28. 02. 2018.

UNESCO - Tower Of Hercules, Spain

The Tower of Hercules has served as a lighthouse and landmark at the entrance of La Coruña harbour in north-western Spain since the late 1st century A.D. when the Romans built the Farum Brigantium. The Tower, built on a 57 metre high rock, rises a further 55 metres, of which 34 metres correspond to the Roman masonry and 21 meters to the restoration directed by architect Eustaquio Giannini in the 18th century.

The ship was in Lisbon on the 30th, it was nice to re-visit, and since I sent quite a few postcards whilst there almost three years prior to, I didn't search for any new ones but rather spent my free time roaming around trying to remember stuff. The New Year's Eve was again spent on board, working until 23:59h and then rushing down to the crew bar for the countdown. As I haven't really clicked with any peeps yet I just went to bed to rest. Actually throughout my two contracts I haven't found my kind of peeps...I guess thats how it goes for an introvert in an extremely extrovert surroundings. It felt like even those who may have come on board with some true values have adapted to the specific ways of life. Anyways!

On the 1st of January 2017 the ship docked in A Coruña, a busy port located on the Atlantic coast, on a promontory in the Golfo Ártabro. Learning it is home to a WHS site I immediately worked out how to get there and took a longish walk in drizzly weather. My eyes were abnormally watery, I remember that distinctly as in town I met some guests from the ship and they asked me whats wrong! Maybe it was an omen of what was to come?
(Ok that was a bit overdramatic lol)

And that is the end of the 2nd/Xmas cruise! If I've continued sending as many postcards per cruise or fortnight I'd have had a full box of them. Still, I do have a few pretties left to show, so stay tuned :) Esp becauseee...the big 50-night cruise across the Atlantic is next..!

Moroccan Man On A Donkey

From the Canaries across to Morocco - and since I haven't been on the Moroccan coast before, I was excited about this more exotic spot of the cruise..! Very much resort-like, you could almost forget you are in a different culture - until you start getting catcalled by, well,  teenagers. I had a chat with one of them, asking if his plan to lure western women ever works, and he was laughing at himself so we parted amiably.  I found a tucked-away souvenir shop with a small range of postcards (and stamps!) and very friendly staff who also directed me to the closest mailbox. Let me just say it was a lovely sunny warm day and the beach in Agadir is endless, walking in the sand and listening to the ocean waves felt very soothing after all the business and noisiness on board...a welcome distraction :)

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote, Spain

Timanfaya National Park (Parque Nacional de Timanfaya) is entirely made up of volcanic soil - the greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736. The volcanic activity continues as the surface temperature in the core ranges from 100 to 600 °C at the depth of 13 metres, which is demonstrated by pouring water into the ground, resulting in a geyser of steam.

This landscape looks otherworldly, alas couldn't be visited as at this point of the job we were pretty much restricted to the port areas. Xmas was behind us (spent at sea), the day after the port of Fuerteventura was unreachable because of the strong winds so we spent an extra day at sea. Lanzarote was sunny and I had a fish sandwich for lunch, in a place teeming with locals so I thought it must be good! And it was. My colleague ate half of it with words 'I'll treat you when we get first pay' which of course she didn't lol, I've learnt the hard way she was a taker and none a giver, and that lasted for months. Now thats a special story! Perhaps not to be dwelt upon on a postcard blog heh.

27. 02. 2018.

Gata De Las Islas Canarias

Looking at the dates I realised that I was in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria the day before Xmas (the day after La Gomera) but I have nothing to show for it except a few mobile phone photos and a proof of using wi-fi in (what I believe to be) a snack bar..! That said, I am sure many more memory holes like this will ensue. I do remember it being really windy...then I have some images flashing in front of my eyes and I ask myself, did this really happen so early in the time spent on the ship? Everything is like a big muddy mess inside this head of mine. In retrospective I do regret not keeping a proper diary. Anyways! As I was saying, I really missed not seeing any animals for longer periods of time, and thats probably why I succumbed to this gorgeous little face :)

26. 02. 2018.

And Then There Were Lizards

As I was saying..:) However, the one with the banana I find quite bizarre; whoever thought of making this a postcard I wonder...I think the little gecko might prefer hunting for bugs than posing on a banana :) (I suppose the same would be for the one peeking out of a glass bottle. Ah, those humans...)

Burro Grazing

And another burro :D The Christmas stamp is quite interesting as one could send it as a square whole (like on the previous postcard) or separating the shaped centre (like here). A bit of a let-down that the posties don't have a local cancellation but were sent from the 'neighbouring' Tenerife. Nevermind, the donkey is here!

