26 Feb 2011

FDC from Vietnam: Quan ho Bac Ninh


Quan ho Bac Ninh are folk songs in Northern Vietnam. The songs are performed as alternating verses between two women from one village who sing in harmony, and two men from another vollage who respond with similar melodies. It also is a form of instant exchange pf a love between men and women. Quan ho Bac Ninh is recognized as the cultural heritage intangible representation of humanity by UNESCO on 30th of September 2009.

24 Feb 2011

Irish Sport - Hurling


My first card from Ireland!

Hurling is an outdoor team sport of ancient Gaelic origin, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association, and played with sticks called hurleys and a ball called a sliotar. The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for at least 3,000 years and is thought to be the world's fastest field team sport in terms of game play. One of Ireland's native Gaelic games, it shares a number of features with Gaelic football, such as the field and goals, number of players, and much terminology. There is a similar game for women called camogie (camógaíocht). It shares a common Gaelic root with the sport of shinty (camanachd) which is played predominantly in Scotland.

The object of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opponents' goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. A player who wants to carry the ball for more than three steps has to bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick and the ball can only be handled twice while in his possession.

Side-to-side shouldering is allowed although body-checking or shoulder-charging is illegal. No protective padding is worn by players. A plastic protective helmet with faceguard is mandatory for all age groups, including senior level, as of 2010. The game has been described as "a bastion of humility", with player names absent from jerseys and a player's number decided by his position on the field. Hurling is played throughout the world, and is popular among members of the Irish diaspora in the United Kingdom, North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. In Ireland, it is a fixture of life. It has featured regularly in both film and literature. In 2007, Forbes magazine described the media attention and population multiplication of Thurles town ahead of one of the game's annual provincial hurling finals as being "the rough equivalent of 30 million Americans watching a regional lacrosse game." In 1931, Time magazine suggested the sport of golf was "a form of hurling modified by a more cautious race". American soldiers have also expressed their love of the game's warrior ethos.

23 Feb 2011

Cover from Mauritius

Many thanks to David for this nice cover from Mauritius! He used a Chinese envolope!

20 Feb 2011

Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum


The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming Dynasty. It lies at the southern foot of Purple Mountain, located east of the historical center of Nanjing, China. Legend says that in order to prevent robbery of the tomb, 13 identical processions of funeral troops started from 13 city gates to obscure the real burying site. The construction of the mausoleum began during the Hongwu Emperor's life in 1381 and ended in 1405, during the reign of his son the Yongle Emperor, with a huge expenditure of resources involving 100,000 laborers. The original wall of the mausoleum was more than 22.5 kilometers long. The mausoleum was built under heavy guard of 5,000 military troops.

The sacred way started from Sifangcheng (Rectangular city) which was a pavilion where a splendid carved stone stele in the memory of the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang was erected. The stele, known as the "Shengong Shengde Stele" (神功圣德碑), has an inscription in honor of the Hongwu Emperor written by his fourth son, the Yongle Emperor. Standing on top of a giant stone tortoise (5.15 m long, 2.54 m wide and 2.8 m tall) and crowned by intertwining hornless dragons, the well-preserved stele stands 8.78 m tall (including the toroise) and is one of the best-known examples of its genre. The roof of the Sifangcheng pavilion no longer exists, however.

In the middle of the 1800-meter-long winding sacred way, 6 kinds and 12 pairs of animals guard the tomb. Beyond them is a pair of decorative columns called huabiao in Chinese. Four pairs of ministers and generals of stone have been standing there for centuries to accompany His Majesty beneath. On an inscribed stone tablet outside of the gate of the mausoleum, an official notification of the local government in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is ordered to protect the tomb. Inside the gate, there is a pavilion in which 5 steles stand. The one in the middle, also mounted on a stone tortoise, is inscribed with 4 Chinese characters, "治隆唐宋", which were written by the Qing Dynasty's Kangxi Emperor on his third inspection tour of the South in 1699. The text is interpreted as alluding to the greatness of the Ming Dynasty founder Zhu Yuanzhang, matching (or surpassing) that of the founders of the Tang and Song Dynasties of old.

