Sunday, July 24, 2016

Cambodia

The joys of the chilly weather were unfortunately very short-lasting and here we are, back to the terrible summer heat - more unbearable here in the concrete-jungle of the city... I have had my days of such high-temperatures while being by the lake or the sea, and everything just feels so different...but except for a lousy river, not much else can save us here....

So let's see what have we got for today...

First we go to Cambodia....I know it is one of those really rare countries, but I have received quite a few from there...but I don't know why I haven't posted any since 2010...I really make some poor choices sometimes (and regarding postcards, another one will follow somewhere below...)




This super-super cool card arrived from my amiga Zarah showing a Khmer family of 5, riding a moto through the jungle...
Ok, this doesn't really look like a jungle to me, but then on the other hand, I've never been to one, so who am I to be playing an expert here :)

The moto is the most common mode of transport in Cambodia, and if 5 people seems like over the limit, Zarah says she has seen 8....I am trying to imagine how they have been all positioned...but I can't :)



the stamp is from a set of 5 issued in 2009, commemorating the 1st Anniversary of the Establishment of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the UNESCO World Heritage.

Hmm, ok, something to put on my to-visit list when one day I visit Cambodia :D

btw, note the cool 12.12.12 cancellation ;-)

muchas gracias amiga!! I know you've been busy, but hope you are doing fine! :)


Greece

So, some of you know that recently I went to Greece....and that it was quite adventurous :)

So what follows is a longish post about my trip there with postcards, pictures and all :)


How come I ended up in Greece in the first place? Well, blame it on Sigur Rós....see, my initial plan was to go to the InMusic Festival like last year, esp. since I was kinda sure that Sigur Rós would also be part of it, since they were/are on tour, they are doing festivals only, and the dates really kinda fit...but as time went by I was becoming aware that there will be no sign pf Sigur Rós, ...there were some other good performers announced but not such favourites that would make a whole such trip worth while. So had to start thinking of plan B cos I was really determined that I just HAVE to go and see them live, not knowing ifI will have another chance in the future, and while looking at the tour dates, Athens seemed as the most feasible...so Athens it was. A friend of mine also decided to come, though frankly I was ready to go alone if necessary, I just wasn't willing to miss such an opportunity (and probably I should have gone alone, but oh well, one learns things from his own mistakes...but I won't get down to that since the other side has no chance of defending himself here :D)

And after everything (or at least we thought) was set, we started our journey with Thessaloniki being our first stop (there are no direct connections between Skopje and Athens) where we had to kill literally all day - we arrived there early in the morning and had a train to catch at 11pm (but that was the cheapest option since the other train rides cost like twice more....and we were of course on a budget).


Killing that time in Thessaloniki turned out to be pretty easy, since Dimitris was very kind and offered to come and meet all the way from Komotini (which is like 250 km away, just FYI).

It was great to meet him (you may know that in general I haven't always had the luck of meeting a postcrosser when travelling somewhere, so each time I can it is like pure joy :))

We spent the day chilling out at the sea with some coffee (well, the Greek frappe), strolling around, plus he helped me find the Post Office so that I could mail the cards we wrote (Greece is one of those countries like Macedonia with no functional mailboxes around the city, but you have to find a Post Office and mail them either from the counter or drop them in the mailbox in front of the PO).
Well, not many of you will get a card from Thessaloniki, sorry for that, but due to the time constraints I only chose a few people whom I realized were our common friends (thank you Facebook). But most of you who have received a card can thank Dimitris for the lovely stamps (eventually I had to stock up again in Athens :P)




This is the one I sent to myself, showing a night view of St. Demetrus church (which right now I cannot recall if we saw it or not). After Dimitris left, my friend and I took one of those Free Walking Tours, but I was kinda tired and with my heavy backpack on my bag and with the heat, I honestly didn't pay much attention to what the girl was saying. However, I always recommend a Free Walking Tour if you are going somewhere...well they are not really free, but these people work for tips, so it is in their favour to actually make the tour fun and interesting, so in general they try harder :)


