Monday, 9 December 2019

Hungary

Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93.030 km² in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.
The territory of modern Hungary was for centuries inhabited by a succession of peoples, including Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, Huns, West Slavs and the Avars. The foundations of the Hungarian state were established in the late ninth century CE by the Hungarian grand prince Árpád following the conquest of the Carpathian Basin. His great-grandson Stephen I ascended the throne in 1000, converting his realm to a Christian kingdom. By the 12th century, Hungary became a regional power, reaching its cultural and political height in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Hungary was partially occupied by the Ottoman Empire (1541-1699). It came under Habsburg rule at the turn of the 18th century, and later joined Austria to form the Austro–Hungarian Empire, a major European power.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed after World War I, and the subsequent Treaty of Trianon established Hungary's current borders, resulting in the loss of 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. Following the tumultuous interwar period, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in World War II, suffering significant damage and casualties. Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which contributed to the establishment of a socialist republic spanning four decades (1949-1989). The country gained widespread international attention as a result of its 1956 revolution and the seminal opening of its previously-restricted border with Austria in 1989, which accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. On 23 October 1989, Hungary became a democratic parliamentary republic.

Hungary is an OECD high-income economy and has the world's 58th largest economy by PPP. It ranks 45th on the Human Development Index, owing in large part to its social security system, universal health care, and tuition-free secondary education. Hungary's rich cultural history includes significant contributions to the arts, music, literature, sports, science and technology. It is the 13th most popular tourist destination in Europe, attracting 15,8 million international tourists in 2017, owing to attractions such as the largest thermal water cave system in the world, second largest thermal lake, the largest lake in Central Europe and the largest natural grasslands in Europe. Hungary's cultural, historical, and academic prominence classify it as a middle power in global affairs.
Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 and has been part of the Schengen Area since 2007. It is a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations, NATO, WTO, World Bank, the Council of Europe, and the Visegrád Group.

The envelope was one of many I posted at the Briefmarken-Messe in Essen on 11 May 2017. It was one of the last to arrive back home, taking just over two months. It arrived with a nice, but upside-down postmark from Budapest.

Webshop of Magyar Posta: eshop.posta.hu/stamps.

Date sent: 11 May 2017
Date postmark: 30 June 2017
Date received: 11 July 2017
Number of days: 61
Envelope in collection: 225



Saturday, 7 December 2019

Australia

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.
Indigenous Australians inhabited the continent for about 65.000 years prior to European discovery with the arrival of Dutch explorers in the early 17th century, who named it New Holland. In 1770, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia's national day. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the time of an 1850s gold rush, most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories.
Being the oldest, flattest and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils, Australia has a landmass of 7.617.930 km². A megadiverse country, its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east and mountain ranges in the south-east. Australia generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications, banking, and manufacturing.
Australia is a highly developed country, with the world's 14th-largest economy. It has a high-income economy, with the world's tenth-highest per capita income. It is a regional power and has the world's 13th-highest military expenditure. Australia has the world's eighth-largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 29% of the population. Having the third-highest human development index and the eighth-highest ranked democracy globally, the country ranks highly in quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, civil liberties and political rights, with all its major cities faring well in global comparative livability surveys. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Pacific Islands Forum, and the ASEAN Plus Six mechanism.

I bought a regular stamp for the international letter tariff from the Philatelic Service in Melbourne. When it arrived, I sent it back to the Philatelic Service on one of my envelopes. It arrived back in only nineteen days with a perfect datestamp from the Melbourne General Post Office.

The special Collectables website of Australia Post: australiapostcollectables.com.au.

Date sent: 22 June 2017
Date postmark: 4 July 2017
Date received: 11 July 2017
Number of days: 19
Envelope in collection: 224




Friday, 6 December 2019

Niue

Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, 2.400 kilometres northeast of New Zealand, east of Tonga, south of Samoa, and west of the Cook Islands. Niue's land area is about 261 km² and its population, predominantly Polynesian, was about 1.600 in 2016. The island is commonly referred to as "The Rock", which comes from the traditional name "Rock of Polynesia". Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands. The terrain of the island has two noticeable levels. The higher level is made up of a limestone cliff running along the coast, with a plateau in the centre of the island reaching approximately 60 metres high above sea level. The lower level is a coastal terrace approximately 0,5 km wide and about 25-27 metres high, which slopes down and meets the sea in small cliffs. A coral reef surrounds the island, with the only major break in the reef being in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi. A notable feature are the many limestone caves near the coast.
Niue is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand; and New Zealand conducts most diplomatic relations on its behalf. Niueans are citizens of New Zealand, and Queen Elizabeth II is head of state in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand. Between 90% and 95% of Niuean people live in New Zealand, along with about 70% of the speakers of the Niuean language. Niue is a bilingual country, with 30% of the population speaking both Niuean and English, though the percentage of monolingual English-speaking people is only 11%, while 46% are monolingual Niuean speakers.
Niue is not a member of the United Nations (UN), but UN organisations have accepted its status as a freely-associated state as equivalent to independence for the purposes of international law. As such, Niue is a member of some UN specialised agencies (such as UNESCO, and the WHO), and is invited, alongside the other non-UN member state, the Cook Islands, to attend United Nations conferences open to "all states"] Niue has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1980.
Niue is subdivided into 14 villages (municipalities). Each village has a village council that elects its chairperson. The villages are at the same time electoral districts; each village sends an assemblyperson to the Parliament of Niue. A small and democratic nation, Niueans hold legislative elections every 3 years.
The Niue Integrated Strategic Plan (NISP), adopted in 2003, is the national development plan, setting national priorities for development in areas such as financial sustainability. Since the late 20th century Niue has become a leader in green growth; the European Union is helping the nation convert to renewable energy. In January 2004, Niue was hit by Cyclone Heta, which caused extensive damage to the island, including wiping out most of South Alofi. The disaster set the island back about two years from its planned timeline to implement the NISP since national efforts concentrated on recovery.

