Thursday, March 23, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 291






 Golden-cattle-out of water, Hangzhou, China, 2005

When I found this card sent to Bob’s son by a friend in 2005 from Hangzhou, China it reminded me of another card I had shared not too long ago that had a picture of a white Merlion on the bay in Singapore.   This golden water buffalo is partially submerged and I cannot tell if it is a full sculpture or if the part above the water is the complete piece. 

The sculpture is found in West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in eastern China.  There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens and artificial islands in this lake that is divided in 5 sections with three causeways.  The natural beauty and historic relics have been the inspiration for Chinese poets and painters though the ages.  This area has also inspired Chinese garden design.  In 2011 UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site for its influence on gardens in Japan and Korea as well as China. 

The lake has had several different names and was first recorded as Wu Forest River; however, only two names have been widely accepted Qiantang Lake, Hangzhou was anciently called Qiantang; and West Lake since it is located west of the city of Hangzhou.   More than 2,000 years ago the lake was part of the Qiantang River but over time soil sedimentation from the surrounding mountains gradually built up and formed shoal heads that later grew and merged into a bank, formed a lagoon and eventually resulted in the lake.  The Big Stone Buddhist Temple located at the north end of West Lake can still be seen. 

Around 610 AD the final canal connecting the five major rivers, Hai, Yellow, Huai, Yangtze, and Qiantang, was constructed to facilitate transportation to and from Hangzhou thus boosting regional economy and inviting tourism.  Floods occurred during heavy rains and the lake would dry up during long dry spells.  Dikes and dams were constructed to help control the flow of water and prevent serious problems and also to help local farmers who needed water for irrigation.  Hangzhou has a rich heritage and has been a center of politics, economy and culture.  There are several parks in the West Lake area with abundant natural and cultural attractions. 

Buffalo, oxen, cattle and cows are motifs found in Chinese mythology.  Some of the myths relate to plowing and agriculture or ox-powered carriages or carts.

This postcard also had some very pretty stamps.  The first one seen below is of Formosan Blue Magpies, one stamp out of a set of nine different bird stamps issued in 2002 and used until 2006.  




The second stamp, with a botanical theme, was printed on the postcard.




The following links have information about both the area, the stamps and the oxen myths:

http://www.chinasage.info/symbols/animals.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangzhou
http://indophilabirdwatch.blogspot.com/search/label/China
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postage_stamps_and_postal_history_of_China
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ox_in_Chinese_mythology
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Lake

Thursday, March 16, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 290





Taormina, Italy

The Ediz. Cartoleria NIGRT CARMEN postcard above has an aerial photo view of Taormina, Italy.  The card is unused and one that I must have picked up at an Antique Mart or small shop.  There are modern looking road systems and buildings in the picture so it must date to the mid to late 20th century.  Taormina is what we would probably describe today as a suburb of Messina on the island of Sicily, Italy.  The beaches, some seen as lagoons on the card, are famous and became accessible by an aerial tramway built in 1992.  Taormina has been a popular tourist destination since the 1800s.

This location was inhabited even before the Greeks arrived in 734 BC and founded a town called Naxos.  People from Naxos then settled in what became known as Tauromenium under the Romans and today is called Taormina.   The city or town is perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian sea.  From Cicero’s writings we learn that Tauromenium was one of three allied cities in Sicily that enjoyed special privileges and had some independence.  During the Servile War in Sicily (134-132 BC), the city fell into the hands of insurgent salves who were able to hold out against Publius Rupilius until they were reduced to famine and the citadel was betrayed into the hands of Sarapion who put all the survivors to the sword.  Because Tauromenium was a strong fortress it was used during the wars of Sextus Pompeius in Sicily against Octavian.  It also featured in a sea-fight that almost resulted in total destruction.  Local inhabitants were expelled when Augustus imported colonists to form a new Roman colony there. 

By the middle ages Taormina continued to be one of the more important towns in Sicily under the Byzantine emperors but was captured by the Fatmids after a 30-week siege in 962 AD.  The town was renamed “Al-Mu’izziyya” and came under Muslim rule until 1078 when Roger I of Sicily, a Norman count, captured it.  The language of the town at that time was predominately Greek.  In the centuries that followed the city suffered several other sieges and changes in rulership.

