Monday, October 20, 2014

Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye, Russia

The Church of the Ascension dominates the surrounding architectural and natural structures and unites all the elements of the estate. It is also a unique architectural and artistic monument as one of the earliest tent-roofed churches in Russia and as such the progenitor of subsequent architecture. The church was built in 1532 by Prince Vasili III to commemorate the birth of the prince who was to become Tsar Ivan IV 'the Terrible'. 

It was consecrated with great pomp on 3 September 1532 by the Metropolitan Dionissi, the Bishops of Kolomenskoye and Zaraisk, and the whole of the synod in the presence of Grand Prince Vasili, Grand Princess Yelena, Tsarevich Ioann and the brothers of the tsar. The church is situated in the Kolomenskoye estate, first recorded in 1339, when it belonged to Ivan KaIita, Grand Prince of Moscow. By the 16th century it had become a fortified stronghold. The palace complex was added later, in the 17th century, and it continued in use as an imperial residence and estate until the 1917 Revolution.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Archeological City of Troy

The archaeological site of Troy is of immense significance in the understanding of the development of European civilization at a critical stage in its early development. It is of exceptional cultural importance because of the profound influence of Homer's Iliad on the creative arts over more than two millennia. Troy is a unique example in an Aegean context of the oriental city at the junction between Anatolia, the Aegean and the Balkans. It is also probably the most famous archaeological site in the world. It may be considered to represent the starting point for modern archaeology and its public recognition. The Greek and Roman cities at Troy are represented above all by the sanctuary complex. 

Roman urban organization is reflected by two major public buildings on the edge of the agora. The odeion (concert hall) has the traditional horseshoe-shaped plan and tiers of seats made from limestone blocks. The nearby bouleuterion (council house) is smaller but similar in plan. The surrounding landscape contains many important prehistoric and historical sites: cemeteries, Hellenistic burial mounds, Greek and Roman settlements, Roman and Ottoman bridges, etc.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Many early historians were influenced by supernatural folktales in their explanations. Some legends held that Merlin had a giant build the structure for him or that he had magically transported it from Mount Killaraus in Ireland, while others held the Devil responsible. Henry of Huntingdon was the first to write of the monument around 1130 soon followed by Geoffrey of Monmouth who was the first to record fanciful associations with Merlin which led the monument to be incorporated into the wider cycle of European medieval romance. According to Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae, using his magic Merlin took the circle from its original place in Ireland at the behest of Aurelius Ambrosius to serve as an appropriate burial place for Britain's dead princes. In 1655, the architect John Webb, writing in the name of his former superior Inigo Jones, argued that Stonehenge was a Roman temple, dedicated to Caelus, (a Latin name for the Greek sky-god Uranus), and built following the Tuscan order. Later commentators maintained that the Danes erected it. Indeed, up until the late nineteenth century, the site was commonly attributed to the Saxons or other relatively recent societies. Druids and scientific evidence

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beautiful Sharjah

I first read/heard of Sharjah in my early stamp collecting days when it featured the hard-to-obtain  Beethoven stamp which I collect until this day (There are more than 200 stamps of Beethoven and I have at least 150 of them). In the 70's when the UAE was not yet rich as it is today, novelty stamps would be featured by that country to raise some extra revenues.  I got their novelty Beethoven stamp on gold and silver foil which was issued in 1970. This stamp cost around P500 today.  During those days, I memorized all the 7 emirates by heart never had I imagined that I would be visiting 4 of them someday.  

Sharjah is a beautiful city less than an hours drive from Dubai.  I stayed at Hilton hotel at very cheap rates at which I booked a month in advance. I have booked through this site in my previous travels to Paris, Yogyakarta and Siem Reap and they give "secret deals" to frequent "bookers".  I was lucky to have gotten this deal.  The nice thing with is that you can cancel any reservation at least a day prior and they don't charge you a cent. At the Hilton, the mostly Filipino staff  were very friendly and helpful and made me feel at home. The Hilton view was magnificent overlooking a lake and the wonderful city skyline.  The city center is just a few meters away and bustles with more activity at night.  I had a blast taking pictures and the scenery really brings night photography to a whole new level.  I was glad I brought my reliable and super-lightweight Sirui tripod. I took several pictures of the mosque, cityscape and lake-views and enjoyed every minute of it!  I didn't realize it was almost midnight (4am RP time) and after a few minutes walk, I was back in my cozy hotel.  The next day I ventured to Al Ain, an ancient city of Abu Dhabi emirate.

