Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vilnius, Lithuania


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

The Moomins


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.

The Moomins are a family of trolls who are white, round and furry in appearance, with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses. They live in their house in Moominvalley, in the forests of Finland, but they have variously taken up residence in both a lighthouse and a theatre as well. The central family consists of three main characters: Moominpappa (above left), Moominmamma, and Moomintroll. Other characters occasionally attach themselves to the family throughout the series, including Hemulen, Sniff, the Snork maiden, Snufkin, and Little My (below in yellow).

In addition to writing children's books, Tove Jansson was a satirist and a political cartoon artist, so it's not surprising that her more "adult" messages sometimes make it into her work for children.

"One can never be entirely free, if one admires someone else too much." -Snufkin

"Possession means worries and luggage bags one has to drag along." -Little My

Particularly in Sweden and Finland, the Moomins have become a cultural icon. Although Jansson died in 2001, the Moomins continue to be memorialized in television series, music, films, and even a Moomin theme park in Finland. This is because the series was resurrected by Lars Jansson (Tove's younger brother) and Dennis Livson - these men produced a 104-part animation series in Japan named Tales from Moominvalley, which has led to an international boom in popularity for the series, particularly in Japan. Many people, especially those who were fans of the Moomins before they gained wide international fame, think this commercialization of the franchise has cheapened the philosophical world of the Moomins created by Tove Jansson.

The Moomins' rights are still owned by the Jansson family, who have turned down offers to sell the rights to the Walt Disney Company.

Related Posts with Thumbnails