Dimitris and I in Thessaloniki, by the sea :)


me just chilling out by the Aegan Sea (ok, just posing for the picture, but it was good to have the back-pack off my back for a while :))



me feeding some pigeons in the centre of Thessaloniki


something that was supposed to be coffee, but turned out much better (has ice-cream inside). I regret I didn't remember the name of the cafe, cos it was a really nice one, plus the waitress was really kind.

and now a few pictures from the trains and the train station :D





and all would have been well if our wagon wasn't doomed for this: 


a bunch of children climbing over seats, tables, crawling on the floor, under the seats...and a bunch of noisy grown ups - I don't know if they were refugees or something (they had like hundreds of bags with them) and I really feel with them, but when you lack the basic code of ethics it gets really annoying...in the end we really had to change the wagon cos the noise was getting unbearable and I really needed to get some sleep after being awake from like 5 am in the morning...and we weren't the only ones who in the end looked for a wagon that was calmer...everyone who was not part of this gang had left...and I just couldn't believe it that out of 8 wagons, I had to pick THIS one :)



yeah, we were talking about a card here as well, and here come the stamps...3 fantastic ones!  The first and the third one are Diving stamps from a set of 6 issued in 2015, while the middle one is from a set of 12 issued in 2014 under the name "Month of Folk Art"
Now you know that eternal nonsense between Macedonia and Greece, and I was wondering if my cards to Macedonia would suffer some damage when the postal clerk see the name Macedonia written on them (there is no such force which would make me to use FYROM) and funny enough, this card from Thessaloniki had the name of Macedonia crossed out, so that below it they would write Macedoine! I mean, is this a joke, or what??! :D What's the point here?!! I was expecting "Recognized by Greece as FYROM" or so, but why on Earth would someone just replace it with "Macedoine"?? That is like in French or?? Well I really had a good laugh over this one I must say :))))


Ok...so a few words now about our days in Athens, since that was our main destination (I didn't however sent myself a card showing Athens, but chose this Greetings from... one. Dimitris brought me a number of these so I thought it was cool to use it (those of you who had received a GF card, blame it on Dimitris :)) There were some nice cheap postcards on offer btw on the way to the Acropolis..







I've been to Athens before, though as with Thessaloniki, I couldn't remember a thing :)
If one thing can be said for sure about our few days there is that we got lost more than once, which personally didn't bother me, I mean what can I do...but my friend turned out pretty grumpy about it in the end (and just about everything in general, but oh well...lesson learned).

I'll start with the hostel - we stayed at the Zorbas Hostel and I would really recommend it to anyone staying in Athens, esp. if you are on a budget. It is nothing fancy, not much of a socializing atmosphere, but was perfect for what I needed and the stuff are super kind and friendly. We were in the 8-bed dorm and it was clean, spacious, with its own nice bathroom. And I was amazed at how considerate everyone else was in the room, when they arrived late at night or had to take off early in the morning.
We arrived like at 6 in the morning and even though we couldn't check-in, they let us have a shower - I felt reborn after it.
The hostel is like 2 minutes walk from the metro station from where you can get just anywhere in Athens, it is 15 minutes walk from the train station (which is perfect for when you arrive early in the morning, esp. if you don't know your way around Athens - this one is super easy to find).
And in the nearest vicinity there was one of the chain fast-food Restaurants called Everest, which was open 24/7 - really good coffee, tasty pies, and very reasonable prices.
When it comes to food in Athens, I would recommend:

- Koulouri - something like bagels - I tried them at this bakery called Το Κουλούρι του Ψυρρή - crunchy, tasty and ridiculously cheap (they also sold doughnuts). Again very simple ones, but tasty.
Located at Karaiskaki 23.

