Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I love learning about traditional dances - they often say so much about the local culture, and they're almost always interesting to watch. And thanks to the marvel of YouTube, I can watch all of them with my own eyes. The girls pictured on the card here are dressed up for the traditional Legong dance of Bali, Indonesia.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I always enjoy doing blog posts about food, so here's an especially yummy, sweet, chocolate-y one for you. This postcard, a special surprise sent from Austria, shows a dessert called Sachertorte, named after its creator Franz Sacher. This confection is traditionally composed of two layers of dense, mildly sweet chocolate sponge cake with a layer of apricot jam in the middle. The cake is covered on the top and sides with a dark chocolate icing and traditionally served with unsweetened whipped cream.
2. Then, when the chocolate has cooled slightly, fold it gradually into the creamed butter mixture and then add the vanilla extract. Next, sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl, then put it all back into the sieve and sift it into the mixture a little at a time, carefully folding it in with a large metal spoon. When all the flour is incorporated, wash the whisks in warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly.
4. Now warm the apricot jam and brush the cake all over with it. Next, to make the icing, melt the chocolate with the cream, again in a bowl over simmering water. Then remove the bowl from the heat, and stir in the glycerine, to give a coating consistency. Pour the icing over the whole cake, making sure it covers the top and the sides completely. Then leave it to set, which will take 2-3 hours.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Truthfully, I think this may be the only postcard I've ever received from Russia that was not from St. Petersburg or Moscow. I received it quite a while ago, and it has only now occurred to me that maybe it would be nice to learn a little more about Russia outside of its two major cities. This map shows the Russian krai (province) Krasnoyarsk, and let me tell you, it's a lot bigger than you think it is. It's located in Central Siberia, and it is the second largest Russian krai, comprising 13% of the country's total landmass - that makes it 3 1/2 times the size of Texas, or about the size of the North African nation of Algeria. The administrative center of the krai is Krasnoyarsk (city), located in the extreme south of the province.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This postcard, which I received in the mail a few days ago, really showcases why I love Postcrossing so much. First of all, you may or may not know that I am particularly fond of postcards showing native bird species - my family is full of serious birdwatchers, and though I would only call it a casual hobby myself, I do love birds. This card displays the Common Kingfisher, a very handsome fellow that can be found all over Europe, South Asia, and North Africa.
Posted by Katie Hocevar at 10:15 AM
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
This is one my favorite received postcards. The grapes are a stunning, deep purple, just begging to be eaten - although my understanding is that wine grapes are usually not very tasty to eat. I also love this card because I always buy Rioja wine when making sangria - it's a nice, dry Spanish wine that works perfectly for sangria. It's not too sweet, so when you drink the punch, you don't forget that it's a wine punch you're drinking.
Posted by Katie Hocevar at 5:43 PM
Monday, August 24, 2009
Hello, my faithful friends. :) I want to let you all know that I have started a new blog - SiteSee Pittsburgh - that will follow my exploration of Pittsburgh's 205 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. I wanted a fun and different way to explore the overwhelming city of Pittsburgh, and a great way to organize it so I could share it on the web. I will visit places all over the city, learn the history and the stories, take photos, and share it all on my new blog over at Wordpress. I hope you'll stop by!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Argentina has always held a special fascination for me - members of my family have visited on more than one occasion, and often list it as one of their favorite places in the world. It's home to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires, but it also features the desolate terrain of the pampas, or South American grasslands, as well Patagonia, a very rugged region in southernmost South America, where the Andes end and the land stretches out towards Antarctica. It seems like a fascinating and hauntingly beautiful place, and I was really excited to receive this postcard showing the traditions of the gauchos of Argentina.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I love this unusual, spooky card from Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. It's hard to tell, but these women are actually statues on the marquee of the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre. The theatre was opened in 1940 and has staged over 200 performances since it opened. It is currently directed by Rimas Tuminas and performances range from classics by Shakespeare and Fyodor Dostoyevsky to modern plays written by up-and-coming Lithuanian playwrights. In fact, every noteworthy Lithuanian playwright has worked on the stage at the National Theatre. In 2001, the theatre became a member of the European Theatre Convention, a very prestigious organization. The current acting company is composed of 35 actors with 20 performances in its repertoire. The theatre is located in the heart of Vilnius Old Town, a dramatically beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bizarre, beautiful and bewitching, Lithuania's capital seduces visitors with its astonishing Old Town charm. Its chocolate-box baroque skyline littered with the spires of Orthodox and Catholic churches are intoxicating, decadent and fragile - so much so that Unesco has declared this, Europe's largest baroque old town, a World Heritage site. But there's more to this devilishly attractive capital than meets the eye. There is an underlying oddness that creates its soul.Where else could there be the world's only statue of psychedelic musician and composer Frank Zappa? Or a self-proclaimed, unofficial, independent republic inhabited by artists and dreaming bohemians? Where else is there the spirit of freedom and resistance that existed during Soviet