Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pieniny Mountains, Poland

The Pieniny mountains are limestone and dolomite rock strata in southern Poland and northern Slovakia. The highest peak, Wysoka, is 1,050 meters tall. Several plants are endemic to the area, and trees grow so high on the rock that one wonders how they manage to grow at all. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much other info in English.

On the left is one of the stamps of the Polish Manor Houses issue from 1999, Manor in Krzesławicach (near Krakow). The one on the right is from 2005, in the Polish Cities series, featuring the beach and wooden pier - the longest wooden pier in Europe - in the town of Sopot.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Finnish Moose

June 2010 RR from Bessie

Aug/Sept 2010 Big Midmonth RR from Bubo


The word "moose" (which is both singular and plural) is a borrowing from an Algonquin (Native American) language, and refers to Alces alces, a member of the deer family inhabiting boreal and mixed deciduous forests in the northern hemisphere. Moose originally inhabited most of northern Europe, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland, but has been pushed back by civilization over the course of history, now mainly residing in Norway, Sweden, Poland, the Baltic states, Czech Republic, Belarus, and Russia. In summer 2009, Finland's moose population was estimated at 115,000.

Moose are vegetarians subsisting mainly on herbs, flowers, and tree shoots. Because these are low in sodium, moose also eat aquatic plants which have a high salt content. In winter, moose can often be found near roads, licking up the salt that is used to melt snow and ice. This can be very dangerous to traffic, especially at night, as they weigh around 1,000 pounds and stand 6-7 feet tall.

Natural predators of moose include wolves, Siberian tigers, black bears, cougars, and even orca whales when moose are swimming between islands on the U.S. northwest coast. Moose have been hunted by people since the stone age, and are still a common food source in many parts of their range.

It seems they don't cancel stamps in Finland... and Finland Post website is down for maintenance... I will update when it is available again with the stamp info.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oldenzaal, Netherlands

Oldenzaal is an 850-year-old town located in the mid-east of the Netherlands, near the border with Germany. The buildings in the foreground are old houses, and in the back you can see the Basilica of St Plechelm (the patron saint of the Netherlands), where his 1,050th anniversary was celebrated in 2004. The writer of the postcard says that she sings in the church choir there.

Once again I cannot get TNT post to load, but this stamp is pretty transparently celebrating Aniek van Koot, a famous and talented wheelchair tennis player.

These appear to be definitives in make-up rates of 2 and 5 eurocents.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Okayama, Japan

As a few of you know, I spent various amounts of time living at a Zen temple in Okayama, Japan, the longest period for 3 months in 2007, and most recently for 10 days back in April. I can talk all about that in another post (and now that my selfprinted cards of Sogenji arrived, I have just the card to post in that post!), but I wanted to post these two cards that I sent from Okayama. Both are from a box of cards of the Korakuen, Okayama's famous garden. It can be hard to get postcards in Japan--these were the nicest ones that they had for sale at Okayama station, and they came in a box, all with these huge white borders around them. :/ The first is the very first card I sent from that trip, home to my two-year-olds, to let them know that I had arrived safely.

"Beautiful Lotus Flowers in Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle"

Okayama castle was the stronghold of the Ikeda clan for most of Japan's feudal age, and the garden is the handiwork of one of the Ikedas, used as a personal spa by the daimyo, and for entertaining guests. I've never actually been inside either Korakuen or the castle, but I did bicycle right past the castle countless times on my way to the international center every free day. Actually one of the things I remember really fondly about Okayama is that bike ride... up over the Higashiyama hill, down the other side and all the beautiful fall leaves on the trees, past the playfields and the schools, over the Asahi River, watching for herons fishing, couples out in the swan boats, and the view of the castle up on the hill. Then I would turn from the main road onto the path through the park, passing people of various ages out walking, along the river, past the castle entrance, before turning again into downtown Okayama, through to the station, under the underpass, past the Market, and all the way to the international center where wireless awaited.