- Greek pies - at the Ariston Bakery - probably the best best best pies I have ever tried! Two euros a piece, but I cannot even describe how tasty they were - and so many different fillings to choose from! I had one with leek-feta cheese and one with red peppers...heavenly taste, heavenly!!
Located at oulis 10

- Falafel - again, probably the best falafel I have tried, though unlike with the pies, I haven't really tried falafel at many different places. This place was simply called Falafellas and besides the falafel they sell other things too, which I assume are as delicious as this one. What got my attention is that there was constantly a line of people waiting in front of it. There are no chairs or tables, but if you are lucky, you will find a spot on one of the nearby benches.
It is a pity I didn't think of taking pictures of the above mentioned food - here is one of the falafel (the big version) - not a decent picture, but just to give you an idea



you can find it at Aiolou 51.

And after so many salty things, time for something sweet...and I think it couldn't get sweeter than this. A place called Serbetospito - one thing's for sure, it's gonna drive you crazy coz you won't know what to choose...everything is so delightful..and in such huge portions - no diets will work here.
Here, you be the judge



you can find it at Pl. Iroon 1

In Athens I was delighted to have had the chance to meet with Despina and spend a cool evening with her under the Acropolis....drinking tsipouro :)



I like trying out new foods and drinks....and I have already tried things like Ouzo or Metaxa so I decided to choose the tsipouro from the menu (they had some Greek beers, but you know I am a party-breaker when it comes to beer).
Well, my relationship with the tsipouro won't be long-lasting..it is good, but just way too strong for my taste. I did finish the glass though but I did feel rather tipsy afterwards :)

And now the main reason I went there were Sigur Rós, whose performance was part of the Athens Release Festival. Prior to my trip to Athens, I have never heard any of the other bands performing, so of course, I gave them a try to see if I was gonna be bored or not...and to my utmost surprise, I loved them all! So I knew it was gonna be a great day/night...and it was...one of the best times of my life.

We arrived at the venue quite early...we actually wanted to visit the Pireaus before the event since it was one metro station away, but with our luck, on that day the metro didn't go all the way to Pireaus, but ended its journey at Faliro. So we ended up waiting there for a few hours but luckily that day it was cloudy and even windy, so we didn't boil under the sun. And of course I ended up in the first row! I didn't even have to fight for it :D

The festival opened with a band called Afformance - a fantastic Greek band! But they had the bad luck of playing first when there were still barely any people there. But they didnt show any disappointment or so - they were just happy to play...and I really hope that after the festival they have acquired more supporters - they really deserve it (I won't get into posting songs from each of the performers since I know this post has gotten way too long...but I do recommend you give them all a try on YouTube and maybe you will like something)

Next were Theodore and his band- if you want an emotional performance that will give you the goosebumps then you will like this. All his songs are kinda sad but not depressing. There was also a girl performing within the band and she was like a really nice touch to the overall performance.

Third on stage were DIIV - a very very cool US band, with amazing positivity on stage, esp by Andrew Bailey, the guitar player - he just wouldn't stop jumping and smiling!
At the end of the show, I took a picture, without being aware of the actual moment that a picture was being taken from the opposite side as well...btw, the guy in the blue t-shirt is the Andrew - see, still all smiling :)



...which ended up like this :D Yeah, that's me in the middle taking a picture with my phone :D The guy behind me is my friend, while the girl with the black glasses on my left is a very cool Slovenian girl I met at the festival! (who has seen Sigur Rós 8 times so far...I told her I hated her...not very polite, but just came out of me :)))



The 4th on stage were the Black Angels - another superb psychedelic rock band from the US. Their music is really powerful, their performance on stage as well, esp with all the visual effects accompanying the show. They were like the perfect intro for what was about to follow....