occupation? There are reminders of loss and pain everywhere, from the horror of the KGB's torture cells to the ghetto in the centre of all this beauty where the Jewish community lived before their mass wartime slaughter.Strange bars glow inside dark courtyards and medieval archways frame the life of the narrow, cobbled streets through which change has swept with panache. Using foreign cash and local vision, this stylish little city has big plans. But new business and infrastructure - even a skyscraper skyline - won't disguise the curious charm of eccentric, soulful Vilnius. (Source: Lonely Planet)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Before joining Postcrossing, I had never heard of the Moomins (Swedish Mumintroll, Finnish Muumi) before. But they are beloved around the world, and postcards depicting them are highly coveted by many members of the Postcrossing community. So what are they? The Moomins are a set of characters created by Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator, and comic strip author Tove Jansson. Tove was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland in a family of artists belonging to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. She wrote her first Moomin book in 1945 during World War II, and proceeded to publish eight more during her life.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Kalash: ever heard of them? I know I hadn't! Thanks to this fantastic postcard from Salman in Pakistan, my mind is a little more enlightened now. The Kalashi people, with a population of no more than 6,000, live in the district of Chitral in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan, in the Hindu Kush mountains. Popular legend claims that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great's entourage in the region, and some genetic research has supported this. Hypotheses exist that link the Kalash to South Asia (their legends and folklore talk of a homeland called 'Tsiyam') or to the Middle East. Although not particularly common, blue eyes and blonde hair are not out of the ordinary.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Ever since I heard about it - and I never had, ever, before Postcrossing, and that only because there are so many Finnish postcrossers - I have been very curious about this place. Åland (pronounced Oh-lahnd) is definitely an unusual place. It is a group of islands and big rocks (80 inhabited islands, over 6000 total in the island group) located at a strategic position in the Baltic Sea, at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. To get to Stockholm, Sweden or Turku and Oulu, Finland, you have to pass by Åland. In the past, Sweden and Finland have fought over who gets the rights to this important little place, and in 1921 the now-defunct League of Nations decided that Finland gets it technically, but for all intents and purposes, Åland is an autonomous entity. Åland has its own national flag, its own police force, prints its own stamps, issues its own Åland Euro, and is exempt from Finnish military service. And most importantly, people of Åland do not consider themselves Finns, at all. In fact, travel websites encourage you not to mention their connection with Finland at all. They are very nationalistic. And in fact, why wouldn't they be? They are geographically isolated, they speak exclusively Swedish, and they govern themselves.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I remember, when I was a child, I thought that every single one of my toys was made in Taiwan. And up until just a few years ago, that was all I knew about Taiwan - they manufactured A LOT of stuff. And indeed, they do - there is a phenomenon in recent history that is referred to as no less than the Taiwan Miracle. The economy of Taiwan grew so rapidly following World War II that it's almost unfathomable. It has risen to prominence and is now one of the Four Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan), four nations in Southeast Asia with a particularly skilled workforce and exceptional economic success. In addition to Taiwan's manufacturing prowess, it is also a leader in technology - it is well-known for its developments in biotechnology, laptops and Smartphones, and semiconductor devices.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I'm always surprised at how fun it is to write a post about my own country. I thought today I would write about the American Southwest, which has its own very unique culture and mindset, because I wanted to learn more about why that region is the way it is. The Southwestern US is generally thought to comprise Arizona and New Mexico as the core states, with parts of California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma also containing elements of the Southwest culture, depending upon their proximity to the core. There are four factors, I think, that have had the largest role in shaping the Southwest culture of the United States: Native American influences, Spanish immigrant/Mexican influences, Anglo American influences, and the unusual climate of the region.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Behold, one of the most beautiful postcards I've received so far - this scan doesn't really show the beautiful, deep colors on the card. I love these beautiful farmhouses of the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, which were traditionally built with very steep roofs to prevent snow from accumulating on the house and making the interior cold. These houses also have an insulating corridor, which wraps around the entire house, between the exterior wall and the living area - this also helps keep the living area warm. The Black Forest had very difficult, snowy winters, which is why it was populated much later in human history. It is still much less densely populated than northern Germany. The particular house shown in this photo is called the Lorenzenhof, built in 1608, and part of the Black Forest Open Air Museum, which features many traditional German farmhomes, mills, storehouses, gardens, and chapels. You can take a very lovely virtual tour by clicking on this link.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This card shows one of the jewels in my growing collection, the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun in Egypt, which I received in a swap with lovely Salma. I was browsing through my cards, deciding which one to blog about today, and as is often the case, I realized that I know very little about Egypt. I know a little of the ancient history, but what is Egypt like today? I want to know.