I had a memorable time in Sharjah, far away lands on my stamps, now I am treading on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Cultural Sites of Al Ain

After an hour and a half drive from Dubai, one arrives in Al Ain, a small but vibrant city which is a part of Abu Dhabi, one of the the seven emirates. It borders Oman so a few more steps and you are in another country.  Tourist beware though of taking pictures near the border because the Omanis are strict and you can be reprimanded.  Always bring your passport wherever you go around UAE because you might be crossing borders without being aware of it.  The serial property of The Cultural Sites of Al Ain, with its various component parts and the regional context in which it is situated, provides testimony to ancient sedentary human occupation in a desert region. Occupied continuously since the Neolithic, the region presents vestiges of numerous prehistoric cultures, notably from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Al Ain is situated at the crossroads of the ancient land routes between Oman, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia. Very diverse in nature, the tangible elements of the property include remains of circular stone tombs and settlements from the Hafit and Hili periods, wells and partially underground aflaj irrigation systems, oases and mud brick constructions assigned to a wide range of defensive, domestic and economic purposes. This expertise in construction and water management enabled the early development of agriculture for five millennia, up until the present day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Anthem Postmark from Ettelbruck

Ettelbruck  is a commune with city status in central Luxembourg, with a population of approximately 7,500. As of 2005, the town of Ettelbruck itself, which lies in the east of the commune, has a population of 6,191. The town of Warken and Grentzingen are also within the commune. Until 1850, both Erpeldange Schieren were part of the Ettelbruck commune as well, but both towns were detached from Ettelbruck by law on 1 July 1850.

This first day cover was issued on June 13, 1989 with special FDC postmark to commemmorate the 12th Anniversary of the Premiere Execution d Hymne National.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stamps from Suzhou

I got hold of this wonderful tri-fold stamp set from Suzhou post inside the Humble Administrator's Garden  for 75 Yuan.  The first set of four stamps features the land and waters-capes of the garden, the middle set portrays the art of Suzhou and the miniature set shows an example of the flora of the garden.  The garden had a long history of destruction and modification, changing under several owners  (at least 7 times) along the way until inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.

On the Zhuozhengyuan's site was first built a garden during the Shaoxing period (1131-1162) of the Southern Song Dynasty. Afterwards it changed ownership, and was destroyed or modified continually.  It was the residence and garden of Lu Guimeng, a Tang Dynasty scholar. Later in the Yuan Dynasty it became the Dahong Temple's garden. In 1513 CE, Wang Xiancheng, an Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty created a garden on the site of the dilapidated Dahong Temple which had been burnt during the Ming conquest. In 1510, he retired to his native home of Suzhou under the occasion of his father's death. He had experienced a tumultuous official life punctuated by various demotions and promotions, and gave up his last official post as magistrate of Yongjia county in Zhejiang province, and began to work on the garden. This garden, meant to express his fine taste, received close attention from the renowned artist, Suzhou native, and friend, Wen Zhengming. The garden was named after a verse by the famous scholar official of the Jin Dynasty, Pan Yue, it his prose, An Idle Life, "I enjoy a carefree life by planting trees and building my own house...I irrigate my garden and grow vegetables for me to eat...such a life suits a retired official like me well."

Wang's son lost the garden to pay gambling debts, and it has changed hands many times since. In 1631 CE The eastern garden was divided from the rest and purchased by , Vice Minister of the Justice Board. He added many modifications over the next four years, finishing work in 1635 CE. After completion it was renamed Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside. The central garden was purchased by Jiang Qi, Governor of Jiangsu in 1738 CE. After extensive renovations he renamed it Garden Rebuilt. In 1860, it became the residence of a Taiping prince, Li Xiucheng , and it was remodelled, and the current aspect of the garden is said to be inherited from this period. Also in 1738 CE the Western Garden was purchased by Ye Shikuan Chief Histographer, and renamed The Garden of Books. The Garden of Books was purchased by a Suzhou merchant, Zhang Lüqian, in 1877 CE and renamed The Subsidiary Garden. In 1949 all three parts of the garden were rejoined by the Chinese government and subsequently opened to the public, then restored in 1952. In 1997 the garden was given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Humble Administrator's Garden- A Unesco Classical Garden of Suzhou

After a quick 30 minute bullet train ride from Shanghai train station distancing 100 kilometers, one arrives at Suzhou, a beautiful ancient city which was originally built in the fourth year of the Zhengde period of the Ming dynasty.  The Humble Administrator's Garden, covering 5.2 hectares is one of the four most famous gardens in China.  It is divided into the eastern, middle and western parts.  Centering around the broad expanse of a lake, the poetic and picturesque garden landscapes and waters-capes with exquisite buildings and luxuriant vegetation, seems to be changing at every step and awakening reminisces of the Venetian scenes in the area south of the lower Yangtze.  These scenes are rustic,archaic, extensive and naturalistic.  As a whole, it has kept the style of the Ming dynasty and was inscribed on the UNESCO World heritage list in 2007.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Yogyakarta's Borobudur

Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa. Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple's design in Gupta architecture reflects India's influence on the region. It also depicts the gupta style from India and shows influence of Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). 

The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Evidence suggest Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage

Friday, August 30, 2013

Candi Prambanan Temple

Candi Prambanan or Candi Rara Jonggrang is a 9th-century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple compound is located approximately 18 kilometres (11 mi) east of the city of Yogyakarta on the boundary between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces. The temple compound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture, and by the towering 47-metre-high (154 ft) central building inside a large complex of individual temples.Prambanan attracts many visitors from across the world.