Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pitcairn Island

..and now something quite different: Pitcairn Island! Unfortunately the card was not sent directly from Pitcairn Island, but that would just be too much luck as receiving a written and stamped postcard directly from there is extremely difficult. I'm not surprised when there are so few people living there, and travelling there is really difficult and it's not easy to get a permission to travel there (you need an approval of perfect health, amongst other requirements). Thanks a million for the swap, Kim!

The Pitcairn Islands form a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. The islands are a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the Pacific. The four islands – named Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno – are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and have a total land area of about 47 km2. Only Pitcairn, the second largest and measuring about 3.2 km across, is inhabited.

The islands are best known as home of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians (or Polynesians) who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only about 50 inhabitants (from four families as of 2010: Christian, Warren, Young, and Brown), Pitcairn is the least populous jurisdiction in the world (although it is not a sovereign nation). The United Nations Committee on Decolonisation includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The card was mailed from Taiwan, and the stamp is from a miniature sheet issued in 2008 to commemorate the Year of the Ox.

Johor Straits Lighthouse, Singapore

I think this is my first lighthouse postcard from Singapore. It's so pretty, too, I really like the colours here.

Johor Strait Lighthouse is situated in the west of Singapore, facing the straits of Johor and opposite the Johor state of Malaysia. There's a wee bit of info here towards the end of the page, if I got it right it seems like this lighthouse is still active and in use.

I wish I received more postcards from Singapore, their stamps are so pretty! The ones on this card are no exception. The one on the left is from a set of 2 flower definitives issued in 2009, and the stamp on the right is from a set of 4 butterfly stamps issued in 2010, the one here showing the Common Birdwing.

The University of Oxford, England

Another historical town, this time in England... My Russian postcard pal Katya sent this to me on her holiday in England this summer.

The University of Oxford is the second oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although the exact date of its foundation remains unclear, there is evidence of teaching there as far back as the 11th century. The University grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.

After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge, where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two ancient English universities have many common features and are often jointly referred to as Oxbridge. In addition to their cultural and practical associations, as a historic part of British society, they have a long history of rivalry with each other.

There are thirty-eight colleges of the University of Oxford and six Permanent Private Halls, each controlling its membership and with its own internal structure and activities.[27] All resident students, and most academic staff, must be members both of a college or hall, and of the university.

League tables consistently list Oxford as one of the UK's best universities; the university regularly contends with Cambridge for first place in the tables. Oxford consistently ranks in the world's top 10. For more than a century, it has served as the home of the Rhodes Scholarship, which brings students from a number of countries to study at Oxford as postgraduates or for a second bachelor's degree.

I've been to Oxford a couple of times, and found the city really beautiful, like a huge open air museum. The university and its student seem like something out of the real world, though. I think it might be a great deal due to so many students being from public (which actually means 'private' in this country :p) schools. It doesn't seem like there's much social mix in the University of Oxford.. I was just reading some statistics about recent admissions, and it seems like over 40% of those gaining a place studied in an independent school (while independent schools only educate about 7% of the total UK school population...), and most pupils who are accepted from state schools come from 'elite' grammar and selective schools, rather than comprehensives. I think that says something about the level of education in some state schools in this country... :/

I find these postage labels a little confusing.. In some places you just get these boring grey ones, while in some others you get ones with pictures of birds that are much nicer. ...although only a limited number of post offices actually have these machines, and none of the ones in Wolverhampton do. I wish at least the main post office there did because it would be more convenient to use that to post a letter rather than having to queue for ages, especially when you won't get nice stamps on the letter anyway even if you do queue to the counter. :(

Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

I set my official Postcrossing account inactive for a couple of months this summer. I wasn't sure if I'd have much time to commit for it, and I also figured that would stop cards arriving during the honeymoon in Barcelona and people wouldn't have to wait extra days for their cards to be registered. Anyway, I set it back to active soon after getting back home from Barcelona, and have received LOTS of cards since then. There have been some pretty weird incidents, like receiving some consecutive IDs from same countries - in one occasion I received THREE of these from Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the cards were all the same because the senders (brother & sister) didn't have any other cards available. :D The card below is also one of these consecutive IDs; I received two cards from the same person, from his two accounts. I don't mind, though, as the cards are both beautiful.


Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, best known for the fine architecture and art of the historic old town and Český Krumlov Castle. Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district.