Besides that, Sogenji is also tied up in Ikeda-clan history: it was the family's summer-castle and hideaway in the mountains when enemies threatened. The graveyard behind Sogenji originally contained the remains of some of the feudal lords; now most of the remains have been removed to museums, but the graveyard is still there. Still bathed in sunlight on clear-weather afternoons, a quiet place to go sit, meditate or read or nap; still a haven for a wild mountain dog and her pups.

"A Scene of a Weeping Cherry Tree and Eisho Bridge in Korakuen Garden"

I was mailing these on my way to or during my stay at Sogenji, and thus could not spare any time at the post office for commemorative stamps. On the right is the normal stamp for the international postcard rate, featuring the great tit (it's a kind of bird, okay!). On the left is one of the normal stamps for the domestic letter rate (yes, it's more than an overseas postcard, and yes, I overpaid on postage), featuring the rufous turtledove.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Russian Propaganda

This was a thank-you card for an official I sent to Russia. The text says "The honor of the USSR army!" On the back of the card, he pasted a used bus ticket:

So cool!

And the stamps. The one on the right is one of a set of four featuring tanks (this one is the BT-7M), commemorating the 65th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Did you know that stamps are not copyrighted material under the Russian civil code? There are lots of pictures of them on wikipedia. I couldn't find the one on the left, though.

Assateague Island, Virginia/Maryland

I loved Marguerite Henry's books when I was little. The most famous of her books is Misty of Chincoteague, which told the story of a pony captured from Assateague Island in the annual pony round-up. These are the only wild ponies in the USA east of the Rocky Mountains, and they are descended from mustangs that swam ashore from shipwrecked Spanish galleon in the 1500s.

The island is divided between Maryland and Virginia, and nowadays there is a fence at the border, with each state having its own herd of about 170 ponies. Each state has its own population control method. In Virginia they still hold the annual pony round-up, from which many foals are sold, decreasing the pony population to a level the island can support. In Maryland, they shoot some of the mares with darts containing a contraceptive vaccine.

Because the Assateague ponies eat mainly salty marsh grass, they also drink a lot of water, and thus can appear bloated or fatter than other kinds of ponies.

Thanks vagirl for this great card. :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok, Thailand. His 46-meter-long, fifteen-meter-high body is gold-plated, his eyes are mother-of-pearl, and the bottoms of his feet are inscribed with 108 auspicious scenes. (You can just see the start of them in the far right of the picture, next to his toes.) In addition to the compound housing the Reclining Buddha, the Wat Pho grounds also include a working Buddhist monastery with monks in residence, and a garden featuring a tree grown from a cutting of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment. It is also a center for traditional Thai massage - the walls are decorated with everything known about massage in the reign of King Rama III, and if you travel to Wat Pho, you too can enjoy a massage (150 baht, or about $4.80, for 30 minutes).

A postillion landau (left) and a 4-wheeled dog cart (right), from a series of four stamps on royal carriages, issued in 2009.

And from a set of four stamps issued in 1998 "to campaign for Thai people to recognize the importance of Thai arts and culture and celebrate the 1998-1999 Amazing Thailand year."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bamberg, Germany

"Bamberg, Klein-Venedig" von Ludwig Mössler

This card shows Little Venice, an row of 19th century fishermen's houses along the Regnitz River in the city of Bamberg in southern Germany. Bamberg managed to avoid being destroyed by bombs in World War II because there was an artillery factory nearby, and the Old Town of Bamberg, including Little Venice, is a UNESCO world heritage site. This card is a painting by Ludwig Mössler.

Instead of a stamp, it came with a postage label printed from the internet. Kinda cool.

Palagruza Island, Croatia

Located in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, Palagruza Island is Croatia's most remote, and is uninhabited except by the staff of Palagruza Lighthouse (pictured) and tourists staying there. The island is a nature reserve, and home to some plants that can't be found anywhere else. The Greek hero Diomedes is rumored to be buried somewhere on the island - potsherds inscribed with his name were uncovered in an archaeological dig on Palagruza.

The stamp is from a 2010 issue of four featuring famous Croatians. This is Marko Antun de Dominis, a Catholic priest and scientist.