Saturday, 16 July 2011


My Finnish postcard pal Johanna certainly doesn't pick the most common destinations for her holidays. Last year she went to Greenland; this summer she visited Mongolia. ...and she was kind enough to send me a postcard from there. It arrived not long ago and made me super excited!

Johanna told me that this kind of view is very typical in Mongolia - yurts, cattle and lots of green. :) She even stayed in a yurt for a few nights, which must have been quite an experience.

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and the People's Republic of China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only 38 kilometres from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. Mongolia's political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier pattern of constant internal conflict and occasional raids on the Chinese borderlands. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. At the end of the 17th century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de facto independence from the Republic of China, and until 1945 to gain international recognition.

As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence; in 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as the Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and transition to a market economy.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the 19th largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.75 million people. It is also the world's second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state's citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day.

The stamp is from a set of 4 animal stamps issued in 2004.

Jerusalem, Israel

I know I've already posted a very similar card of Jerusalem before, but I couldn't resist posting about this one as well. I really like this view and the full moon on the left is such a cool addition, making the atmosphere here somewhat mysterious.

In the background you can see the Old City wall with Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge in East Jerusalem with three peaks running from north to south. The highest, at-Tur, rises to 818 meters. It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount of Olives is associated predominantly with Jewish and Christian traditions but also contains several sites important in Islam. The mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves.

Such a beautiful stamp! It's from a set of 3 stamps issued earlier this year under the theme 'Visit Israel'.

Map of Taiwan

Let's stay in Asia for a moment.. This card from Taiwan is one of the coolest map cards I've ever received - I love the cute illustrations and the huge number of tiny little details.

You can see all the major cities of Taiwan here, as well as all famous spots and landmarks. The Black Bear, DiDi, is in reality a native animal in Taiwan, "Formosan Black Bear". 'DiDi' means younger brother in Chinese, which is the official language of Taiwan.

Beijing, China

I love postcards showing everyday life in different countries, which is why I like this card so much. That, and the people here look so happy, it makes me smile as well. :)

The picture here is from a 'hutong' in Beijing, China. Hutongs are a type of narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with Beijing, China. In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.

Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.

The stamp is a New Year's stamp from 2009.

S.68, Russia

A very cool locomotive card I received from a swap with Andrey in Russia. We've exchanged a bunch of postcards now and I really like everything he's sent me so far.

This is a bit of a strange postcard - you couldn't really send it written and stamped because there's so much writing on the back of the card. I've seen cards like that from Russia before, I wonder if they exist in other countries as well? Anyway, at least there's some helpful info about the picture on the back:

One of the best passenger locomotives built in Russia before the revolution. Designed by B.S. Malakhovskii, chief engineer of Sormovo (hence the class name S).
Probably built by Nevskii Works in Petrograd in 1917. During 1960-1970s it was used as a stationary boiler in Moscow at an industrial enterprise. Restored at the October railway's Khovrino locomotive depot in 1983.
The single survivor of this class.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, CA, USA

I've recently joined two other swap sites in addition to Postcrossing: sendsomething and Swap-bot. I think I'll mostly stick to Postcrossing in the future, though, because these sites are a bit confusing (Swap-bot in particular) and I haven't been overly impressed with some of the cards I've received. There have been exceptions, though, my favourite being this gorgeous lighthouse postcard I received via sendsomething last month.

Point Bonita Lighthouse is located at Point Bonita at the San Francisco Bay entrance in the Marin Headlands near Sausalito, California. Point Bonita was the last manned lighthouse on the California coast.

The original Point Bonita Lighthouse, a 17 m brick tower, was located too high. Unlike the East Coast of the United States, the West Coast has dense high fog, which leaves lower elevations clear. The original light was 93 m above sea level so the second order Fresnel lens was often cloaked in fog and could not be seen from the sea. In 1877, the lighthouse was moved to its current location at 38 m above sea level. The United States Coast Guard currently maintains the light and fog signal. It is accessible to the public during limited hours (12:30 PM–3:30 PM) on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. Up until 1940 the lighthouse could be reached without a bridge, but erosion caused a trail leading to the lighthouse to crumble into the sea. A wooden walkway was installed, but when that became treacherous the suspension bridge was built in 1954. The bridge was intended to mirror the design of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge.

As of January 6, 2010, the suspension bridge to the light house has been closed to public access. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the bridge, which is 56 years, has started to rust. It underwent repairs in 1979 and again in 1991, but the metal components are not able to stand up to the sea spray. The new span is set to open in March 2012. The new bridge construction is expected to cost between $850,000 and $1.3 million. The bridge will be made from tropical hardwood and steel suspension cables and attachments.

