Dude

Our pooch looks ready for relaxing on the beach, certainly no balls will be chased wearing that hat. This card has a nice summery feel which is a nice thought because today we had our first significant snow fall. I suspect that as my sender lives in Canada she will have had lots of snow by now as well.

It is a large card so Denise did her utmost to fill it with as many stamps as possible, three featuring the journey of a letter in Canada
from the postmaster and his customer, the mail handler and eventually
the bit we all love, the postman delivering. These stamps are from the 1974 "Centenary of the Canadian Letter Carrier Delivery".  Next
the 1980 stamp for the International Flower Show in Montreal. The men in uniform are members of the Royal Military College and the stamps celebrate its centenary (1876-1976).  This college was founded by the Canadian Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie.  The lone soldier is featured on Wing Parade in front of the Mackenzie Building. The Canadian flag is held aloft by the Colour Party with Memorial Arch. The emphasis when the college was started was on engineering, a skill which, at the time the nation had a great need; it is said that in the 1900s that there was hardly a bridge, road or railway line in the country whose construction had not had some assistance from an engineering graduate of  Royal Military College.

Saturday 10 December 2011


What could typify the Greenland coast better than the two 50 ore stamps above?  This is a lower denomination stamp from a set commemorating Greenland Mail Transport.  The mail kayaks shown were used in the transporting of post to remote locations. For safety reasons they were always sent in pairs, the letters were stowed in waterproof bags behind the paddler.  Appropriately the other stamp is of Frederik IX of Denmark, sometimes called the Sailor King. He ruled from 1947 to 14 January 1972, his death the very year this postcard was sent. Not only did he have an active naval service where in the manner of sailors everywhere he gained many tattoos, he also trained as a conductor of classical music.   The Danish monarch is Greenland's head of state,

From 1969 Greenland stamps also bear the name Kalatdut Nunat which means "Our Country" (that is the Greenlanders' land or country) although it was not until 1979 that they gained home rule.

The postal mark is Sondre Stromfjord (Inuit name - Kangerlussuaq)  on the south west Greenland coast where a 100 mile fjord cuts a straight path into the interior of Greenland.  It is an area of diverse wildlife and I think the indistinct creature on the bottom is a musk ox.  Stromfjord also has  largest airfield in Greenland which is the main staging area for scientific personnel manning the research facilities, seismic stations and base camps.  I wonder if the person who sent this card to England was one of the scientific personnel
He sent a cute fabric card, the clothing of the girl with the ball is long stitched.  It must be a first call for Father Christmas to the white north, his sledge is still full.

Originally I scanned the full back of the card then discovered that the Cragg family still live at the same address so I have hastily cropped. 

 Our sender, Willy, sends Christmas greetings to the family (familien) Cragg. "Just a little Christmas greeting and a good new year".  As it is in Danish that is all I can make out.

An entry to Sunday Stamps theme 'The Great White North'


Wednesday 7 December 2011

Louvre Light

The last time I visited Paris and the Louvre it was a rainy day in January so no time was spent strolling outside. It was straight into the pyramid and down into the interior hall. The architect Pei's pyramid solved the problem of the old entrance not being able to handle the number of visitors wishing to visit the Louvre each day.  All I can remember of the old entrance is the flight of steps and the statue at the top of the next set of stairs up to the first floor (we are going back a whole lot of years here).  Indistinguishable from many other art galleries but the pyramid in its setting is unforgettable.  This postcard shows it and the beautiful Louvre buildings to perfection in the sharp light of a sunny day.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Bridges of Ancient China

One of the things said about China is that it has four million bridges, whether that is true or not they must have the most elegant. The first stamp shows the most famous stone bridge in China, Anji Bridge sometimes called Zhaozhou or safe crossing bridge. It was constructed in the years 595-605 and is the oldest (standing) bridge in China. It has survived wars, floods and earthquakes yet it is still in use.
Precious Belt Bridge near the city of Suzhou, legend has it that the local prefect Wang Zhongshu sold his "precious belt" to help finance the construction in 816 AD. The three central arches are larger than the rest to allow river vessels through.
This bridge started life in ancient times as the Zhupu Bridge then it was rebuilt as Pingshi but burned down during the wars that ended the Ming dynasty, today it is the Anlan Bridge, a suspension bridge that was rebuilt in 1803 by He Xiande and his wife (I could not find her name, guess we will have to call her Mrs He).  The name of Anlam means couple so sometimes it is called the Husband and Wife Bridge. Today it is a popular tourist destination and when this stamp was issued in 1962 it was still constructed of bamboo but in recent times because of the numbers of people crossing, the bamboo ropes are now steel and the wooden pegs supporting cables are ferro-concrete. The span also now crosses a greater distance of the Minjiang River.

So there you have three ways of crossing a river, I am missing the last in this set so include this view of a bridge connecting two countries
a postcard of a "Bridge between Burma and China". I can't make out the name of the bridge because it has been printed over the dark of the trees. The river may be the Mekong, other candidates could be the Nanka or Sheweli.  No indication on the back just that it is Postcard No 40 issued by the American Baptist Mission Press, Rangoon, Burma.   I just wonder what the person on the bridge is wearing. 

An entry to Viridian Postcards' Sunday Stamps

Friday 2 December 2011

Sesshuji garden

Sesshuji at Tofuku-ji temple.

A glimpse of early summer through one of the elegant door of Susshuji, a sub-temple of the massive Tofuku-ji temple complex in Kyoto. People who visit say it is one of the most peaceful of the temples.  Sesshuji is famous for its rock garden designed by the painter Sesshu and called the crane and tortoise garden. We can just catch sight of the Zen garden rocks below the trees .   
When Noriko sent this card the city was having a very hot autumn which is also the time of year when the beautiful autumn colours of the maples would be seen in the many garden of Tofuku-ji.
The card came with

the Great Rocks at Keya (1963 Genka Quasi-National Park issue) and a detail from a 1800 painting the "Three Beauties" by Toyokuni Utagawa.  The beauty must be busy calculating because she holds an abacus, the Japanese soroban.  The perfect image for the 1987 stamp issued for the International Certified Public Accountants Congress, Tokyo.