Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Trinidad & Tobago, with personal photos


It was a special wish of mine to receive a postcard from Trinidad & Tobago through Postcrossing, because I traveled there with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law in 1998, when I was 14 years old. It was a birdwatching trip, and we stayed at the Asa Wright Nature Centre in the rainforest. I was a surly 14-year-old, so of course I didn't appreciate how wonderful it was at the time, but now I look back on it as one of the greatest adventures of my life so far. I really wanted some postcards from Trinidad. So I contacted Postcrossing user dolphia and she generously mailed me five beautiful postcards from Trinidad. 

Trinidad & Tobago are two islands located in the southern Caribbean, not far off the coast of Venezuela. It's one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean, with an industry-based economy, rather than agrarian. Trinidad is the birthplace of calypso music, steel drums, and the limbo. 

And where normally I would include a short Youtube video or a photo to help you experience Trinidad, I thought I would include a few of my family's personal photos to share my beautiful experience with you. :) Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Berlin Wall = Berliner Mauer


This is a special card I received in early April through a swap with user Morgaine. I saw that I had several US state map cards that she didn't have in her enormous collection, and in return she sent me this very special card. The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 and remained in place until 1989. 

At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, one-quarter each being occupied by the US, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Additionally, Berlin, the German capital, was divided into four zones, although it was technically located squarely in the Soviet occupation zone. 

As time passed, West Germany, or the Federal Republic of Germany, developed a Western capitalist economy and experienced great economic growth. East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic, established an authoritarian-type government with a Soviet-style planned economy. It did not experience the economic growth seen in the west, and many East Germans wanted to emigrate to West Germany.

As tensions grew between capitalist countries and the Soviet Bloc, East German leaders met with Joseph Stalin in 1952 and decided that movement between East and West Germany (and any crossing of Soviet borders, period) was no longer tolerable, and a barbed wire fence was erected to prevent border-crossing from West to East Germany. The border continued to remain open in Berlin, however, until 1961. Between 1952 and 1961, many people emigrated from East Germany to the West, a phenomenon that includes the "Brain Drain," or the mass exodus of scholars from East Germany (most famously, perhaps, was Albert Einstein). It is estimated that 20% of all East Germans left for West Germany and elsewhere by 1961.

The Berlin Wall became a symbol for the Cold War struggle between the West and the Soviet Union, and its dismantling in 1989 signaled a victory for peace among the participating nations.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Kelantan, Malaysia


I have undertaken to write about the state of Kelantan in northern Malaysia, and wow, I am so overwhelmed! There is an incredible Wikipedia article that I encourage you to read, but I will try my best to cover some interesting points here. First off, this card is from imajica, the famous Postcrosser :) and also one of the girls participating in the international blog I share with four ladies. (Private, unfortunately, sorry. ): 

Where do I begin? A bulleted list, with interesting points:
  • An agrarian state (primarily rice) in Northeast Malaysia, bordered by Thailand, also heavily focused on fishing.
  • Contains some of the most ancient archaelogical finds in Malaysia.
  • Most socially conservative and Islamic state in Malaysia.
  • Each Malaysian state is ruled by a sultan according to Constitutional law.
  • 95% of Kelantan's population is ethnic Malay, but enclaves of ethnic Thai and Chinese can also be found.
  • The aboriginal people of Malaysia are called Orang Asli, and can be found in small numbers  in Kelantan.
  • Kelantanese cuisine is heavily influenced by Thai cuisine, and contains quite a bit of rice, fish, coconut milk, and chicken (meat and eggs), among other things native to the region.
Kelantan has a lot of really cool traditional cultural activities. 
  • Wayang kulit Kelantan is a form of shadow puppetry. (Cool three-minute video)
  • Mak yong, declared by UNESCO as a "Masterpiece Of The Oral And Intangible Heritage Of Humanity," and is considered among the most authentic of Malay performing arts.
  • Wau bulan, or traditional kite-flying (usually by men) is one of the national symbols of Malaysia.
  • Silat is a Malaysian form of martial arts. (50-second video here)
  • Gasing is the tradition of top-spinning. 
  • Handicrafts include batik and songket.
Enjoy all the fun facts. What a fascinating place!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Trakai Island Castle


Isn't this card beautiful? Trakai Island Castle is located outside Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Building on the castle began in the 14th century and was overseen by Grand Duke Kęstutis. The castle received serious damage by the Teutonic Knights in 1377. Additions were made over the following century. Following the Battle of Grunwald, the castle lost its importance as a fortress and was converted into a residence. Frescoes were added; redecoration occurred periodically. The castle was damaged during war in the 17th century, and fell into disrepair until the early 20th century. Now it's a major tourist attraction. I encourage you to visit the video below to get a better look at the place!

Tenerife makes me sing... (get it? Canary Islands?)


I suck at this blog. But here I go again! I received this stunning postcard from the Canary Islands from user garagurb. The largest island of the Canary Island chain, Tenerife (which has a disproportionately lengthy Wikipedia article) has a population over 800,000. I gather it is sort of the Oahu of the Atlantic Ocean - it's a volcanic island, the most populous in a chain, and it is called the "Island of Eternal Spring," because of its beautifully mild climate. The Canary Islands are a territory of Spain, but the original inhabitants, the Guanche, were a Scandinavian-looking group of cave-dwellers who were barbaric as compared to their contemporaries. Many of these natives succumbed to disease or slavery.

Here's a cool amateur Youtube video that I think shows what Tenerife would really like to a visitor like you or me. It's a video response to a more touristic video, which you can also watch.

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