Views Of La Gomera

Next stop: La Gomera. I have posted a little bit about this island before, as my sister visited and sent a postcard from there. The ship docked in the port of San Sebastián de La Gomera, which can be seen here top-left - I best remember the black sand beach, and seeing a first cat since on board :) Went for a walk, then looked for a decent wi-fi (which will become one of the major sports to do in ports!) and that was pretty much it. The choice of postcards was again tempting; whole of the Macaronesia seems to be like that, donkeys and lizards aplenty..!

Madeira Lavadas

Levadas are irrigation channels or aqueduct specific to the island of Madeira, that originated out of the necessity of bringing large amounts of water from the west and northwest of the island to the drier southeast, which is more conducive to habitation and agriculture, such as sugar cane production. In the past they were also used by women to wash clothes in areas where running water to homes was not available. The idea of this style of water channel was brought to Portugal by the Moors during the time of al-Andalus (or Muslim Iberia).

To be honest I had no idea to this moment what exactly these images show lol, I just thought they are beautiful and reflect my wish to come back to the island for some nature trekking. Moreover, I matched a Madeira nature stamp only to learn it is also of a levada, the 25 Fontes. 

25. 02. 2018.

Maçaroco Com Lagartixa

Being excited about my first day out in a port, and to be honest about all the postcards with beautiful nature (esp lizards) I have sent a few more from this enchanting Portuguese island. I have used the original title, Lagartixa being a lizard family, and Maçaroco being this species of Echium flowering plant native to this island only, and thus being nicknamed the Pride of Madeira.
I mean a lizard, how could I not..? :)

Map Of Madeira

Just as I thought, I couldn't find an older cruise schedule (but I found two of the more recent ones, coincidentally starting from the date the 'good management' left the ship and different kinds of 'bad management' started rolling in), so I had to resort to retracing my steps via facebook lol. Well, I did write on this postcard 'here is a first postcard!' so that I can be sure of :D I flew to Hamburg while the ship was still on dry dock, had a few days of practice, and...then off to Southampton, the ship's turn-around port. The first cruise was so-called 'party cruise' or 'booze cruise' - those are generally the short 2-3 day trips over to Zeebruge/Bruges As those are the busiest cruises (you have to fit in all the different shoots plus the selling into a small time-frame) I didn't even go out in Zeebrugge. Well I couldn't have anyway as the company I worked for still didn't sort out my Bermuda ID by that point, plus it requires actual planning and sufficient free time to get to Bruges, so I thanked the Lord that I have visited lovely Bruges on my own, and simply had some rest.

Party cruise, or should I say 'fiery baptism' (is what we call any tough introduction into a job), over and done with, Xmas cruise around the Canary Islands (and a few other ports) next. Madeira was a delight - I actually had enough free time to go to the Funchal town centre, have a stroll, enjoy a bit of a Xmassy-feel, have a snack, and buy some postcards. Many souvenir (and tobacco) shops were open and were also selling stamps - not that you could tell from this stamp-less postie..! (The stamp thief strikes again)

23. 02. 2018.

Postcrossing Meeting In Finland

Before I start sorting out my past cruise 'schedule', here is a fantastic card sent from a Postcrossing meeting in Finland - for which I am sure I have Marko to thank :) Just the number of people participating i.e. signing the card is amazing...and its cute how some use their own rubber stamps, frankly something I have been wishing to obtain for myself too. Then there is the fact that its a lovely UNESCO card, and then again that there is an official cancellation, and then its matching the stamp, I mean how awesome is all of this?! Once again hats off to the Finnish Postcrossing community...! :))

UNESCO - Cathedral And Churches Of Echmiatsin And The Archaeological Site Of Zvartnots, Armenia

The cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin ( or Etchmiadzin ) and the archaeological remains at Zvartnots graphically illustrate the evolution and development of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic development in the region. 

Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). According to scholars it was the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia (early 4th century), and is considered the oldest cathedral in the world. The tour I was with included a visit to the museum of the cathedral, which has numerous items on display, including manuscripts and religious objects. Among its notable exhibits are the Holy Lance (Spear), relics belonging to Apostles of Jesus and John the Baptist, and a fragment of Noah's Ark. Many relic-containers offer no view of what is inside, so when I asked our guide 'how do we know what is inside?' she simply replied 'we don't' lol.

Zvartnots Cathedral (literally 'celestial angels cathedral') is a 7th-century centrally planned aisled tetraconch type Armenian cathedral built by the order of Catholicos Nerses the Builder from 643-652. Now in ruins, it is located at the edge of the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). As ruins, there wasn't much to look at, but the atypical arches were still pretty cool :)

22. 02. 2018.