And finally,  there were Sigur Rós...no pictures, no words could describe their performance. Sigur Rós are simply out of this world and so unique and incomparable to anything else. I know their music is specific and not for everyone's ears but really people, what you will experience at a Sigur Rós performance, you will not experience it anywhere else. To make things even more perfect, it started raining - rain at concerts is usually not welcomed, but here, the rain was a perfect addition to the overall emotional overwhelming feeling. I was shocked, I was speechless, I was crying - I really wasn't prepared for what I had experienced - and this made the whole trip more than worthwhile and one of the best decisions in my life.

I don't have much experience in uploading my own videos here, so hopefully this will work...Sigur Rós performing Sæglópur live in the rain - that person shouting her lungs out is me (well, I am the one recording this so I am shouting into my own phone, what can I do :))
Before the festival I loved Sigur Rós - after it, I also fell in love with them.

video


(if the video doesn't work, I will eventually upload it to YouTube and take it from there).

Ok, so that was like the day before the last...and in the morning there was some strike on the subway until like 10 am...so the next day I jokingly asked the receptionist if there was some strike again...he checked things online and said like, subway is working, buses are working..so it is all fine - well the railway is not working but you don't need that anyway.....wait wait wait!!! WHAT????!!!!!  What do you mean I don't need that anyway??That's the thing we need the most cos we are leaving tonight!!!!! Ermm...he got confused and said that they were on strike until late in the evening so we should go and check directly...oh boy, doesn't sound good.
So we go to the railway station (thank God it is nearby the hostel) there are some notifications, all in Greek, but there are some kind people around to explain things....and things are as follows - there is a strike like every three hours...so for three hours there are trains running, then in the next three hours everything is on stand by...BUT the rule doesn't apply to ALL the trains from Athens to Thessaloniki - there will be NONE in the next three days! Perfect, just perfect! :D I just couldn't believe it honestly, despite the fact that I often hear that somebody in the Greek transport is on strike :)
So, what to do...well first, finish writing the postcards of course, hell with the strike and all :)
Then we had to decide if we were gonna stay for 3 more days or find a bus back to Thessaloniki. Personally I didn't feel like staying for 3 more days cos that would have turned out more expensive on the overall (the train company said we would have our money reimbursed, and we really did after a few days), so in the end, the 43 euros bus ticket to Thessaloniki was the cheaper option than staying for three more days (for comparison, the return train ticket was 30 euros...)

Again, all is well that ends well...we got back home safe and sound....and even though a number of things didn't go as planned, I had a fantastic time! Fantastic!

Here are two more pictures for the end of this post, with some cool street-art from Athens:





and of course, the stamp (if you have survived up to here :))





one more from the Diving series - and as you can see, no issues with Macedonia on this one...go figure :)

Again, I would like to wholeheartedly thank Dimitris and Despina for taking their time to spend time with me - I really really appreciate it, esp. since I always love to hang out with the locals. I hope to see you again in the future! :)


Alphonse Mucha

Well many of you know that Mucha is one of my all-time favourite artists, and that postcards related to his works have been one of my favourite themes and that I have acquired quite a number over the years...and here comes another episode of my poor choices as I mentioned above since with this post I realized that after all these years, I have actually never EVER posted any cards by Mucha here...like EVER! (you can see some Mucha stamps, but that's NOT it...)

If it wasn't for Mucha's birthday today, probably it would have taken I don't know how long before I actually realized I have totally neglected the subtle beauty of Mucha's works here....so yeah, better late than never they say, but sometimes I really wish I wasn't so lost and absent-minded...



CZ - 830124

So who was Alphonse Mucha (or Alfons Maria Mucha)?
He was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, most well known for his distinct style and the images of women. He produced many paintings, posters, illustrations, advertisements and designs.
Born on 24 July 1860 and died on 14 July 1939 at the age of 79... he didn't manage to get to celebrate his 80th birthday by 10 days only...

The name of his work featured on this first card is "Flower" and dates back from 1897.



a very cool Postcrossing stamp issued in 2015! :)

Thanks a lot to Helena for choosing this one as an official car to send it to me!




