Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dracula's Castle & other spooky sights

Woo-woo, we're going to strange and wonderful places today. 

This is one of my favorite cards. It's from Romania and it shows Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula's Castle, which was built in 1212. The castle attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors because of the legend surrounding Vlad The Impaler, although the historical records indicate that Vlad stopped by the castle only once, on his way to somewhere else. Let's ignore the facts because the legend is much more exciting. In any case, it's a great castle.

Do you suppose we will ever know for certain why Stonehenge was built? Probably not, but considering the possibilities is always interesting. Was it a holy site? A prehistoric observatory? A picnic area for Druids? Over the years visitors have taken pieces of the stones as souvenirs, so to prevent further damage people are no longer allowed to walk right up to the stones; you must view them from a distance. Pooh.

To see the largest concentration of odd people, visit Stonehenge at the summer solstice. Be sure to wear your Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful.

Added later: Reader Sarsen56 pointed me towards what looks to be a very interesting book called "Solving Stonehenge". Take a look if you'd like to read more on the subject.

Sometimes the truth is more frightening than a legend. I wasn't expecting to get any cards from Japan for a while due to the recent devastation over there, so I was surprised to find this one of Mt. Fujiyama in yesterday's mail. It was sent by a woman who was lucky enough to live in a safe part of the country. She wrote that the Japanese had suffered "big damages" but that they will be "able to revive by all means". What a job that is going to be. I thought it was nice that she said "thanks" to the U.S. for its support.

For a beautiful and amazing video of the Northern Lights, play this video. (Make the video full screen by clicking on the little icon that has arrows pointing in four directions.)

Did you know that there are also Southern Lights in the Southern Hemisphere?  Since they are visible primarily in Antarctica, very few people get to see them. Occasionally they are visible in the southern parts of South American, Australia or New Zealand.  Now that would be worth staying up late for.

I've worked up quite an appetite so let's stop for some Chinese food. This fellow obviously got the Chinese Happy Meal. I didn't know it was possible to have this much fun eating rice.

If you are so inclined, relax with a good smoke after your meal. It is not good for your complexion however, as you can see.

See you soon!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Still standing after all these years

I get quite a few cards showing interesting old buildings around the world. Not surprisingly, many of these buildings are churches. Let's take a look at some of them.

This is the Petäjävesi Old Church in Petäjävesi, Finland. It was built between 1763 and 1764.

Do you know about Unesco World Heritage sitesHere is a map showing the locations of all 911 sites. The Petäjävesi Old Church is one of them. You can zoom in on any of the map locations for more information.

This French-Gothic style cathedral is located in northwest Spain, in the little city of León. It was built in 1255 over the ruins of 2nd century Roman baths. Work continued into the 19th century. I'd love to see the inside. There are some 125 medieval stained glass windows, which give the cathedral its nickname the "House Of Light".

On to Freiburg, Germany to see another Gothic cathedral. This one took over 300 years to build and was consecrated in 1513.

All this reminds me of Ken Follett's book (and later TV mini-series) "Pillars of the Earth". It was one of Oprah's Book Club selections. L-o-n-g book, but interesting. It will make you very glad you do not live in medieval times. Lots of disease, fighting, and many other hardships such as no pizza delivery.

This amazes me. See the colorful "carpet" in front of the Grand Cathedral? It is all made of flowers, mostly camellias. This is done every other year, and if you get yourself to Brussels by August 15th of this year you can see it for yourself.  I know there is some concern about whether you will be required to eat Brussels sprouts. Actually, yes. Customs officials will ask for your passport, then hand you a small plate of sprouts. If you refuse to eat them, it's back to wherever you came from.

If you get kicked out of Belgium, you could always go to Amsterdam to see this beautiful cathedral, which was founded in 1250.

After all the fancy Gothic cathedrals, I'm going to end with the entirely wooden Uspenskaya Church in Nelazskoye, Russia. This is a Russian Orthodox church, built in 1774 and considered to be a masterpiece of Russian wooden architecture.

