Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kyrgyzstan II

Postcard from Kyrgyzstani capital of Bishkek showing the State Philharmonic Hall and a statue of Kyrgyz national hero Manas riding his faithful horse Akkula. The deeds of Manas are recounted in a traditional epic poem that is both very old and very long. With over 500,000 lines, it is considered by some to be the longest epic poem in the world and is recited by specially trained orators called manaschi who spend years learning all the verses. The epic is traditionally said to be over a thousand years old, although it is impossible to date precisely as it was handed down through oral tradition and only first recorded in the eighteenth century.

Many thanks to friend Selina who went on holiday in Central Asia with her family. 

A commemorative stamp issued this year in honour of 125th anniversary of Kozhomkul, another Kyrgyzstani national hero who was renowned for his feats of strength, which included lifting his horse, and his leadership abilities.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Qatar II

Card from Doha, the capital city of Qatar. On the left, the cucumber lookalike Doha Tower, designed by my least-favourite "starchitect" Jean Nouvel and completed in 2012. In the centre, the Zigzag Towers, a residential development. On the left, the Aspire Tower, which, at 36 floors, is currently the tallest building in Qatar.

Many thanks and shukran to Salah for sending it.

Stamp on the left is from a 2009 set of 13 on the birds of Qatar. It features the lesser grey shrike, Lanius minor, a common bird in South and Central Europe and western Asia that migrates to southern Africa in the early autumn. Stamp on the right is from a 1998 set of 20 about insects; featured here is the epaulet skimmer, Orthetrum chrysostigma, a common dragonfly found in Africa.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


WOOT! My first card from Turkmenistan, showing various building from the capital, Ashgabat, including the Independence Monument on the far right, and the "Monument of Neutrality" in the centre. The three-legged arch, which became known locally as "The Tripod", was built in 1998 on the orders of Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov. It was topped by a 12-metre gold-plated statue of Niyazov which rotated to always face the sun. Niyazov's successor ordered the monument moved to the outskirts of the city in an attempt to downplay this cult of personality.

Many thanks to friend Selina who was on holiday in Turkmenistan with her family.

Stamp from a set of 24 issued this year featuring Turkmenistani architectural monuments, in this case the ruins of Uly Gyz Gala fortress near the city of Merv.

Friday, November 1, 2013


WOOT! After years of trying and some failed attempts, super excited to have a card from Madagascar in my collection now. A big thanks to friend, Lish, who, lucky me, I just happened to see on Facebook was en route to Madagascar, which she reports was amazing and nuts.

The card indicates that this is the Prince of Ankazoabo, a city in south-western Madagascar. I couldn't really find much info other than the French tried to abolish the Madagascan monarchy during their colonial rule, but were largely unsuccessful. Despite exiling the Queen to Algeria, most of the aristocracy continued to use their customary titles. There is a movement in Madagascar now to restore the monarchy, seen as a possible source of stability following the highly volatile dictatorships and transition governments of the post-colonial period.

Stamp on the left from a 2010 set of eight on flowers of Madagascar. Stamp on the right is a foundry built by as a part of a large industrial complex in the mid 1800s by Jean Laborde, a Frenchman who was shipwrecked in Madagascar in 1831 and remained for the rest of his life, developing the island's industry and eventually becoming the French Consul as well.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

United States of America – California II

A postcard of loggers and a California redwood tree; must be a rather old photo too as redwood have been protected species for a long time. Giant redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, are very tall, long-lived trees that can grow more than a hundred metres high and live more than 1,000 years. In the past they were distributed across most of coastal California, although they were heavily logged (as seen in the postcard photo) from the 1850s with the arrival of European goldminers and pioneers. It's estimated that as little as 5% of the original old-growth redwood forest remains, almost half of which is protected in Redwood National and State Parks, a UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the California Coastal Ranges Biosphere Reserve.

Thanks to friends David and Cormac who were on a road trip holiday!

This is the first American international rate "Forever" stamp in my collection. It's pretty dull, if you ask me. Everyone is probably already bored to death of it and I won't go to the bother of uploading any future copies I receive. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finland II

A card showing the lightship Helsinki in the foreground, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. A "lightship" is a ship whose function was to serve as a lighthouse in places were it would be impractical to build a conventional lighthouse, in this case outside Helsinki Harbour. It was in active service until 1959 when modern technology made it obsolete. Having survived a German attack in World War Two, it now serves as a maritime museum. In the background is the Finnish Presidential Palace, which was previously the Imperial Palace of the Tsar, back when Finland was a grand duchy of the Russian Empire. 

This card is something of a rarity: a non-Postcrossing card from Finland! ;-) Many thanks and merci to my friend, Étienne, who was on holiday in Helsinki.