Behind the pavilion, there used to be other annexes; however most of them have collapsed into relics from which the original splendor can still be traced. The emperor and his queen were buried in a clay vault, 400 meters in diameter. On a stone wall surrounding the vault, 7 Chinese characters were inscribed, identifying the mausoleum of Emperor Ming Taizu (respected title of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang). The mountain to the south of the tomb, known as Meihua Shan ("Plum Flower Mountain"), is the mausoleum of Sun Quan, King of the Kingdom of Wu in the Three Kingdoms period (220-265). The existence of this tomb is the reason why the Sacred Way is not straight. The mausoleum complex suffered significant damage during the mid-19th century Taiping War, but was mostly restored during the Tongzhi era thereafter. In 2003, along with the Ming Dynasty Tombs north of Beijing, the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum of Nanjing was inscribed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Sites "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties".

19 Feb 2011

Cover from Belgium

Many thanks to Manuel for this beautiful cover from Belgium!

17 Feb 2011

Sylt


Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district, Schleswig-Holstein and well known for the distinctive shape of its shoreline. It belongs to the North Frisian Islands and is the largest island in North Frisia. The northernmost island of Germany, it is known for its tourist resorts, notably Westerland, Kampen and Wenningstedt-Braderup, as well as for its 40 km long sandy beach. It is frequently covered by the media in connection with its exposed situation in the North Sea and its ongoing loss of land during storm tides. Since 1927, Sylt has been connected to the mainland by the Hindenburgdamm causeway.

15 Feb 2011

Les Sables-d'Olonne


Les Sables-d'Olonne (French meaning: "the sands of Olonne") is a seaside town in western France, by the Atlantic Ocean. It is a commune and a sub-prefecture of the Vendée department.

The history of Sables-d'Olonne has been linked with the sea ever since its foundation in 1218 from Havre (harbor) d'Olonne by Savary Ier de Mauléon, the lord of Mauléon, Sénéchal of Poitou and prince of Talmont.

* In 1472, Louis XI divided Les Sables d'Olonne from the town of Olonne.
* In the 17th century, the port of Les Sables d'Olonne was the largest cod-fishng port in France, with 14,000 inhabitants
* During the French Revolution, the city supported the Republic, unlike the surrounding Vendée. Thus it was often besieged, but unsuccessfully, thanks to its port.
* The first bathing establishments were started in 1825, intitiating the local tourism industry.
* On 29 December 1866, the railroad reached Les Sables, on the line from La Roche-sur-Yon, Bressuire, Saumur, and Tours. Express service from Paris would arrive in 1971.
* During the night of 27 August 1944, the occupying German army evacuated, destroying the port and mining the harbor.

14 Feb 2011

Manitoba, Canada


Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of 649,950 square kilometres (250,900 sq mi). The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other major industries are transportation, manufacturing, mining, forestry, energy, and tourism. The largest ethnic group in Manitoba is English Canadian, but there is a significant Franco-Manitoban minority and a growing aboriginal population.

Manitoba's capital and largest city, Winnipeg, is Canada's eighth-largest Census Metropolitan Area, and home to 60% of the population of the province. Winnipeg is the seat of government, home to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba and the highest court in the jurisdiction, the Manitoba Court of Appeal. Four of the province's five universities, all four of its professional sports teams, and most of its cultural activities (including Festival du Voyageur and Folklorama) are located in Winnipeg. The city has train and bus stations and a busy international airport; a Canadian Forces base operates from the airport and is the regional headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The name Manitoba (meaning "strait of the spirit" or "lake of the prairies") is believed to be derived from the Cree, Ojibwe or Assiniboine language. Fur traders first arrived during the late 17th century. Manitoba became a province of Canada in 1870 after the Red River Rebellion. A general strike took place in Winnipeg in 1919, and the province was hit hard by the Great Depression. This led to the creation of what would become the New Democratic Party of Manitoba, one of the province's major political parties.

13 Feb 2011

FDC from Latvia: Christmas

Many thanks to Juris for this nice FDC from Latvia!

12 Feb 2011

Tengmalm's Owl(Pearl Owl)


Tengmalm's Owl, Aegolius funereus, is a small owl. It is known as the Boreal Owl in North America. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae. This bird is named after the Swedish naturalist Peter Gustaf Tengmalm.