This card came with some really cool stamps. The two big stamps at the top are from a set of 5 stamps issued in 1999, depicting Arctic Animals, the ones here being tghe Polar Bear and Gray Wolf. The smaller stamp underneath is from a set of 2 (?) stamps issued in 1995, showing Fruits.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Wildlife, Tristan da Cunha

Blogger has been playing up quite a bit today and I'm getting really fed up with it. :S Therefore, only one more card for today. I wrote earlier that I wanted to post more about Tristan da Cunha as I received a bunch of postscards from there. Well, here is another one, and a really lovely one at that, too.

Such beautiful animals! I would have no idea of their names but there's a helpful explanation on the back of the card:

Rockhopper Penguin, Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal (Protected at Gough & Inaccessible Islands), Wilkins'Bunting (Endemic to Nightingale Island, Endangered), Brown Noddy.

The penguin reminds me of one of the penguins in the film 'Happy Feet'. :D I really like that film, too, and what makes it more special to me is that I saw it for the first time in Edinburgh a few years ago with a dear friend. Memories...

Such lovely stamps! They are from a set of 12 stamps issued in 2010 under the theme 'Nature conservation'. Mmmm, and the special cancellation is very cool as well. :) I'm still surprised these cards didn't travel for ages to reach me.

Lake Baikal, Russia

I received this breathtaking view of Lake Baikal earlier this year. Doesn't it look amazing?!

Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake at 30 million years old and with an average depth of 744.4 metres.

Located in the south of the Russian region of Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water.

At 1,642 metres, Lake Baikal is the deepest and among the clearest of all lakes in the world. Similarly to Lake Tanganyika, Lake Baikal was formed as an ancient rift valley, having the typical long crescent shape with a surface area of 31,722 km2, less than that of Lake Superior or Lake Victoria. Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is also home to Buryat tribes who reside on the eastern side of Lake Baikal, rearing goats, camels, cattle and sheep, where the regional temperatures vary from a minimum of −19 °C in winter to maximum of 14 °C in summer.

The big stamp on the left was issued in 2010 under the theme 'Military aviation school'. The stamp in the middle is from a set of 11 definitives issued in 1998 and stamp next to it on the right is from a set of 2 definitives issued in 2010, with the theme 'Coat of arms'. The stamp underneath is a definitive from 2008 in a set of 15 stamps depicting animals, this one here being the Hare.

Istanbul, Turkey

A beautiful card I received from 'Choose a Country RR', one of my favourite RRs on the postcrossing forum. I had had this card in my favourites for a while, I'm so happy to finally have a copy myself!

This card was mailed from Ukraine but it shows a view of Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey. According to the address-based birth recording system of the Turkish Statistical Institute, the metropolitan municipality (province) of the city had a population of 13.26 million as of 2010, which is 17.98% of Turkey's population. The last census data from 2000 puts its proper population at 8.8 million. Istanbul is a megacity, as well as the cultural, economic, and financial centre of Turkey. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbour known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. Istanbul is a designated alpha world city.

During its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). When the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed on 29 October 1923, Ankara, which had previously served as the headquarters of the Turkish national movement during the Turkish War of Independence, was chosen as the new Turkish State's capital. Istanbul was chosen as a joint European Capital of Culture for 2010 and the European Capital of Sports for 2012. Istanbul is currently bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The historic areas of the city were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.

As I said, this card was mailed from Ukraine. ...with the most amazing stamps! The one on the right is from a set of 6 lighthouse stamps issued in 2010, this one showing the Illichivskyi lighthouse. The train stamp is from a set of 4 stamps from 2010, depicting locomotives. The stamp underneath was issued in 2004 to commemorate the 250 Years of Yelysavethrad. Finally, the small stamp at the bottom is from a set of 4 stamps issued in 2008, depicting Handicrafts.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, Dunsborough, Western Australia

Another gorgeous postcard from the lovely Heather. I know I've already posted about this lighthouse here but what can I do, it's so beautiful!

On the back of the card it says that walk trails near the lighthouse extend around Cape Naturaliste offering elevated views with the possibility of sighting migrating whales. I wonder if that's been the case here. It must be a pretty spectacular experience to see whales in the wild.

The stamps come from a set of 4 stamps issued earlier this year, depicting Christmas Island Crabs. I wouldn't want to come across one of these guys on a beach!