The city is named Český Krumlov ("Bohemian Krumlov") to differentiate it from Moravský Krumlov ("Moravian Krumlov") in the southeast of the country.

Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River, which was important in trade routes in Bohemia. In 1302 the town and castle were owned by the House of Rosenberg. Emperor Rudolf II bought Krumlov in 1602 and gave it to his natural son Julius d’Austria. Emperor Ferdinand II gave Krumlov to the House of Eggenberg. From 1719 until 1945 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town's structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The core of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old Latrán neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vltava.

The stamp was issued earlier this year and shows W.A. Mozart.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

The last month and a half have been really hectic and so much has happened (not all very good, either.. :/) so I'm behind with a lot of things and not just this blog. I thought I'd post one more card today just to try and get back to the habit of updating this blog and maybe do that a bit more often again.. This one is holiday-themed as well - it's from Matt's older sister Rachel, sent during her holiday to Scotland last month. She spent a few days in Edinburgh and a while in the Highlands as well, which I'm perhaps even more jealous of. I'd love to visit the Scottish Highlands one day, too, and I certainly wouldn't mind travelling on 'Hogwarts Express'!

Glenfinnan Viaduct is a railway viaduct on the West Highland Line in Glenfinnan, Lochaber, Highland, Scotland. It was built between 1897 and 1901. Located at the top of Loch Shiel in the West Highlands of Scotland, the viaduct overlooks the Glenfinnan Monument and the waters of Loch Shiel.

The West Highland Line connects Fort William and Mallaig, and was a crucial vein for the local fishing industry and the highlands economy in general, which suffered enormously after the Highland Clearances of the 1800s.

The line is used by passenger trains operated by ScotRail between Glasgow Queen Street and Mallaig, usually diesel multiple units. Additionally in the summer the heritage Jacobite steam train operates along the line. It is a popular tourist event in the area, and the viaduct is one of the major attractions of the line. It is also the 'Harry Potter Express' - as Rachel put it :) She actually saw it pass by one of the B&B's she was staying in!

One of the most common stamps I see on my mail... It looks like this one's not very new, though, as it doesn't have any of the more recent security features on it.

Barcelona, Spain

I've been back from Barcelona for a little over a week now. It was such an amazing week, I had so much fun and wish I could've stayed longer (although I couldn't really have afforded it, it was so expensive over there!). Barcelona is such a beautiful city, there's tons to see, lots of whimsical architecture, palm trees everywhere (I was getting rather obsessed about these for some reason :p), seaside, lots of sunshine and warm/hot weather.. It was pretty depressing to come back to the rain and cold of England. ..and to think that me and Matt probably won't be able to afford another holiday again in a few years... *sigh*

This is one of the many postcards I bought for myself. It says 'Ciutat Vella' on the back of the card - Ciutat Vella is the old part of the city, comprising of Barri Gòtic, El Raval, La Ribera, Sant Pere, Santa Caterina and Barceloneta. The picture on this card looks like it could be from Barri Gòtic, which was also probably my favourite area of the city we visited. I loved all the narrow streets and alleys, old historical buildings, all the little details, laundry hanging outside and other signs of "ordinary life", tiny shops and the atmosphere in general, even if it was packed with tourists so it's probably not all that "authentic" in the end. There were lots of amazing little ice cream and frozen yoghurt shops in Barri Gòtic, too, I know I'm going to miss them. My favourite was Gelaaati!, I liked it enough to go there twice and wouldn't have minded visiting it more.. :p I know the place isn't exactly Spanish but on this occasion I didn't mind too much. Otherwise it was really depressing to find all the Spanish restaurants to be so expensive and half the time me and Matt actually ended up eating in places like Burger King or KFC because we couldn't afford Spanish food all the time (we were lucky in that the breakfast in our hotel was so good and we didn't need to eat out so much thanks to that. They even had churros with hot chocolate! ..and manchego cheese which I loved). That was one of the only things I didn't like about the place and found really upsetting.

The hotel we stayed in wasn't very centrally located, but it was within walking distance from Plaça d'Espanya, and one evening we walked over to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. It really was amazing, such a cool thing to see! Some of the music choices were a bit weird - music from 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Gladiator', for instance. They did play 'Barcelona' by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé, though, which made me happy.

Did I say I want to go back?!?