The Tengmalm's Owl is 22–27 centimetres (8.7–11 in) long with a 50–62 centimetres (20–24 in) wingspan. It is brown above, with white flecking on the shoulders. Below it is whitish streaked rust color. The head is large, with yellow eyes and a white facial disc, and a "surprised" appearance. The beak is yellow light colored rather than a dark beak like its relative, the Northern Saw-whet Owl. The flight is strong and direct. Young birds are chocolate brown. The bird's call is similar in sound to the "winnowing" of the North American Wilson's Snipe. This species is not normally migratory, but in some autumns significant numbers move further south. It is rarely any great distance south of its breeding range, although this is partly due to the problems of detecting this nocturnal owl outside the breeding season when it is not calling.

9 Feb 2011

Discovery Bay of Lantau Island


Discovery Bay (DB) is a mixed, primarily residential, development comprising a residential development and private and public recreational facilities in Hong Kong. It is situated on the north-eastern coast of Lantau Island in the New Territories. The development spans an area of 650 hectares, and includes two bays, the Tai Pak Bay (大白灣) and Yi Pak Bay (二白灣).

DB currently (April 2009) consists of 13 residential development phases with properties ranging from garden houses to high-rise towers of up to 24 storeys. The development also features a 400-metre-long privately owned beach (accessible to the public but no lifeguards present), four private membership clubs including a golf club and a marina club and a public park (Siena Central Park). The absence of public recreational facilities is a bone of discontent with the residents especially in view of the fact that the developer has an outstanding obligation to provide 300,000 square metres of such facilities as part of the original plan. Though DB is considered in Hong Kong to be a low-density development due to the amount of open spaces (as measured by the plot to development ratio of 0.12), DB is however the second most populous district (after the New Town of Tung Chung) on the sparsely populated Lantau Island. Unlike many other developments in Hong Kong, pets are allowed in DB, whereas other developments generally ban them.

8 Feb 2011

Mail box of Shanghai II

I found this interesting mail box in Anting, West Shanghai.

7 Feb 2011

United States Capitol


The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the Federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall. Though not in the geographic center of the District of Columbia, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided. Officially, both the east and west sides of the Capitol are referred to as "fronts." Historically, however, only the east front of the building was intended for the arrival of visitors and dignitaries.

Prior to establishing the nation's capital in Washington, D.C., the United States Congress and its predecessors had met in Philadelphia, New York City, and a number of other locations. In September 1774, the First Continental Congress brought together delegates from the colonies in Philadelphia, followed by the Second Continental Congress, which met from May 1775 to March 1781. After adopting the Articles of Confederation, the Congress of the Confederation was formed and convened in Philadelphia from March 1781 until June 1783, when a mob of angry soldiers converged upon Independence Hall, demanding payment for their service during the American Revolutionary War. Congress requested that John Dickinson, the governor of Pennsylvania, call up the militia to defend Congress from attacks by the protesters. In what became known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Dickinson sympathized with the protesters and refused to remove them from Philadelphia. As a result, Congress was forced to flee to Princeton, New Jersey, on June 21, 1783, and met in Annapolis, Maryland and Trenton, New Jersey before ending up in New York, New York.

The United States Congress was established upon ratification of the United States Constitution and formally began on March 4, 1789. New York City remained home to Congress until July 1790, when the Residence Act was passed to pave the way for a permanent capital. The decision to locate the capital was contentious, but Alexander Hamilton helped broker a compromise in which the federal government would take on war debt incurred during the American Revolutionary War, in exchange for support from northern states for locating the capital along the Potomac River. As part of the legislation, Philadelphia was chosen as a temporary capital for ten years (until December 1800), until the nation's capital in Washington, D.C. would be ready. Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant was given the task of creating the city plan for the new capital city. L'Enfant chose Jenkins Hill as the site for the Capitol building, with a grand boulevard connecting it with the President's House, and a public space stretching westward to the Potomac River. In reviewing L'Enfant's plan, Thomas Jefferson insisted the legislative building be called the "Capitol" rather than "Congress House". The word "Capitol" comes from Latin, meaning city on a hill and is associated with the Roman temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus on Capitoline Hill. In addition to coming up with a city plan, L'Enfant had been tasked with designing the Capitol and President's House, however he was dismissed in February 1792 over disagreements with President George Washington and the commissioners, and there were no plans at that point for the Capitol.