Barcelona, Spain

I'm so excited!! I think I've mentioned here that I'm getting married next month.. Well, this week me and Matt booked our honeymoon trip. We'll be going to Barcelona, Spain for a week at the beginning of September. I'm a little overwhelmed as this is our first proper holiday (= no family/parents) together in the 5+ years we've been together. And there's going to be so much see... I already know I want to see Park Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, Sagrada Família, Barri Gòtic and La Boqueria, but what else? Ahhh, I'm really looking forward to this trip! Hopefully it'll be a bit warmer there than it is in England at the moment. :P

My postcard pal Hanna was on an interrail in Europe this May/June and sent me this lovely card showing Casa Batlló from Barcelona. Casa Batlló is a building restored by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol, built in the year 1877 and remodelled in the years 1904–1906; located at 43, Passeig de Gràcia, in the Eixample district of Barcelona, Spain. Gaudí's assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras , Josep Canaleta y Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project.

The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), and indeed it does have a visceral, skeletal organic quality. It was originally designed for a middle-class family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona.

The building looks very remarkable — like everything Gaudí designed, only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense. The ground floor, in particular, is rather astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work.

It seems that the goal of the designer was to avoid straight lines completely. Much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles (trencadís) that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudi's home), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.

I most definitely want to see this building, if only from the outside.

The stamp is from a set of 4 stamps issued earlier this year, depicting butterflies.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Havana, Cuba

I'm keeping today's post a little smaller than usual, so I'll finish with this very nice card I got from a swap earlier this year. I'm quite excited about this card, too, as it's my first written and stamped postcard received from Cuba. :)

On this card you can see a view from the Old Havana. Havana was founded in 1519 by the Spanish. By the 17th century, it had become one of the Caribbean's main centres for ship-building. Although it is today a sprawling metropolis of 2 million inhabitants, its old centre retains an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards. Old Havana is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Havana is the capital city, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city is one of the 15 Cuban provinces and the largest city in the country. Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. Present day, the city is the center of the Cuban government, and various ministries and headquarters of businesses are based there.

Very nice stamps, I couldn't find any info on them, though.

St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

I received this nice card from a swap earlier this year. It's only my second postcard mailed from the Vatican City.

St. Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro in Italian) is located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the papal enclave within Rome (the Piazza borders to the East the rione of Borgo).

The open space which lies before the basilica was redesigned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1656 to 1667, under the direction of Pope Alexander VII. Bernini had been working on the interior of St. Peter's for decades; now he gave order to the space with his renowned colonnades, using the Tuscan form of Doric, the simplest order in the classical vocabulary, not to compete with the palace-like façade by Carlo Maderno, but he employed it on an unprecedented colossal scale to suit the space and evoke emotions awe.

St. Peter's Square today can be reached from the Ponte Sant'Angelo along the grand approach of the Via della Conciliazione (in honor of the Lateran Treaty of 1929). The spina which once occupied this grand avenue leading to the square was demolished ceremonially by Benito Mussolini himself on October 23, 1936 and was completely demolished by October 8, 1937. St. Peter's Basilica was now freely visible from the Castel Sant Angelo. The effect of its demolition, however, was to destroy the characteristic Baroque surprise. The Via della Conciliazione was completed in time for the Great Jubilee of 1950.

The stamp is an Easter stamp issued earlier this year.

Chukotka, Russia

Another card from the diary swap I did with my Russian friend Katya earlier this year. I just love these views!

As I already wrote about Chukotka in that earlier post (link above), I won't repeat it here. Let me just say that I really love these views of Russian nature and wilderness. There is such diversity in that country, it's amazing. I'm thinking of starting a collection of all different regions of Russia, I was inspired by a post of the postcrossing forum. I need to go through all my cards first, though, and try to organise them by country. That's going to take some time...!

Katya always uses the most amazing stamps on her cards and this one is no exception. The stamp on top left is from 2003, from the 'Europa' series, that year's theme being Poster Art. The two flower stamps in the middle are from a set of 5 stamps issued in 1999, depicting roses. The stamp on the right is from a sheet of 5 stamps issued in 2005, depicting insects, and the stamp on the bottom is from a set of 3 stamps issued in 2004, commemorating the Birth Bicentenary of M.I.Glinka.

Tampere, Finland

They have SO many postcrossing meet-ups in Finland, I'm a little jealous. It's nice to receive cards from these meet-ups, though, and the kindness of some postcrossers is really touching. This card is from an international meet-up in Tampere this May.