Trivia:  Taormina has the second oldest railroad station in the region.  The spectacular views and beaches made it a tourist destination in the 19th century with famous people such as Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia, Goethe, Nietzsche and Richard Wagner among those who visited.  It has been of favorite place for artists, photographers, writers, and intellectuals and there was an expatriate colony.  It was also known as a gentlemen’s destination in part due to Wilhelm von Gloeden’s photographs of male nudes.  During the 20th century D.H. Lawrence, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais visited.  It is about 45 minutes away from Mount Etna, a live volcano, by car. 

Main attractions include a Saracen castle on a very steep rock, portions of ancient walls around the summit of the hill, fragments of buildings from earlier centuries, a Greek theater that is used for theatrical performances and musical concerts today.   There is also a fountain dating from 1635, the Palazzo Corvaja from the 10th century, plus several other old churches and gardens. 

For additional information, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taormina

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Grandma on downhill skis . . .







Stevens Pass middle lodge

As some of you know 3 plus years ago I took cross-country skiing lessons from the Mountaineers.  The first year the snow was not so good, the second year there was no snow for cross-country routes, last year was pretty good, and this winter has been excellent.  Bob has been skiing both alpine/downhill and cross-country for many years and this year he wanted me to take alpine lessons too so we could do both together.  In January he signed me up for a “learn in 3” ski package at Stevens Pass.  The package included all the rental gear, lift tickets, ski checking, equipment for practice days and a guarantee that I would be easy intermediate level by the end of the 3 lessons or they would give me more lessons at no extra charge until I was at that level.  A great deal.

We chose the 10 am lesson time even though it meant leaving the house a little before 7 am to get there, get checked in, pick up the rental gear and be ready by 10 am.  I was plenty nervous about the whole thing but feeling a lot more confident on skis in general since we have going out each week this year doing cross-country.

What are the differences?  Cross-country bindings leave the heel of the foot free so one can kick and glide or skate along.  The skis are narrower, longer and have fish scales on the bottoms so it is easier to walk up small hills, even fairly steep ones, by stomping down on the ski.  The scales sort of grab the hillside and do not slip back.  Cross-country skiing is basically a stride step or a skate.  The trails are groomed for striding with grooves for the skis and the center is open for the skating step.



Being fitted for downhill ski boots . . .

Downhill boots come up higher on the leg, are rigid and both toe and heel are firmly attached to the ski.  The tension on the binding can be adjusted for age, ability, and weight, so if one falls and twists the ski comes off.  Little levers pop down and act as brakes if the ski comes off to prevent it from scooting down the mountainside.  Downhill skis do not have fish scales, look like they are covered with Teflon, and are designed to be slippery on the snow.  If there is a small hill to climb it has to be done by a herringbone step or side stepping up, both a lot of work.  For the lesson and beginner area it is possible to ride on a magic carpet or go up even higher by using the chair lift.  



Magic carpets

 
Waiting in line to get on the carpet with plenty of small people.  Little kids are pretty random and unpredictable in what they do and when they do it.  My constant worry is running one of these tiny toads down.  I'd rather fall myself than hurt someone's grandchild.


 The skis get positioned at the foot of the carpet, it grabs the skis and way it goes sometimes stopping but starting up again . . .


Once off the carpet it is time to ski down . . .

Beginners start by using the magic carpet, a conveyor belt, which goes a short distance up and has a nice gentle slope down.  There is a second longer carpet that goes up higher with a longer route down but also a gentle slope.  After I had been on the carpet several times Bob took me up the beginner chair lift, called Daisy at Stevens Pass, and guided me down.  Yes, I am falling now and then.  Falling is to be expected and it is nice that there is plenty of snow this year to cushion the falls.  Despite detailed instructions from the lift operator, the first trip down from the top of the Daisy chair lift included a fall getting off the lift, apparently fairly common for beginners, and two other falls on the way down.  It seemed terrifyingly high on the mountainside and a long way down but it really isn’t that far down and I am hoping after several more runs I will get the balance, control and confidence necessary to feel safe, reduce the number of falls, and begin to relax and enjoy it.  The intermediate chair is about twice as high up.  Obviously not ready for that yet.