6 Feb 2011

Cover from Singapore

Many thanks to Terence for this special cover from Singapore!

4 Feb 2011

Melbourne, Australia


Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre (also known as the "Central Business District" or "CBD") is the hub of the greater geographical area (or "metropolitan area") and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater geographical area had an approximate population of four million. Inhabitants of Melbourne are called Melburnians. The metropolis is located on the large natural bay known as Port Phillip, with the city centre positioned at the estuary of the Yarra River (at the northern-most point of the bay). The metropolitan area then extends south from the city centre, along the eastern and western shorelines of Port Phillip, and expands into the hinterland. The city centre is situated in the municipality known as the City of Melbourne, and the metropolitan area consists of a further 30 municipalities.

Melbourne was founded in 1835 (47 years after the European settlement of Australia) by settlers from Van Diemen's Land.It was named by governor Richard Bourke in 1837, in honour of William Lamb—the 2nd Viscount Melbourne. Melbourne was officially declared a city by Queen Victoria in 1847. In 1851, it became the capital city of the newly created colony of Victoria. During the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, it was transformed into one of the world's largest and wealthiest cities. After the federation of Australia in 1901, it then served as the interim seat of government of the newly created nation of Australia until 1927. Today, it is a centre for the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, sport and tourism. It is the birthplace of cultural institutions such as Australian film (as well as the world's first feature film), Australian television, Australian rules football, the Australian impressionist art movement (known as the Heidelberg School) and Australian dance styles (such as New Vogue and the Melbourne Shuffle). It is also a major centre for contemporary and traditional Australian music. It is often referred to as the "cultural capital of Australia".

3 Feb 2011

FDC from Germany: 20 Years of Reunification

German reunification (German: Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG/West Germany), and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die Wende (The Turning Point.). The end of the unification process is officially referred to as German unity (German: Deutsche Einheit), celebrated on 3 October (German Unity Day).

The East German regime started to falter in May 1989, when the removal of Hungary's border fence opened a hole in the Iron Curtain. It caused an exodus of thousands of East Germans fleeing to West Germany and Austria via Hungary. The Peaceful Revolution, a series of protests by East Germans, led to the GDR's first free elections on 18 March 1990, and to the negotiations between the GDR and FRG that culminated in a Unification Treaty, whilst negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called "Two Plus Four Treaty" (Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany) granting full sovereignty to a unified German state, whose two halves had previously still been bound by a number of limitations stemming from their post-WWII status as occupied regions. The united Germany remained a member of the European Community (later the European Union) and of NATO.

1 Feb 2011

Plaza Mayor, Madrid


The Plaza Mayor was built during the Habsburg period and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid, Spain. It is located only a few blocks away from another famous plaza, the Puerta del Sol. The Plaza Mayor is rectangular in shape, measuring 129 by 94 meters, and is surrounded by three-story residential buildings having 237 balconies facing the Plaza. It has a total of nine entranceways. The Casa de la Panadería, serving municipal and cultural functions, dominates the Plaza Mayor.

The name of the plaza has changed over time. Originally it was called the "Plaza del Arrabal" but became known as the "Plaza Mayor". In 1812, following a decree all the major plazas of Spain were renamed "Plaza de la Constitución", in honour of the Constitution of 1812. The plaza had this name until the restoration of the Borbón king in 1814 when it became known as the "Plaza Real". The plaza once again held the name "Plaza de la Constitución" in the periods from 1820 to 1823, 1833 to 1835, and 1840 to 1843. In 1873, the name changed to "Plaza de la República", and then back to "Plaza de la Constitución" from the restoration of Alfonso XII in 1876 to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in 1922. A proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic gave the plaza the name of "Plaza de la Constitución" until the end of the Spanish Civil War when the plaza was renamed the "Plaza Mayor," the name it bears to date.

The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of multitudinous events: markets, bullfights, soccer games, public executions, and, during the Spanish Inquisition, "autos de fe" against supposed heretics and the executions of those condemned to death. The Plaza Mayor also has a ring of old and traditional shops and cafes under its porticoes. Celebrations for San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid, are also held here. The Plaza Mayor is now a major tourist attraction, visited by thousands of tourists a year.