Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Saint Pierre et Miquelon

Postcrossing is all about the luck of the draw.  The people you get cards from, the quality of the cards, the way in which they fit your interests, and, in no small measure, where they come from.

As soon as I saw the postcrossing ID number on this one I knew I had a winner!  It was PM-355.  Only the 355th postcard sent from that country.  But where was PM.  I couldn’t guess.  So I had to look at the stamp and the front of the card. 

It was from Saint Pierre et Miquelon.  Located in the heart of the Grand Banks in the North Atlantic, 25 km southwest of Newfoundland, the archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is composed of eight islands, totalling 242 km2, of which only two are inhabited - Saint Pierre Island and Miquelon-Langlade, the largest island, which is in fact composed of two islands, Miquelon being connected to Langlade by the Dune de Langlade, a 10 km-long sandy isthmus.   A storm had severed them in the 18th century, separating the two islands for several decades, before currents reconstructed the isthmus.   The waters between Langlade and Saint-Pierre were called "the Mouth of Hell" (French: Gueule d'Enfer) until about 1900, as more than 600 shipwrecks have been recorded in that point since 1800.  Langlade Island is almost deserted (only one inhabitant in the 1999 census). The islands are bare and rocky, with steep coasts, and only a thin layer of peat to soften the hard landscape.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France, situated in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near Canada.  It is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control. The islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon were discovered by Europeans on 21 October 1520, by the Portuguese João Álvares Fagundes, who bestowed on them their original name of "Islands of the 11,000 Virgins", as the day marked the feast day of St. Ursula and her virgin companions. They were made a French possession in 1536 by Jacques Cartier on behalf of the King of France.

Though already frequented by Micmac Indians and Basque and Breton fishermen, the islands were not permanently settled until the end of the 17th century: four permanent inhabitants were counted in 1670, and 22 in 1691.  The islands were ceded to Great Britain in 1713 and back to France in 1814.  The estimated population now is 5,888, most of whom live in the city of St Pierre. The Village of Miquelon has a population of less than a thousand.

 postcard no 260

The islands are situated at the entrance of Fortune Bay, which extends into the southern coast of Newfoundland, near the Grand Banks.  They are 3,819 kilometres (2,373 mi) from Brest, the nearest point in Metropolitan France but just 20 kilometres (12 miles) off the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland.

Smuggling had always been an important economic activity in the islands, but it became especially prominent in the 1920s with the institution of prohibition in the United States.[18] In 1931, the archipelago was reported to have imported 1,815,271 US gallons (6,871,550 litres) of whisky from Canada in 12 months, most of it to be smuggled into the United States.  The end of prohibition in 1933 plunged the islands into economic depression.

Every year in the summer there is a Basque Festival, with demonstrations of harrijasotzaile (stone heaving), aizkolari (lumberjack skills), and pelota. The local cuisine is mostly based on seafood such as lobster, snow crab, cod, mussels and many cod-based dishes. Ice hockey is very popular in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A Dutch Postwoman 1957

This picture was kindly sent to me by Kim in The Netherlands. Although it's not a postcard I couldn't resist putting it on this blog.  After all, what use would postcards be without these men and women (of which Kim is one) delivering them!

Amsterdam postwoman 1957

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Gold Post Boxes

Royal Mail has painted some of its iconic and much-loved red post boxes gold to celebrate every Team GB and Paralympics GB gold medal win during the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
Here are four of them that I hunted down this week (thanks to Jo driving and some dodgy navigating by me).  If you want to find one yourself you can visit the Post Office site and look at the map. It helps if you live in the UK, of course!

Newent - Gloucestershire, England - Charlotte Dujardin
Olympic Gold medal Equestrian Individual Dressage

Trull - Somerset, England - Deborah Criddle
Paralympic Gold medal Equestrian: Mixed Individual Freestyle Test - Grade III

Hay-on-Wye - Powys, Wales (though the Post Office call it Herefordshire, England!) - Josie Pearson
Paralympic Gold medal Athletics: Womens Discus

Flint - Flintshire, Wales - Jade Jones
Olympic Gold medal Taekwondo Women's 57kg

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


No sooner had I blogged the Hamburg card than this arrived from Stefan!  What a co-incidence.