Stamp from a set of three issued this year featuring popular Finnish berries, in this case redcurrants, Ribes rubrum.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wallis and Futuna

The last of David's cards from his South Pacific travels, with my sincere thanks to him for crossing so many hard-to-get countries off my list. You can check out his blog here. This card is from the small French territory of Wallis and Futuna and shows a traditional kava ceremony. Kava, a small shrubby plant, is used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout the Pacific. Most commonly, the roots are pounded into a beverage that is said to produce relaxation, mental clarity, and mild euphoria.

The stamp on the left was issued in 2012 and is entitled Poetry of the Ocean. The stamp on the right was issued this year and celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the first court session held in Wallis and Futuna.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Postcard of Christmas Island (one of many with that name), also known as Kiritimati in local Gilbertese language. Measuring 388 square kilometres, Christmas Island has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world and makes up over 70% of the total land area of Kiribati. The island was uninhabited at the time of European discovery, although it may have served as a waystation during long sea voyages by Oceanic people in the past. 

Interestingly, when Spain sold its North Pacific possessions to Germany in 1899 following its defeat in the Spanish–American War, Christmas Island was not included in the description of the transferred territory. As a result, Spain in theory retained its sovereignty over the island. When the oversight was discovered in the 1940s, the Spanish Government declared that it reserved special rights to the island, although it has never made any attempt to exercise their rights to this odd fluke of history.

Thank you, or ko rab'a as they say in Kiribati, to David of "Postcards A world Travelogue" for all these fantastic cards.

Two stamps from the 2008 definitive series of twelve featuring birds. On the left, the band-rumped storm petrel, Oceanodroma castro, a common sea bird found across the tropical Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On the right, the Eurasian teal, Anas crecca, a common waterbird found across Europe, North Africa, and Asia, although not in Kiribati! Loving the cancellation stamp.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Postcard showing the Royal Palace in Tonga's capital, Nukuʻalofa. The wooden building was built in 1867 in ornate Victorian style. Although Tonga was a British protectorate until 1970, it maintained its sovereignty, and remained the only Pacific nation never to have given up its monarchical government, as was the case elsewhere such as in Tahiti and Hawaiʻi. The Tongan monarchy follows an uninterrupted succession of hereditary rulers from a single family stretching back hundreds of years. While the current king, Tupou VI, has been reigning for just over a year, his great-grandmother, Sālote Tupou III, reigned for nearly fifty years, assuming the throne when she was only 18, in 1918, until her death in 1965.

Thank you, or mālō ‘aupito as they say in Tonga, again to David of "Postcards A world Travelogue" for all these amazing cards from his travels.

Tonga is famous (in the philatelic world at least) for its uniquely-shaped stamps. Seen here are three stamps from a set of five about fruit issued in 2001.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

American Samoa

Postcard of Mount Matafao and Pago Pago Harbour in American Samoa. Pago Pago has been the capital of  the territory since 1899 when the US Navy negotiated facilities for a coaling station from the Samoan high chief. The town site is backed by densely wooded mountains, and is situated on an inlet that deeply indents the southeast shore of Tutuila Island, almost bisecting the island while forming an extensive naturally protected deepwater harbour.

Again, deep-felt gratitude to David of "Postcards A world Travelogue" for helping cross so countries off my list. For being such a beautiful part of the world, the South Pacific receives few visitors. Getting so many Pacific island cards all at once has been a real pleasure.

American Samoa, like all American territories, uses standard US stamps. Stamp on the left is the 36th stamp in the Black Heritage series. It commemorates Althea Gibson, a famous tennis player and the first Black Wimbledon champion, winning the title in 1957. Stamp on the right is from a 2011 set of five featuring Disney and Pixar characters. Third stamp is a self adhesive from 2011 featuring the United States of America's first president, George Washington.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Another new country added with my many kind thanks from David's South Pacific sojourn, which you can all follow at  "Postcards A world Travelogue". 

Card shows a sunset view of Beach Road, the main thoroughfare in the Samoan capital, Apia, with Matafele Methodist Church in centre frame. Apia began as a chief's village, but rose to prominence during the European colonial period due to its fine harbour. It was designated the capital of German Samoa in 1900, as Samoa was indeed one of the rare places in the world to be colonised by the German Empire. The German colony lasted until the outbreak of the First World War when the colony was occupied by an expeditionary force from New Zealand in 1914. There were no shots fired during the takeover as there was no German military presence on the island, only a small local police force. New Zealand continued to oversee Samoa in a United Nations trusteeship until independence in 1962.