Three of us in the class this lesson and lots of deep, fluffy new powder snow!

For the third lesson I was the only ski student, the rest were snowboarders, so my lesson was a one on one--terrific for me.  My instructor was a young woman about 20 years old who worked with me to get the turns and stops under control.  I was much more relaxed with her than with some of the other instructors and it definitely helped that it was a one on one.  She let me take the skis off to get up after a fall.  Wonderful, so much easier for me than having someone try to pull me up by the arm or lift me up from behind!  My only fall that day was when I started sliding backward after stopping on the upside of the hill.  If I had just let the slide continue it would have stopped by itself but I panicked and leaned too far and did a face plant in the snow.  


Note:  did not graduate in three lessons.  The fourth lesson came and went a week later.  That week we had 6 inches of new powder snow and the class made first tracks.   I fell 5 or 6 times during the fourth lesson.  Not a good day.  Falling is tiring as well as frustrating.  That class had six students including two 13 year-old boys who were ready to pass and move up.  The other students were 20-somethings, could be grandchildren for me, who looked ready to graduate also.  The next two weeks I did not take lessons just practiced using the top magic carpet and the Daisy Chair.  Last week I was able to take the chair up three times and only fell once, that included safely disembarking the chair which for some reason is hard for me to do without falling.  Bob helped by holding my poles and telling me when to stand up.  I was not nervous with him to guide me down and hence did better than in the class.  There was lots of new snow and it was snowing with more accumulating all day long.  The fall was the result of heading into deep soft snow and getting stuck.  There were snow snakes (clumps of snow) on the bottom of my skis and we had to wax the skis.  I think I need at least one more practice before taking another lesson but it has been raining this week so we have postponed a ski day in hopes of better weather by the end of the week.  


 The small building is the disembark place for the Daisy chair lift


 Part way down Daisy


 Grandma on skis coming down from Daisy


Finally down far enough to see the lodge at the bottom

Big deals for me—I am no longer afraid of the chair lift.  For some reason the snow makes it easier to forget how high it is off the ground therefore vertigo doesn’t set in.  I have made it down from the top of Daisy twice without falls!  The turns and stops are starting to be under control.  There is one place toward the bottom that I can just schuss down full speed and not lose control or fall.  This year the hope was to be able to use the beginner chair and get myself down.  I cannot go down all the way in one continuous chain of turns but can do it in sections so the goal is almost met.  Bob says he will be satisfied this year if I can do just a little better—go further down before stopping and go some distance by myself without him shadowing me the entire way.  
 

Snow hat on the clock tower

Because we plan to keep this up we will buy gear, skis, helmet, boots, goggles etc. when things go on sale toward the end of the season.  If the snow stays good and the runs are open through April and maybe into May perhaps I will graduate this year after all.  The classes and instructors have been great and I really have been taught pretty much everything I need to graduate, I just need more practice.  Even though apprehensive to try downhill skiing it has turned out to be fun.  I thought I was probably the oldest person to take beginning lessons but one of the instructors told me he had taught a man abut 10 years older.  Advice from a grandma—don’t be afraid to try something new!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 289





Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, ca 1960s

This unused postcard with the photograph of the Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico, ca late 1950s, was part of the large collection of travel postcards shared by J & K.  The card is identified as from Editorial Mexico, S.A.; Greeting Cards Created by Fischgrund and has this interesting, stylized two-headed snake logo, below, on the reverse.





Double-headed snake logo


The library building on the main campus of the Ciudad Universitaria, generally referred to as C.U., is ten stories high and covered with incredibly beautiful mosaic stone murals by the Irish/Mexican artist Juan O’Gorman (1905-1982).  His paintings and murals often featured Mexican history, landscape and legends.  Each wall of the Library features a different historical period.  The per-Hispanic era occupies the north wall; the south wall features events from the Spanish colonial period; the east wall shows contemporary Mexico; and the west wall is devoted to the university itself.  The mosaic was created using natural stones from Mexico with O’Gorman traveling from place to place to find the perfect stones.  By using stones or tiles with natural colors the need to re-paint and renovate could be eliminated.  The blue stones were the most difficult to find but he finally located some in a mine in Zacatecas.  The murals offer a view into Mexican history including the progressive socialist movement going on during that time.  Begun in 1948 the building took four years to complete with the stone murals covering 4,000 square meters or 40,000 square feet.  The library opened in 1956.  It was the largest mural or set of murals ever attempted.