This card shows the poster Mucha did for the 10th Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Czechoslovakia (1918 - 1928).

This card arrived from Martin as part of our swap in 2014.



a number of stamps here...first comes a definitive issued in 1997. Next is a flower stamp from a set of two issued in 2003. At the top right corner is a greeting stamp from a set of two, also issued in 2003, while the last stamp was issued in 2002 and shows the Tradition of Czech Stamp Printing.




BE-226954

Another cool card that arrived as an official from Monique and it shows a version of Mucha's poster for 'Moët & Chandon: Champagne White Star'.
Mucha worked with Moët Chandon (a French fine winery and one of the world's largest expansive champagne producers and a prominent champagne house) on a number of posters, catalogues, postcards and other promotional material. Mucha chose a sensual blond girl in a pink dress to illustrate Moët's lighter White Star champagne. She has bare shoulders and holds a bowl of grapes in her left arm.


First comes a semi-postal stamp issued in a set of 6 in 1962, for the struggle against Tuberculosis (it has a 40c value, + 10c for donation).  The other one is a self-adhesive butterfly stamp from a set of two issued in 2012.



Ok, one more card for this first and hopefully not last Mucha edition on the blog.


CZ-831143

A beautiful poster from 1897 with the title "Fruit".
Did you know that one of the largest collections of Mucha's works is in the possession of the former world no. 1 professional tennis player Ivan Lendl, who started collecting his works upon meeting Jiří Mucha in 1982. And I was so so sooo lucky to have had the chance to see it, since his collection was exhibited publicly for the first time in 2013 in Prague! For me it was such a perfect combination, Mucha + tennis! And I have to say that Lendl has like the most beautiful Mucha posters!
I also had the chance to visit Mucha's museum, but what is exhibited there, doesn't come close to what Lendl has :)




a lovely stamp showing the T3 tram from a set of two stamps issued in 2015 showing historical vehicles.
Thanks a lot to Kristyna for such a great addition to my Mucha collection!

Naarden, The Netherlands

It was thanks to Postcrossing that I learned the term 'star fort' cities, and here comes an example of one, Naarden in the Netherlands.




A star fort is a fortification in a style that evolved during the age of gunpowder when the cannon came to dominate the battlefield. It was first seen in the mid-15th century in Italy.

Seems that there are quite a few all over the world and the real impression you can get only from a bird's point of view.

Naarden is a small town, with around 17000 inhabitants and one of the things that caught my eye regarding it is that it is well known as the city where Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius) was buried; visitors can see his grave in the mausoleum devoted to him.
It probably is no big deal to many, but the name of Komensky has been kinda present most of my life cos of a primary school named after him nearby where I live...and I always found the name kinda cool :)



two stamps on the card - the first one shows Queen Beatrix and it is from a set of two stamps issued in 2013, marking the Succession to the Throne by King Willem-Alexander (he can be seen on the other stamp in the set).
The second stamp here is also from 2013 and is from a set of 12 Dutch Windmills' stamps.

Thanks a lot to Alvin for this magnificent card!

Go Green, USA

This last card for today is something I should have actually planted but never really had the heart to ruin it along with the stamps, so it has remained as a nice souvenir :)


This card is part of the Go Green campaign by the USPS, and it says: Small steps can make a big difference for our environment. Be a part of the change. Go green.

Don't throw this note away. Plant and watch it grow! (well I never had the intention of throwing it away, but as you can see, I didn't listen to that other part of the advice either).

 Step 1: Prepare a pot of soil or small patch of garden.
 Step 2: Place card on top and cover with a 1/4" fine layer of soil.
 Step 3: Water daily and allow sunlight.



The card came with three of the Go Green stamps (there were totally 16 in the set), where each one gives you some recommendation of how to Go Green.
Do you practice any Go Green  activities in your every day life? I hope so! :)

I hope Bryon will forgive me I never planted nor smoked this one :D

Hope summer is treating you well guys! Until next time...