Stamp depicts a tooth-billed pigeon, Didunculus strigirostris, the national bird of Samoa. The large bird is endemic to the islands and is endangered and poorly understood. It faces threats from habitat loss in its limited range and competition from introduced invasive species.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Super woohooo! Welcoming new country Vanuatu into the collection, stamp-issuing entity No. 159! Card shows sites on the island of Espiritu Santo, the largest island in Vanuatu. The islands was named by Portuguese navigator Fernandes de Queirós, who arrived in 1605, claiming the archipelago for Spain and naming it Espiritu Santo, Spanish for "Holy Spirit". The Spanish never maid much of their claim to the region and by the 1880s France and the United Kingdom both claimed parts of the country. In 1906 they agreed on a unique form of government for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides through a British–French condominium, until independence was achieved in 1980.

Deep, heartfelt thanks and merci to friend of friend Juliette for helping me strike one more country off my list! :-D

Stamp from a 2011 set of four featuring beaches in Vanuatu, seen here the beach on Eratrap Island, a small island off the coast of Vanuatu's main island, Efate. To really get you in the mood, the stamp actually features a special coating mimicking the feel of real sand on the beach!

Fiji II

Bula, the Fijian word for "hello". A multiview card from that country, landing in my mailbox just a few days after my first card from Fiji. Almost like when I added Uzbekistan to my collection with three cards from three different people that all arrived on the same day; the more the merrier, I say! My many thanks and vinaka to David from "Postcards: A World Travelogue" for taking some time out of the palm trees to send this to me.

Stamp on the left is from 2003 (I think) and features tagimoucia, Medinilla waterhousei, a flowering vine endemic to Fiji and the country's national flower. Stamp on the right from a 2012 set of four on renewable energy in Fiji, commemorating the United Nations 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. It features biomass, plant material which generates energy directly by being burnt or once it is transformed into biofuel.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Woohoo! New country: Bhutan!

Rather spectacular card showing the Paro Taktsang Monastary, also known as the Tiger's Nest Monastary, a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located on a cliffside in the upper Paro valley, Bhutan. The temple complex was first built in 1692, on the site where a Buddhist sage is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the eighth century, and thus introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. Part of the "Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants" site on Bhutan's Tentative List for World Heritage.

Many thanks to friend Ed for helping me strike Bhutan from my list, after years and years of waiting for an opportunity to present itself!

Couldn't really find much info about this stamp commemorating, presumably, the years of the Chinese Zodiac, in this case "Male Water Dragon Year 2012".

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Canada – British Colombia VI

Postcard of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park with an X-marks-the-spot showing the ultimate destination of my stepmother and family on their recent hiking trip. Many thanks to her for sending the card.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park as established in 1922 and, despite the fact that there is no road access to the park at all, is home to the first ski lodge established in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Mount Assiniboine Lodge. Mount Assiniboine is named after the teepees of the Assiniboine native people of the Prairies whose shape resembles the mountain's peak. Part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site.

Stamp is previously featured definitive of baby moose with unlovely laser cancellation.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Greenland III

Postcard showing mail delivery by dog sled, which are still routinely used during the winter in Greenland.

Two stamps from a 2012 set of three on aviation in Greenland. On the left, an S-61 Sikorsky helicopter, the most widely-used civilian transport helicopter. On the right, a DC-6 plane, which was actually featured in a previous post's stamp about air transport in the Antarctic!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Canada – Alberta VII

Postcard of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a World Heritage site in the Rocky Mountains straddling the Canadian–American border. The transnational park is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is the first transboundary site in my collection of World Heritage sites. The union of Waterton (Canadian) and Glacier (American) National Parks was achieved in 1932, although the parks had been established earlier, in 1895 and 1910 respectively.

The Prince of Wales Hotel has a rather interesting history as well. Constructed between 1926 and 1927, the hotel was built by the American Great Northern Railway to lure American tourists north of the border during the prohibition era. The hotel was named after the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), in an attempt to entice him to stay in the hotel during his 1927 Canadian tour, but the Prince stayed at a nearby ranch instead! It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada by the Canadian government in 1995.

Previously featured baby Arctic hare definitive stamps used.

Canada – Alberta VI

Postcard from Canada's third World Heritage site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, inscribed on the List in 1981. The site is a buffalo jump, used by the indigenous people of the prairies for more than 5,000 years to drive bison over cliffs in large numbers for food, leather, and hides. The name of the site come from a Blackfoot legend, whereby a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the bison plunge off the cliff from below, but was buried underneath the falling bison. He was later found dead under the pile of carcasses, where he had his head smashed in.

Many thanks to friend Paul for send this card during his holiday.

Previously featured self-adhesive, permanent rate, definitive stamp from a series on baby animals. Seen here, the Arctic hare, Lepus arcticus, with a rare-for-Canada hand cancellation.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sri Lanka

Postcard of Asian elephant in Yala National Park in southeastern Sri Lanka. Established in 1900, it is the second-largest protected area in Sri Lanka and is an important wildlife habitat for the Sri Lankan subspecies of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), as well as large numbers of leopards and wetland birds.