 Card no 222 – 1st October 2012

Frankfurt am Main, commonly known as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2011 population of 695,624.  The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010.  Frankfurt is the financial and transportation centre of Germany and the largest financial centre in continental Europe.  Frankfurt is an international centre for finance, commerce, culture, transport, education, and tourism. It is therefore considered an alpha world city as listed by the Loughborough University group's 2010 inventory.  In 2011, the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Frankfurt as seventh in its annual "Quality of Living" survey of cities around the world.  According to The Economist cost of living survey, Frankfurt is Germany’s most expensive city, and the 10th most expensive in the world.  Like Wow! 

Here are some of the main buildings which are shown on the postcard -

The Eschenheim Tower (Eschenheimer Turm) was erected at the beginning of the 15th century and served as a city gate as part of the late-medieval fortifications of Frankfurt. It is the oldest and most unaltered building in the Innenstadt district.

Saint Bartholomew's Cathedral (Dom Sankt Bartholomäus), named after Bartholomew the Apostle, is a gothic building which was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time. From 1356 onwards, kings of the Holy Roman Empire were elected in this church, and from 1562 to 1792, the Roman-German emperors were crowned here. Today, it is the main church of Frankfurt.


Saint Paul's Church (Paulskirche) is a national historic monument in Germany with great political symbolism, because it was the seat of the first democratically elected Parliament in 1848. It was established in 1789 as a Protestant church but was not completed until 1833. Its importance has its root in the Frankfurt Parliament, which met in the church during the revolutionary years of 1848/49 in order to write a constitution for a united Germany. The attempt failed because the monarchs of Prussia and Austria did not want to lose power, and in 1849, Prussian troops ended the democratic experiment by force of arms and the parliament was dissolved. Afterwards, the building was used for church services again.  St. Paul's was partially destroyed in World War II, particularly the interior of the building, which now has a modern appearance. It was quickly and symbolically rebuilt after the war; today it is not used for religious services, but mainly for exhibitions and events.

The Alte Oper is a former opera house, hence the name "Old Opera". It was built in 1880 by architect Richard Lucae. It was one of the major opera houses in Germany until it was heavily damaged in World War II.  Until the late 1970s, it was a ruin, nicknamed "Germany's Most Beautiful Ruin". There were even efforts to just blow it up. Former Frankfurt Lord Mayor Rudi Arndt called for blowing it up in the 1960s, which earned him the nickname "Dynamite-Rudi". (Later on, Arndt said he never had meant his suggestion seriously.)  Due to public pressure, it was finally fully reconstructed and reopened in 1981. Today, it functions as a famous concert hall, while operas are performed at the "new" Oper Frankfurt. The inscription on the frieze of the Alte Oper says: "Dem Wahren, Schönen, Guten" ("To the true, the beautiful, the good").

Monday, 1 October 2012


I love map cards and my favourites are those that show both the map itself and little cartoons of key places (and, if possible, a few small photos of those key places as well).  This is a classic example.

Card no 222   29th Sept 2012

Thank you to Brigitte who sent me this card.  Brigitte is not a postcrosser because she doesn't have a computer but she likes swapping cards with people when she gets the chance.

I am used to seeing little cartoon churches and town halls and boats and statues on this type of card but, hang on a moment, what is that naked lady half way down the left hand side? 

The answer is she is representing the red-light district, something that is illegal in Britain.  The Reeperbahn is a street in Hamburg's St. Pauli district, one of the two centres of Hamburg's nightlife and also the city's red-light district. In German it is also sometimes described as die sündige Meile (the sinful mile).   Due to the problems with prostitution and the high crime rate, in 2007 the Senate of Hamburg enacted a ban on weapons in the Reeperbahn area.  The St Pauli Preservation Society decries the ongoing gentrification of the area. Some people blame the decline of the Reeperbahn's prostitution and pornography businesses on the rise of discotheques and cheap bars that attract teenage customers.

In the early 1960s, The Beatles (who had not yet become world-famous) played in several clubs around the Reeperbahn, including the Star-Club, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten and Indra. Stories about the band's onstage and offstage antics are legendary.     John Lennon is quoted as having said  "I might have been born in Liverpool - but I grew up in Hamburg".