I've been to Tampere quite a few times as I have relatives who don't live too far from there. It's a really nice town, not too small but not overwhelmingly huge, either. I would've really liked to go to university there but so do a lot of other people as well, and my points in the entrance examination were only enough for me to get a place in Savonlinna. Oh well. At least I'm out of Savonlinna now :P

Tampere is a city in southern Finland. It has a population of 213,344, growing to approximately 300,000 people in the conurbation and over 340,000 in the metropolitan area. Tampere is the third most-populous municipality in Finland, after the Greater Helsinki municipalities of Helsinki and Espoo.

Tampere is located between two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. Since the two lakes differ in level by 18 metres (59 ft), the rapids linking them, Tammerkoski, have been an important power source throughout history, most recently for generating electricity. Tampere is dubbed the "Manchester of Finland" for its industrial past as the former center of Finnish industry, and this has given rise to its Finnish nickname "Manse" and terms such as "Manserock".

Tampere is known for its active cultural life. Some of the most popular writers in Finland, such as Väinö Linna, Kalle Päätalo and Hannu Salama, hail from Tampere. These are all known as writers depicting the lives of working class people. Also from a working class background was the famous poet Lauri Viita of the Pispala district (which is the original home of Hannu Salama too). Tampere also has old theatre traditions, with such established institutions as Tampereen Työväen Teatteri, Tampereen Teatteri and Pyynikin Kesäteatteri, which is an open-air theatre with the oldest revolving auditorium in Europe. Tampereen Teatterikesä or Tampere Theatre Festival is an international theatre festival held in Tampere every August.

The main tourist attraction is the Särkänniemi amusement park, which includes a dolphinarium and the landmark Näsinneula tower, topped by a revolving restaurant. Other sites of interest are Tampere Cathedral, Tampere City Library Metso ("wood grouse"), Kaleva Church (both designed by Reima Pietilä), the Tampere Hall for conferences and the Tampere Market Hall.

Tampere is also home to one of the last museums in the world dedicated to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Lenin moved to Tampere in August 1905 and during a subsequent Bolshevik conference in the city met Joseph Stalin for the first time. Lenin eventually fled Tampere (for Sweden) in November 1907 when being pursued by the Russian Okhrana. Lenin would not return to any part of the Russian Empire until ten years later, when he heard of the start of the Russian Revolution of 1917. ...and there is a Spy Museum in Tampere as well, which I'd love to visit one day. :D

The stamp on the left was issued earlier this year and shows the Finnish flag. The smaller stamp is from a set of 2 definitives, also issued this year, depicting birch trees.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


The final card for today comes from Africa, a continent sadly underrepresented in my postcard collection. But then again, it makes it more special when one does show up in my mailbox. This one is from a new country, too - Zambia.

I was already vaguely familiar with Zambia as Matt's older sister Rachel used to work there some years ago. I'm not sure in what capacity, I think she was doing some sort of volunteer work there. I don't know so much because I didn't yet know Matt when she was there.. I've just heard stories (and seen a cool handmade postcard she sent to her family from there ;)). I sometimes think it might be nice to do volunteer work somewhere like Zambia, but that's not really a possibility now that I'm not single anymore, and life would just get in the way too much. That, and I've got the impression that you'd still have to pay for your travel to the destination and back, and possibly your living expenses there as well so it's not like I could afford it anyway.

This postcard is from a Taiwanese volunteer worker in Zambia (it seems like a lot of Taiwanese postcrossers are doing volunteer work abroad?!). Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, located in the south-central part of the country. The population is concentrated mainly around the capital Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt to the northwest. Zambia has a tropical climate and consists mostly of high plateau, with some hills and mountains, dissected by river valleys.

Zambia has been inhabited for thousands of years by hunter-gatherers, gradually leading to a multiethnic country. After visits by European explorers starting in the 18th century, Zambia became the British Colony of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century. This was achieved through consessions and agreements between local paramount chiefs and representatives of the British Empire. For most of the colonial period, the country was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.

On 24 October 1964, the country declared independence from the United Kingdom and prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became the first head of state. The new name of Zambia was derived from the Zambezi river (Zambezi may mean "God's river") which flows through the western region of the country.

Zambia is one of the most highly urbanized countries in sub-Saharan Africa with 44% of the population concentrated in a few urban areas along the major transport corridors, while rural areas are sparsely populated. Unemployment and underemployment in urban areas are serious problems, while most rural Zambians are subsistence farmers. The population comprises approximately 72 ethnic groups, most of which are Bantu-speaking.

I couldn't find any info on the stamp so all I know is what I can read on the stamp - issued in 2000, showing the Sacred Ibis.


