23. 02. 2018.

Postcrossing Meeting In Finland

Before I start sorting out my past cruise 'schedule', here is a fantastic card sent from a Postcrossing meeting in Finland - for which I am sure I have Marko to thank :) Just the number of people participating i.e. signing the card is amazing...and its cute how some use their own rubber stamps, frankly something I have been wishing to obtain for myself too. Then there is the fact that its a lovely UNESCO card, and then again that there is an official cancellation, and then its matching the stamp, I mean how awesome is all of this?! Once again hats off to the Finnish Postcrossing community...! :))

UNESCO - Cathedral And Churches Of Echmiatsin And The Archaeological Site Of Zvartnots, Armenia

The cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin ( or Etchmiadzin ) and the archaeological remains at Zvartnots graphically illustrate the evolution and development of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic development in the region. 

Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). According to scholars it was the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia (early 4th century), and is considered the oldest cathedral in the world. The tour I was with included a visit to the museum of the cathedral, which has numerous items on display, including manuscripts and religious objects. Among its notable exhibits are the Holy Lance (Spear), relics belonging to Apostles of Jesus and John the Baptist, and a fragment of Noah's Ark. Many relic-containers offer no view of what is inside, so when I asked our guide 'how do we know what is inside?' she simply replied 'we don't' lol.

Zvartnots Cathedral (literally 'celestial angels cathedral') is a 7th-century centrally planned aisled tetraconch type Armenian cathedral built by the order of Catholicos Nerses the Builder from 643-652. Now in ruins, it is located at the edge of the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). As ruins, there wasn't much to look at, but the atypical arches were still pretty cool :)

22. 02. 2018.

Geghard And Garni, Armenia

After an overnight train to Yerevan I spent the day in the capital city - rainy weather, sore throat, and a cancelled paragliding trip...i really thought i'd go through with it, challenge myself i.e. my fear of heights...shame.
The next day I went on a trip to see the mystical Geghard Monastery, one of the three Armenian WHS sites. The misty weather actually made the whole atmosphere that much better :) The site was full of khachkars (or Armenian stone-crosses) - carved, memorial steles bearing a cross, and often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. Khachkars are characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian art, inscribed since 2010 in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Afterwards we visited the Temple of Garni, the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. The structure was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. After Armenia's conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century, it was converted into a royal summer house of Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III. I'll also remember this site because I asked a really handsome Russian guy if he could take a photo, shame he didn't know a word of English..;)

Wine Grapes Harvest In Kakheti, Georgia

 Local peasant carrying a godori (wicker basket): 
in the background Chailuri or the Niakhura Fortress.

And here is one of the main incentives why to visit Georgia in October of all months :) It is the end of wine grapes harvest season - and Georgia is actually one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The fertile valleys and protective slopes of the Transcaucasia were home to grapevine cultivation and neolithic wine production for at least 8000 years. They have preserved their special traditional ways of making wine: UNESCO added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using the Kvevri clay jars to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

Even though my wish was to take a few days for the Kakheti region and stay overnight in one of the villages, the tour company that did such a package didn't have enough people signed up to make it happen, and I had too little time to organise it on my own. So I've entered the office of an agency in Tbilisi to see if I can do something in a day - and sure enough I found a good deal, just me and a friendly gal from the Philippines with a local driver/guide, and off we go to Sighnaghi :) We visited the lovely Bodbe Monastery, a local museum, and of course the Pheasant's Tears winery for some wine tasting, yay :) It was a good day!

20. 02. 2018.

UNESCO- Historical Monuments Of Mtskheta, Georgia

The historic churches of Mtskheta, former capital of Georgia, are outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. They show the high artistic and cultural level attained by this ancient kingdom.
In the front is the Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, a masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages. The site itself dates back to the early fourth century, and is known as the burial site of Christ's mantle. In the back, the Jvari Monastery is a sixth century Georgian Orthodox monastery situated  on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers; according to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over the Caucasus.

19. 02. 2018.

Ushguli, Upper Svaneti, Georgia

Ushguli is a community of four villages located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti, Georgia. Recognized as the Upper Svaneti UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe. The region of Upper Svaneti is an outstanding example of an exceptional mountain landscape composed of highly preserved villages with unique defensive tower houses, examples of ecclesiastical architecture and arts of medieval origin. 

I have already written about this WHS site but to see it with my own eyes is something else...It wasn't my first stop though, I had a flight going to Kutaisi in the country's west, and only after booking my flight have I realised that this town I never have heard of before harbours two WHS sites. Well, actually one - the other was for some reason removed from the list. So I have visited the Bagrati Cathedral and the Gelati Monastery, I just never got around to buying some postcards :/
Oh I've just read that 'UNESCO removed Bagrati Cathedral from its World Heritage sites in 2017, considering its major reconstruction detrimental to its integrity and authenticity.' Shame when this happens...

Upper Svaneti really is quite isolated, which is why the villages are so well preserved. I had to take a tour from Mestia in one of the marshrutkas (shared taxi van), and was lucky to get a smaller van with only three other co-passengers. The roads were quite rocky and in parts muddy, and even though the Georgian roads have European rules half the vehicles (like this van) have the wheel on the right (or should I say wrong) side, which ensured more adventure than needed! These interesting medieval towers were to be found even in Mestia, just in front of my guesthouse for example :) As its fairly touristy (plenty of treks to do from there, wish I had more time!) I managed to find one souvenir shop with postcards and stamps. As the woman working there pulled the stamps out of the drawer I've noticed they were all various, wavy and singles, which looked dodgy to the ever-suspicious self...in which case I use a glue stick to stop the possible mishandling. Still, I believe I've sent two cards, and here is only one..! Hmm I could go on and on about this trip...cos it was one of the best trips I have ever had :)) But I really shouldn't make these posts look too daunting to read ;P

18. 02. 2018.

The Five Star Flag Of Georgia

As you can imagine, the Caucasus area had a turbulent history, and its countries used different flags over time. The current Georgia's flag has been used since 2004; the five crosses are sometimes interpreted as representing either the Five Holy Wounds, or alternatively Christ and the Four Evangelists. It is only slightly altered version of the First Flag of the Kingdom of Georgia (1008–1490).

As I have sent most cards during my last day in Georgia, which was the 22nd of October, it is curious to see they have been sent two weeks later. Well, they arrived safe and sound :)

A Little Between-Note

What I have been posting lately are posties that I've managed to scan before I left my penultimate job, and that was a while ago...in the early autumn of 2016. I was running out of stock, when I got hold of a scanner, and am having a bit of a task ahead :)
If I want to do it chronologically - there was an awesome trip to the Caucasus, then some postcards I've managed to send while working on a cruise ship, and some lovely surprises that arrived while I was away (mainly thanks to my two good fairies, Bryon and Ana :)) Now doing my cruise thing chronologically may take a bit of effort...but I have the official schedule someplace which should help. One thing (or two) that I've noticed is that I've often used self-adhesive stamps (usually there was no time to go to the post office, or it wasn't handy to get there, and the souvenir shops are fond of self-adhesives), and those generally tend not to be cancelled. Major boo :( Still, better than nothing? :) Also, I've noticed that I've sent plenty during the first cruise, but figured out as I went that its just not sustainable...Anyways, here is where I've been lately :)