Although I lived in Sri Lanka when I was young, I only have one other, rather unlovely, Sri Lanka card in the archives of my collection. Many thank to friend Lindsey, who was on holiday in Sri Lanka, for adding to the mix!

Stamp from the 2007 definitive series on constellations of the Zodiac. Depicted is Pisces (♓), the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Pisceans are thought to be reasonable, artistic, and quiet.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Multiview postcard from Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Card shows a popular beach, Le Boucan, a tree fern, a white-tailed tropicbird, and a shot of an eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, one of the world's most active. Piton de la Fournaise is located in the "Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island" World Heritage site which covers almost the entire central part of the island.

Many thanks and a merci to Shamia for helping me add a card from Réunion to my collection.

Réunion is an integral part of France in the same vein as Hawaiʻi and Alaska are a part of the United States of America. As such, it uses standard French stamps. Stamp on the left commemorates the Apprentis d'Auteuil, a Catholic charity founded by a French priest in 1866, originally to help orphans, but now working with at-risk young people. Stamp on the right depicts the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Drawbridge in Bordeaux, which opened this year and is one of the largest such bridges in Europe.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Postcard of Levuka, the first colonial capital of Fiji, settled in 1820 and formally ceded to the British in 1874. The historical beachfront buildings sit amongst coconut and mango trees and form a rare, well-preserved example of nineteenth century European Pacific port settlements. Preservation was possible because the capital was moved to Suva on the main island of Viti Levu in 1882 as Levuku's townsite is ringed by cliffs, making growth difficult. Levuka Historical Port Town was added to the World Heritage List at this year's World Heritage Committee meeting in Phnom Penh, Fiji's first site to be inscribed.

Many thanks to Ben for helping me get my first card from Fiji! Vinaka vaka levu!

Stamp from a 1995 definitive set of eight on Fijian land birds showing a mangrove heron (Butorides striata), a common wetland bird across the Old World. Mangrove herons sit still for very long periods waiting for its prey to approach and then striking quickly. Stamp was overprinted with a new rate in 2006 (I think).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

United States of America – Louisiana

Postcard from New Orleans, showing a "second line" jazz band. The "main line" or "first line" is the main section of the parade; those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the "second line". It's a New Orleans tradition that is thought to have its origins in West African circle dances, where children formed a periphery circle outside the main circle of adult dancers. The dance was brought by slaves to New Orleans, where it became incorporated into processions, such as funerals, forcing the ring to straighten into a line.

Many thanks to friend Paul who was in New Orleans for a conference.

Fairly commonplace American flag "Forever" stamps, sans postmark, but plus a Mardi Gras logo.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

United Kingdom – England

Postcard from England's smallest city, Wells, in Somerset. With a population of 10,000, it is a city by virtue of its cathedral, and was designated a city in 1205. Pictured is the Vicar's Close, claimed to be the oldest purely residential street with its original buildings all surviving intact in Europe. They were built to house cathedral priests, with the first building of the Close connected by walkway to the Cathedral itself. Records indicate that construction of all buildings in the Close was completed by 1412.

Royal Mail stamp from the 2013 home countries series showing an oak tree for England. Now I just need the one from Scotland to round out the set.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

United Kingdom III

Postcard from the English coastal city of Plymouth showing Smeaton's Tower, a lighthouse that once stood 20 kilometres out to sea to warn ships of dangerous rocks. It was built in 1759 then later dismantled and rebuilt in Plymouth in 1882 as a memorial to its designer, John Smeaton, a celebrated civil engineer.

Usual British Machin Queen's head stamps.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Canada – Yukon II

Postcard shows a man panning for Klondike gold. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1896–1898 was the last and most renowned of the world’s great nineteenth century gold rushes when upwards of 100,000 prospectors rushed to this inaccessible and very remote part of Canada. The rush was centred on Dawson City, which grew from a Native moose-hunting camp to a city of 40,000 people in the space of a few years. Plots of land cost millions of today's dollars, and one visitor likened the newly paved streets with their smartly dressed inhabitants to the Strand in London! Part of The Klondike site on Canada's Tentative World Heritage list.

Previously featured baby black bear stamp with a Dawson City postmark, though not the same one as on this card.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Canada – Northwest Territories II

Another card from my Mum's travels in the Canadian Arctic, this time from the small community of Tuktoyaktuk on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Tuktoyaktuk is certainly one of the more iconic place names in Canada, and I learned  it was the first community in northern Canada to revert to its traditional Native name, having been known as "Fort Brabant" prior to 1950. 

Mum dipped her toe in the Arctic Ocean and reports that it wasn't really as cold as one would expect, probably because of record-breaking summer temperatures. My many thanks to her for sending me this card from the most northerly place in my collection, 69° 27′.

Previously featured baby black bear stamp featuring a Tuktoyaktuk postmark!