I hope you all feel edified after today's trip. What? You feel petrified? Oh come on, it wasn't that boring.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flat surfaces - WOW!

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that sometimes I come up with a "theme" for a post. Something that ties all the postcard images together. Today's theme has not been done before, by anyone, and will most likely never be done again. The theme is "Tables and Counters". Doesn't sound promising, does it?

First is a photo from Portugal, 1981. Unfortunately, the setting and the occasion are not supplied, so I will have to make up my own. These Portuguese people are having lunch in the barn after a hard morning of stomping grapes. They are not allowed to eat in the house because of their feet. Or...this is the monthly meeting of the "Covered Head" society. The two people who forgot their hats are feeling very out of place and are not given any food. One person came without a head but was refused entrance altogether.

I love reproductions of old posters, like the next card. The woman in green is enjoying a cup of "Camp Coffee", whatever that is. It apparently comes out of a bottle and is served at room temperature. The bottle's label shows a man in some sort of British-in-India get-up, being served Camp Coffee on a tray by an Indian servant.  "For you, Sahib. Does the colonel require elephant transport to the cricket match?".

Camp Coffee's motto is "We always have it". Have what?  A bitter taste? Hope for product improvement?

Notice that this woman chose a very small table so that no one but dwarfs will sit with her. More Camp Coffee for her that way. (She's already drunk half a bottle by herself, and not a dwarf in sight.)

I know it isn't Christmas, but this is one of my favorite "table" cards. This was drawn by Marri Kunnas, a famous Finnish illustrator. It shows a typical Finnish kitchen at Christmastime, right down to the rabbit on the counter.  All the rosy cheeks indicate that there is no heat in the kitchen except for the oven, which is why they keep making more and more cookies.

From a folk museum in Norway comes this card with "Details of a dwelling house". Because of the fire burning, it was not necessary to bake cookies.

Marc Chagall's "The Soldier Drinks" was sent from The Netherlands. The soldier appears to be asking for a bigger cup. He has seen with his own eyes what can happen to people who drink from small cups.

Today's last card is "The Last Supper", painted by Corberelli. Common sense leads me to believe that I should not make jokes about it.

See, in the wonderful world of postcards, even tables and counters can be interesting. Sort of.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Frog Days

We are in the Frog Days of winter here in Oregon.  Every day it either rains or threatens to.  However the leaves and buds are starting to peek out. I'm hoping they know something we don't: that someday the sun will shine again.

I read recently that the U.S. Postal Service is losing money each year, so I'm going to do my part by resuming THE GREAT POSTCARD EXCHANGE on And you, dear reader, will get to see the results. Lucky you!

I relate personally to the card below. I think it explains my personality very well.

Despite my best intentions to be like a kitten (energetic, curious, excited by anything new) I always seem to be more of a turtle. Go ahead, say whatever you want. It can't hurt me. I have a very hard shell.

Does anyone remember 1972?  Unfortunately, I do.  If you were in Montreal at the time and drove up the Rue Peel, this is what you would have seen.

That Volkswagen is still parked in the same spot and the police are getting darn tired of it. It will be towed any day now.

How about something a little sunnier?  And in such an unexpected place - Russia!

This is a view of the Moika River, which is only 40 miles long. It encircles the central part of St. Petersburg. Did you know that St. Petersburg is called "The Venice of the North"?  The city is built almost entirely on a series of over 40 islands.

Many famous people have been associated with St. Petersburg over the centuries. For example, the Russian actress Vera Fyodorovna Komissarzhevskaya was born there in 1864. I hope she didn't have to write her name on her gym shoes.

I'm sure there was a reason for the next picture, but I'm not sure what it was.

It's just dying for a caption, isn't it? However, this photo leaves me nearly speechless, so it will remain unlabeled. I'm just glad I wasn't there.

I'm really more of a cat person, but if you'd like to see some very cute and funny dog photos, check out these on the AnimalSpace site.

My intention is to post regularly to this blog, but you know, that turtle-ish thing and all.....