It's always nice to see postcards showing people around the world, and I particularly like Indian postcards because so many of them are so wonderfully colourful. Like this one here...

The sender, Rajagopal, tells me this is a typical Indian scene where the priests and some devotees arrange a procession for their chosen dieties. Here, since the procession takes place in a village, a tractor has been temporarily modified for the purpose.

The stamp on the right was issued in 2009 and shows C.V. Raman. The stamp on the left is from a set of 5 (?) stamps issued in 2008, depicting people, this one here being Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

La Coca Falls, El Yunque, Puerto Rico

A very beautiful waterfall postcard I received earlier this year.

Coca Falls are located in El Yunque National Forest in northeastern Puerto Rico. It is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System inventory. The forest is commonly known as El Yunque. The second-tallest mountain within El Yunque is also named El Yunque. El Yunque National Rainforest is located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains and it encompasses 113.32 km² of land, making it the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico. El Toro, the highest mountain peak in the forest rises 1,065 meters above sea level. Ample rainfall (over 200 inches a year in some areas) creates a jungle-like setting - lush foliage, crags, waterfalls and rivers are a prevalent scene. The forest has a number of trails from where the jungle-like territory's flora and fauna can be appreciated.

Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA

This is one of my oldest received official Postcrossing cards - I received it over three years ago! I think that might have been when you were only allowed to have five postcards travelling at the same time so I didn't get many officials back then. Maybe that's why they are so special to me??


This card came from a young boy who had just been to the Steamtown National Park to see lots of old trains. It must have been an awesome place! Old trains look so beautiful and seem to have a lot more character than modern trains. I've seen some in Finland and thought they were really cool, so a bigger place like this must be fantastic.

Steamtown National Historic Site is a railroad museum and heritage railroad located on 25.3 ha in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, at the site of the former Scranton yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The museum is built around a working replica turntable and a roundhouse that is largely a replica but which includes two authentic sections built in 1902 and 1937. All the buildings on the site are listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

On this postcard you can see a Lehigh Valley Caboose 95003, built in 1941. Cabooses served as rolling offices for the conductor, brakemen, and flagmen (freight train workers).

The stamp on top left was issued in 2000 under the theme 'summer sports'. The stamp next to it is from a sheet of 10 stamps issued in 2006, depicting Southern Florida Wetland. The stamp on the bottom, then, is from a set of 8 stamps issued in 1981 (!!!) under the theme 'Space Flights'.

map of Finland

Let's move back to Finland.. I received this very cool map card from the lovely Liisa in Finland. It's always a joy to receive mail from her and this card is no exception.

This is not your typical map of Finland - as you can see, none of the major towns are marked on it, apart from Helsinki and Tampere. Instead there are a bunch of small towns. This card is actually an ad for the 'Kipa' book shop chain. They have shops in these smaller towns as a bigger, more conventional book shop wouldn't really work in these places. I would probably be pretty frustrated if I was stuck living in one of these places as I love to visit book shops and these small ones are, well, a bit *too* small for me. But at least they're something.

The card is illustrated by Marjaliisa Pitkäranta. I remember her illustrations from my childhood, she's pretty well-known in Finland.

Liisa got this card mailed from Åland, yay! I love seeing stamps from there as so many of them are so pretty. This one is extra special - it's from the Europa series from last year. I've been wanting this stamp ever since I saw it, I'm sooo excited to finally have it! Thank you, Liisa!

Stockholm, Sweden

I've lived most of my life next to Sweden but only ever visited the country once (?), very briefly. I'm a little jealous of my family who went there twice this June, first for a day when dad ran a marathon there, and then for a few days a couple of weeks later. I want to go, too! Well, at least they sent me a postcard. ;)

Here's a slightly different view of Gamla Stan (the old town)... Gamla stan consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen. The surrounding islets Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg are officially part of, but not colloquially included in, Gamla stan. The word "stan" is simply a contraction of the word "staden" ("sta'n"), meaning "the town."

The town dates back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. North German architecture has had a strong influence in the Old Town's construction.

Such cool stamps! And so old, too, I'm surprised they still sell stamps this old. My absolute favourite here is the squirrel stamp in the middle. Squirrels are some of my favourite animals and I have quite a collection of squirrel postcards, but it's also nice to see these cute little animals on stamps. The one here is from a set of 5 animal stamps issued in 1992. The stamp on the left is from a set of 3 definitives issued in 1989 with the theme Royalty, the one here showing Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden. The boat stamp I'm not sure of as I couldn't find any info on it. Swedish stamps really confuse me, too, because even if they look old they might still be brand new!