Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat

18 07 2009

In the 17th century, there was a rundown and poverty-stricken temple in Tokyo. The temple’s priest was very poor, but he shared some food he had with his pet cat, Tama.

One day, a wealthy and important man was caught in a storm while hunting and he took refuge under a big tree near the temple. While he waited for the storm to pass, the man noticed a cat beckoning him to come inside the temple gate. This was so startling that he left the shelter of the tree to have a closer look at this unusual cat. At that moment, the tree was struck by lighting.

As a result, the wealthy man became friends with the poor priest, and the temple became prosperous. The priest and his cat never went hungry again.

When Tama died he was buried in the Goutokuji Temple’s cat cemetery with respect and love, and the Maneki Neko was made in honor of him. A Maneki Neko in your business, your home or on your website is said to bring in good luck and visitors.

Maneki Neko is Japanese for “beckoning cat.” The message he is holding says “Please come in. You are welcome!” and he is beckoning you with his paw . (In Japan, the gesture of beckoning is pretty much the reverse of the gesture used in the West.)

Here’s a Maneki Neko card I received from a Japanese girl, she sent it to me as a surprise:


A closer look at UNESCO WHS: Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou

15 07 2009

Name: Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou
Country: Morocco
Type: Cultural
Year of inscription: 1978
The site in Google Maps

Aït Benhaddou is a ‘fortified city’, or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ouarzazate River and has some beautiful examples of kasbahs, which unfortunately, sustain damages during each rainstorm. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river. Ten families still live within the ksar.

A postcard of Ampelmännchen

5 07 2009

The Ampelmännchen is the symbolic person shown on traffic lights at pedestrian crossings in the former DDR (East Germany).

Before the German reunification, the two German states had different forms for the Ampelmännchen, with a generic human figure in West Germany, and a generally male figure wearing a hat in the east.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ampelmännchen became a popular souvenir item in the tourism business.

This is the postcard I have:

Holland? USA!

23 06 2009

I find it interesting to receive cards from other countries that show some kind of Dutch ‘heritage’. This card shows the city of Pella, Iowa, USA. It was founded in 1847 when eight hundred Dutch immigrants led by Dominee Hendrik (Henry) P. Scholte settled the area.

In Downtown Pella, the Molengracht (Mill Canal) emerges from under the street by the 1850’s Vermeer Mill and flows the length of the plaza surrounded by 18th centrury Dutch architecture. Unique shops, offices, restaurants, lodging and entertainment facilites line the brick pedestrian walkways.

A closer look at UNESCO WHS: Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn

17 06 2009

Name: Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn
Country: Estonia
Type: Cultural
Year of inscription: 1997, extended in 2008
The site in Google Maps

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is named after taani linnus, which means Danish castle. The Castle in question was built by King Waldemar of Denmark in the 13th century. The settlement quickly developed itself into a busy port. In 1248 Tallinn became a member of the Hanseatic League, a chain of European trading cities.

Tallinn was one of the best fortified cities in Europe, with 66 towers adorning the city wall. Only about 20 of them remain today. Nowadays some are used as restaurants and museums.

Here are the postcards of Tallinn I have received. First an aerial overview, the towers and parts of the city wall can be seen in the front:

The second card is a multieview, this card brings you into Tallinn’s Old Town:

And this is the third card, I’ve recently received. It shows Midsummer nights in Tallinn, including the time.
Estonians celebrate ‘Jaaniõhtu’ (‘John’s Night’ in English) on the eve of the Summer Solstice (June 23) with bonfires.  On Jaaniõhtu, Estonians all around the country will gather with their families, or at larger events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing, as Estonians have done for centuries. The celebrations that accompany Jaaniõhtu are the largest and most important of the year, and the traditions are similar those of Finland and the southern neighbour Latvia.

A closer look at UNESCO WHS: Old City of Dubrovnik

10 06 2009

Name: Old City of Dubrovnik
Country: Croatia
Type: Cultural
Year of inscription: 1979, extended in 1994, endangered from 1991 till 1998
The site in Google Maps

The Old City of Dubrovnik is known for its monumental centre. Dubrovnik became an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards. It managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains.
The site was extended in 1994 to include the suburbs and the island of Lokrum.

I received two postcards of Old City of Dubrovnik, both are multi views.
Here’s the first card:

And here’s the second card:

A closer look at UNESCO WHS: Historic Centre of Córdoba

24 05 2009

Name: Historic Centre of Córdoba
Country: Spain
Type: Cultural
Year of inscription: 1984, extended in 1994
The site in Google Maps

Cordoba is a city in Andalusia, Southern Spain. It’s located on the banks of the Guadalquivir river and it was founded in ancient Roman times as Corduba by Claudius Marcellus.
In 711 AD, Cordoba, as many other Andalusian cities, was conquered by the Moors. They turned the city into a cultural place, with mosques and palaces. The large Cordoba Mosque was modelled after the mosque in Damascus, and is a real masterpiece. The surrounding neighbourhood formed the heart of the city.
After the Moors left, Cordoba got a more Christian atmosphere.

I received two different postcards of the site:

This card shows some places of interest in Cordoba:

And this card shows the Great Mosque of Cordoba, or in Spanish, Mezquita. Originally built as a church, after the Muslim conquest the building was confiscated for use as a mosque. After the Spanish Reconquista, it was returned to its original use as a church. Today it houses the main church of the diocese of Cordoba in Spain.

I have visited Cordoba. 🙂