Geghard And Garni, Armenia

After an overnight train to Yerevan I spent the day in the capital city - rainy weather, sore throat, and a cancelled paragliding trip...i really thought i'd go through with it, challenge myself i.e. my fear of heights...shame.
The next day I went on a trip to see the mystical Geghard Monastery, one of the three Armenian WHS sites. The misty weather actually made the whole atmosphere that much better :) The site was full of khachkars (or Armenian stone-crosses) - carved, memorial steles bearing a cross, and often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. Khachkars are characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian art, inscribed since 2010 in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Afterwards we visited the Temple of Garni, the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. The structure was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. After Armenia's conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century, it was converted into a royal summer house of Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III. I'll also remember this site because I asked a really handsome Russian guy if he could take a photo, shame he didn't know a word of English..;)

Wine Grapes Harvest In Kakheti, Georgia

 Local peasant carrying a godori (wicker basket): 
in the background Chailuri or the Niakhura Fortress.

And here is one of the main incentives why to visit Georgia in October of all months :) It is the end of wine grapes harvest season - and Georgia is actually one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The fertile valleys and protective slopes of the Transcaucasia were home to grapevine cultivation and neolithic wine production for at least 8000 years. They have preserved their special traditional ways of making wine: UNESCO added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using the Kvevri clay jars to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

Even though my wish was to take a few days for the Kakheti region and stay overnight in one of the villages, the tour company that did such a package didn't have enough people signed up to make it happen, and I had too little time to organise it on my own. So I've entered the office of an agency in Tbilisi to see if I can do something in a day - and sure enough I found a good deal, just me and a friendly gal from the Philippines with a local driver/guide, and off we go to Sighnaghi :) We visited the lovely Bodbe Monastery, a local museum, and of course the Pheasant's Tears winery for some wine tasting, yay :) It was a good day!

20. 02. 2018.

UNESCO- Historical Monuments Of Mtskheta, Georgia

The historic churches of Mtskheta, former capital of Georgia, are outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. They show the high artistic and cultural level attained by this ancient kingdom.
In the front is the Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, a masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages. The site itself dates back to the early fourth century, and is known as the burial site of Christ's mantle. In the back, the Jvari Monastery is a sixth century Georgian Orthodox monastery situated  on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers; according to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over the Caucasus.

19. 02. 2018.

Ushguli, Upper Svaneti, Georgia

Ushguli is a community of four villages located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti, Georgia. Recognized as the Upper Svaneti UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe. The region of Upper Svaneti is an outstanding example of an exceptional mountain landscape composed of highly preserved villages with unique defensive tower houses, examples of ecclesiastical architecture and arts of medieval origin. 

I have already written about this WHS site but to see it with my own eyes is something else...It wasn't my first stop though, I had a flight going to Kutaisi in the country's west, and only after booking my flight have I realised that this town I never have heard of before harbours two WHS sites. Well, actually one - the other was for some reason removed from the list. So I have visited the Bagrati Cathedral and the Gelati Monastery, I just never got around to buying some postcards :/
Oh I've just read that 'UNESCO removed Bagrati Cathedral from its World Heritage sites in 2017, considering its major reconstruction detrimental to its integrity and authenticity.' Shame when this happens...

Upper Svaneti really is quite isolated, which is why the villages are so well preserved. I had to take a tour from Mestia in one of the marshrutkas (shared taxi van), and was lucky to get a smaller van with only three other co-passengers. The roads were quite rocky and in parts muddy, and even though the Georgian roads have European rules half the vehicles (like this van) have the wheel on the right (or should I say wrong) side, which ensured more adventure than needed! These interesting medieval towers were to be found even in Mestia, just in front of my guesthouse for example :) As its fairly touristy (plenty of treks to do from there, wish I had more time!) I managed to find one souvenir shop with postcards and stamps. As the woman working there pulled the stamps out of the drawer I've noticed they were all various, wavy and singles, which looked dodgy to the ever-suspicious self...in which case I use a glue stick to stop the possible mishandling. Still, I believe I've sent two cards, and here is only one..! Hmm I could go on and on about this trip...cos it was one of the best trips I have ever had :)) But I really shouldn't make these posts look too daunting to read ;P

18. 02. 2018.

The Five Star Flag Of Georgia

As you can imagine, the Caucasus area had a turbulent history, and its countries used different flags over time. The current Georgia's flag has been used since 2004; the five crosses are sometimes interpreted as representing either the Five Holy Wounds, or alternatively Christ and the Four Evangelists. It is only slightly altered version of the First Flag of the Kingdom of Georgia (1008–1490).