There are several other buildings on the campus but the library is perhaps the most famous.  The library contains approximately 428,000 books, has book loan services, online searching and downloadable digital content is available to all the students and academics of the University.  Today trees have grown up obscuring parts of some of the murals but it is still spectacular.  Imagining the time and precision it took to place each stone is staggering.  It is considered O’Gorman’s masterpiece and a testament to Mexican history.

For more information, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Library_(UNAM)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_Universitaria
http://adip.info/2012/09/mosaic-murals-of-the-unam-central-library/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_O'Gorman

Thursday, March 2, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 288






 USS Olympia, 1898
[by Douglas Michie, artist]

Here is another historical ship postcard.  This one has a painting of the USS Olympia in Hong Kong, 1898, by Marine Artist, Douglas Michie of Gig Harbor, Washington.   The postcard was recently found in the gift shop at the Washington History Museum in Tacoma, Washington.  The only identifier on the reverse of the card is:  Modern Postcard, 800/959-8365.

The USS Olympia is a protected cruiser, had less armor with large guns, making it faster than a fully armored cruiser.   She is 344 feet or 104.8 meters long and 53 feet or 6.1 meters wide.  The crew consisted of 33 officers and 396 enlisted men.  Powered by coal, the top speed was 22 knots or 25 mph.  Named after the city of Olympia, the Washington State capitol, it was built by Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California. 

The ship is famous as the flagship of Admiral George Dewey (1837-1917), at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War, 1898.   Dewey who was Commodore at that time later went on to become the only person to attain the rank as Admiral of the Navy.  The USS Olympia was the largest of Dewey's ships and was bigger than any of the Spanish ships.  It was on the bridge of this vessel that Dewey issued the famous order to his captain:  "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."  Following that war she was decommissioned in 1899 but then re-commissioned and entered into active service once again in 1902.   From 1902 to World War I she was a training ship for naval cadets and acted as floating barracks in Charleston, South Carolina.  In 1917 she was mobilized for war service and was used to patrol the American coast and escort transport ships. 

Following World War I she cruised the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to promote peace.  One of her last acts of service was to carry the remains of the Unknown Soldier of World War I from France to Washington, D.C. where his body was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.  She was decommissioned the last time in 1922 and placed in reserve.  In 1957 the U.S. Navy ceded the title to the Cruiser Olympia Association, which restored the ship.  Today she is in the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

The Olympia is the oldest steel U.S. warship still afloat.  The ship is need of maintenance but attempts to find outside funding of the approximately estimated ten million needed to restore her to stable condition have failed; therefore, under the guidance of the U.S. Navy she was put up for availability to new stewards.  Several groups expressed interest in becoming the new steward but none provided long-term solutions so the ship will remain in Philadelphia where the Museum will launch a national fund raising campaign for her preservation.  In the meantime, minor repairs to the ship have been made but there is major waterline deterioration.   The Olympia was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is also a National Historic Engineering Landmark. 

For additional information, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Olympia_(C-6)
http://www.phillyseaport.org/olympia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Dewey

Thursday, February 23, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 287






 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, "Galloping Gertie," 1940
The two postcards shared this week have vintage photographs of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing 7 November 1940.  The card above has the image #35475.  Both cards were printed by Lantern Press of Seattle, Washington and were found in the gift shop of the Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, Washington.  The lower card has image #35474.  



Tacoma Narrows Bridge, "Galloping Gertie," 1940

This bridge was the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge even though talk of building a bridge at this location between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula dated back to 1889 and a Northern Pacific Railway desire for a trestle.  Before the bridge was built there was a ferry across this stretch of water.  Financing the bridge also meant buying out the private ferry contract. 