As I have sent most cards during my last day in Georgia, which was the 22nd of October, it is curious to see they have been sent two weeks later. Well, they arrived safe and sound :)

A Little Between-Note

What I have been posting lately are posties that I've managed to scan before I left my penultimate job, and that was a while ago...in the early autumn of 2016. I was running out of stock, when I got hold of a scanner, and am having a bit of a task ahead :)
If I want to do it chronologically - there was an awesome trip to the Caucasus, then some postcards I've managed to send while working on a cruise ship, and some lovely surprises that arrived while I was away (mainly thanks to my two good fairies, Bryon and Ana :)) Now doing my cruise thing chronologically may take a bit of effort...but I have the official schedule someplace which should help. One thing (or two) that I've noticed is that I've often used self-adhesive stamps (usually there was no time to go to the post office, or it wasn't handy to get there, and the souvenir shops are fond of self-adhesives), and those generally tend not to be cancelled. Major boo :( Still, better than nothing? :) Also, I've noticed that I've sent plenty during the first cruise, but figured out as I went that its just not sustainable...Anyways, here is where I've been lately :)

17. 02. 2018.

UNESCO - Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge In Višegrad, Bosnia And Herzegovina

The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge of Višegrad across the Drina River in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina was built at the end of the 16th century by the court architect Mimar Koca Sinan on the orders of Grand Vizier Mehmed Paša Sokolović. The bridge has 11 masonry arches with spans of 11 m to 15 m, and an access ramp at right angles with four arches on the left bank of the river. The 179.5 m long bridge is a representative masterpiece of Sinan, one of the greatest architects and engineers of the classical Ottoman period and a contemporary of the Italian Renaissance, with which his work may be compared. The unique elegance of proportion and monumental nobility of the whole site bear witness to the greatness of this style of architecture.

In former Yugoslavian countries this bridge is also well-known through the historical novel The Bridge on the Drina by the later Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić; the story spans about four centuries and covers the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian occupations of the region, with a particular emphasis on the lives, destinies and relations of the local inhabitants, especially Serbs and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks).

Puno hvala Sabina!

08. 02. 2018.

The Soufrière Hills Volcano Eruption, Montserrat

After a long period of dormancy, the Soufrière Hills volcano became active in 1995, and has continued to erupt ever since. Its eruptions have rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroying the capital city, Plymouth, and causing widespread evacuations: about two thirds of the population have left the island.
This eruption looks fierce - and I fear that, much like this volcano, I will erupt soon lol. Alert!

07. 02. 2018.

Inside The Mysore Palace, India

Checking my FB just minutes ago I came across a similar picture and thought - hey, I have a postcard from there! And jumped over here immediately to post it :) Many thanks to Prashanth for the swap.

Ambavilas Palace, otherwise known as the Mysore Palace, is a historical palace and a royal residence at Mysore in the southern Karnataka state of India. It is the official residence of the Wadiyar dynasty and the seat of the Kingdom of Mysore. The last palace, now known as the Old Palace or the Wooden Palace, was burnt into ashes during the 1896 Dasara festivities. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV commissioned the British architect Lord Henry Irwin to build a new palace. The initial part was completed in 1912, and it was expanded in 1940.
The architectural style of domes of the palace is commonly described as Indo-Saracenic, with blends of the Hindu, Mughal, Rajput, and Gothic styles. It is a three-story stone structure with marble domes, and has a 145-foot five-story tower. The palace is surrounded by a large garden. 

05. 02. 2018.

Shanghai Night View

Fantastic night view of the Shanghai Old Town, possibly the Yuyuan Garden Bazaar area. Sent by 'aeronest' for one of the Vacation RRs...all those great stamps and cancellations, many thanks :) 
I was thinking of going back to swapping on the forum, I do have a stash of postcards and stamps left over...

04. 02. 2018.

Plain Of Jars, Laos

The Plain of Jars (Lao: ທົ່ງໄຫຫິນ [tʰōŋ hǎj hǐn]) is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. It consists of thousands of stone jars scattered around the upland valleys and the lower foothills of the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau (north of Laos). The jars are mostly arranged in clusters ranging in number from one to several hundred.
French researcher Madeleine Colani concluded in 1930 that the jars were associated with prehistoric burial practices. Excavation by Lao and Japanese archaeologists in the intervening years has supported this interpretation with the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics around the jars. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500) and is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia.

Today I was reminded of my trip to SE Asia which happened exactly three years ago - man how time flies. I haven't managed to see this place on the rather tight schedule; hmm to be honest I haven't even heard of this place before getting to Laos. This place looks pretty awesome so I've sent a card :)

02. 02. 2018.

Green Lizard

It is a simple title but there is a reason for it - I am not sure which species exactly this is...! It is a postcard printed in Ukraine, sent from the UK, and only has 'lizard' printed on the back. Hurray :) What is more interesting here is, I have found a fellow lizard fan among the postcrossers, and this was our first swap. Thank you Fjara - interesting stamp as well :) (EUROPA 2001 water theme, Royal Mail issued Pond Life stamps; this is a Great Diving Beetle)