Eventually the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority (WTBA) was formed by the State legislature and $5,000 was appropriated for a study to see if a bridge could be built.  The suggested tolls would not be enough to cover the construction costs but both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army gave the project strong support so the WTBA requested $11 million from the Federal Public Works Administration (PWA).  Several consulting engineers were involved in the design and some changes were made partly to save money.  Because the planners did not expect heavy traffic it was designed as a narrow two-lane bridge.  Design modifications resulted in the use of shallow narrow girders that proved to be insufficient to withstand the winds and it fell to aeroelastic flutter.  The failure of this bridge has had a lasting effect on science and engineering.  Increased research into aerodynamics-aeroelastics and has influenced the designs of all the long-span bridges built since 1940. 

Construction started in September 1938 with completion in July 1940.  At the time it was the third-longest suspension bridge after the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge.  It was nicknamed Galloping Gertie because right from the time the deck was finished it began to move vertically in windy conditions.  Measures to stabilize the bridge were not successful and the main span collapsed in a 40-mile-per-hour windstorm 7 November 1940.

Amazingly only one life was lost and that was a little dog, Tubby, who belonged to Leonard Coatsworth, a Tacoma News Tribune editor, the last person to drive on the bridge.  There is a film record of the event made by Barney Elliott who owned a local camera shop.  In 1998 the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation due to its historical and cultural significance. 

Due to shortages in materials and labor resulting from World War II a replacement bridge was not built until 1950.  It was longer and had more lanes than the original bridge.  That bridge still stands and today is used to carry westbound traffic.  To accommodate increased traffic needs a parallel eastbound bridge was built and opened in 2007.

My Mom and Dad were living in Seattle and Dad was working on the peninsula at the time.  He had crossed the bridge several times on his way to and from work between when it opened in July and the day it collapsed.  The day the bridge fell he had just driven across and years later when I was a child I remember him telling of watching the bridge fall.  He saw Coatsworth crawling and then running to get off and he could also see the little dog that was too frightened to run across the swaying bridge and did not make it to safety.  It was a delight to find these cards and be able to put pictures with a story I remembered from my childhood.

For additional information including the personal account of Leonard Coastworth’s escape from the bridge, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacoma_Narrows_Bridge_(1940)

Before and after photographs of the bridge collapse can been here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157665864730102

Thursday, February 16, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 286






 Guinigi Tower, Lucca Italy

Here are two more postcards sent by my friend while he was on a bicycle trip from northern Italy to Rome.  They both have images from the city of Lucca, Italy.  The upper card has a Ghilardi photograph of the Guinigi Tower built in the 14th century.  Note the garden of trees growing on the top of the tower.  This tower is one of only a few remaining in the city.  The garden on the roof was originally used as a kitchen garden.  The trees are Holm Oaks that symbolize rebirth and renewal.  It is interesting to see this roof garden on the top of a Romanesque-Gothic style medieval tower.  Modern cities also often plant trees over freeways and on the tops of buildings today.  

The lower card shows an aerial view of Roman Catholic basilica church, San Michele in Foro (the old Roman forum site).  Dedicated to Archangel Michael it was the seat of the Major Council the most important assembly in the town until 1370.  First mention of this church dates from 795 AD.  Pope Alexander II had it rebuilt after 1070.  The façade dates from the 13th century and has a number of sculptures and inlays some that were remade in the 19th century.   The 4 meter tall statue of St. Michael the Archangel flanked by two other angels at the top left of the church can be seen on the postcard.  Both cards are Santori editions of Lucca. 



San Michele in Foro, Lucca, Italy

Anciently the city was the site of Ligurian, Etruscan and Roman settlements.  The current day city of Lucca has kept the street plan dating to when it was a Roman colony in 180 BC.  The walls around the old town have remained intact and traces of an old Roman amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell’Aanfiteatro. 

Like many ancient and medieval cities Lucca was a fortress and subject to periodic plundering and sieges.  Lucca prospered with silk trade beginning in the 11th century.  It was also a feudal capital in Tuscany during the 10th and 11th centuries.  For almost 500 years Lucca was an independent commune republic.  The rich and varied history through the centuries list times it was sold, seized, ceded, surrendered and liberated.  In 1805 Lucca was conquered by Napoleon, followed by rule by a succession of dukes and duchesses.  In 1861 it was annexed into the Italian State.   Lucca is the birthplace of the famous music composer Giacomo Puccini.

For additional information, see:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucca
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinigi_Tower
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Michele_in_Foro