From New Zealand post, that sells the latest Niue stamps, I bought a series with reptiles, issued on 5 April 2017. I sent the cover with the complete series to the post office in Alofi. It arrived back in two months with a special First World War postmark with the text 'Remembering those who served'. This postmark was in use for some years to commemorate the participation of Niuean volunteers in the war. The envelope arrived back to me in two months.

The Niue stamps page on the New Zealand post website: nzpost.co.nz/niue.

Date sent: 10 May 2017
Date postmark: 21 June 2017
Date received: 11 July 2017
Number of days: 62
Envelope in collection: 223



Thursday, 5 December 2019

United States of America - Pennsylvania - Bristol

From March 2012 the United States Postal Services introduced a number of permanent pictorial postmarks under the name Postmark America.

Postmark America service is a permanent, rubber hand stamp with rotating date plugs that is permitted for participating Post Offices to feature a symbolic image representing a town or region. Postmarking service is available only at windows when it does not interfere with normal retail operations. Postmasters can offer hand-back, will-call, or mail-back service. Postmark America service can be used for mail entering the mailstream or philatelic purposes.

Postmark America service affords tourists, customers, and collectors an opportunity to use and collect postmarks at any time. It also affords postmasters a way to generate revenue without having to staff or wait for events. Postmark America service is date sensitive, and back-dating is prohibited. Customers or collectors wanting a specific date must have their items presented at the Post Office on or before the date of service.

On 26 July 2012 a new postmark was published in the USPS Postal Bulletin for Bristol, Pennsylvania. It shows a covered bridge of which there are many in the county. Bucks County was home to more than 50 covered bridges at one time. Only 12 bridges remain, 10 of which can still carry vehicles.
Bristol Borough is a borough in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 37 km northeast of Center City Philadelphia, opposite Burlington, New Jersey on the Delaware River. Bristol Borough predates Philadelphia, being settled in 1681 and first incorporated in 1720. After 1834, the town became very important to the development of the American Industrial Revolution as the terminus city of the Delaware Canal. The canal and a short trip on the Delaware also gave the town access to the mineral resources available in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. From its earliest days Bristol Borough was a centre of textile mills, foundries, milling, and miscellaneous manufacturing. By the 1880s Bristol Borough was home to many factories, including companies manufacturing wall paper and carpet. In World War I, the Bristol Borough docks had sufficient space for a shipyard to construct twelve building slips for the construction of merchant vessels.

The postmark can be obtained by writing to: Postmark America, Bristol Post Office, Postmaster, 699 Beaver Street, Bristol, PA  19007-9998, United States.

Apart from a postmark on the envelope, I got an extra impression on the blank card inside.

Date sent: 16 June 2017
Date postmark: 3 July 2017
Date received: 7 July 2017
Number of days: 21
Envelope in collection: 211




Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1.600 km southeast of Miami, Florida.
An archipelago among the Greater Antilles, located between the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico includes the eponymous main island and several smaller islands, such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques. The capital and most populous city is San Juan. The territory's total population is approximately 3,4 million. Spanish and English are the official languages of the executive branch of government, though Spanish predominates.
Originally populated by the indigenous Taíno people, Puerto Rico was colonized by Spain following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. It was contested by the French, Dutch, and British, but remained a Spanish possession for the next four centuries. The island's cultural and demographic landscapes were shaped by the displacement and assimilation of the native population, the forced migration of African slaves, and settlement from the Canary Islands and Andalusia. In the Spanish Empire, Puerto Rico played a secondary but strategic role compared to wealthier colonies like Peru and New Spain. Spain's distant administrative control continued up to the end of the 19th century, producing a distinctive creole Hispanic culture and language that combined indigenous, African, and European elements. On 23 September 1868, Ramón Emeterio Betances unleashed a revolt against Spanish rule, declaring for the first time the idea of Puerto Ricans as a distinct people, with right to sovereignty. This revolt, known as El Grito de Lares, was eventually put down by Spanish forces, but the movement continued. In 1898, following the Spanish-American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Since then, Puerto Rico has remained an unincorporated territorial possession, making it the world's oldest colony.
Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917, and can move freely between the island and the mainland. As it is not a state, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, which governs the territory with full jurisdiction under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. However, Puerto Rico does have one non-voting member of the House called a Resident Commissioner. As residents of a U.S. territory, American citizens in Puerto Rico are disenfranchised at the national level and do not vote for the president or vice president of the United States, and only some residents pay federal income tax. Like other territories and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico does not have U.S. senators. Congress approved a local constitution in 1952, allowing U.S. citizens of the territory to elect a governor. Puerto Rico's future political status has consistently been a matter of significant debate.

Since Puerto Rico does not issue stamps, I chose four US stamps with a Puerto Rico theme. First the flag from the Flags of our Nation series, two stamps from the tropical birds issue from 1998 and the stamp for the 250th anniversary of San Juan from 1971. The envelope came back from the San Juan main post office in just under a month, but again with a machine cancellation that ruined the two bird stamps.

Date sent: 6 June 2017
Date postmark: 29 June 2017
Date received: 4 July 2017
Number of days: 28
Envelope in collection: 209



Sunday, 24 November 2019

United States of America - South Dakota

In my World envelope collection I do not just want to have envelopes from stamp-issuing countries and territories, but also from other regions. This includes the 50 states of the United States of America. This envelope comes from the state of South Dakota, lying in the Midwestern region of the United States. It was the 40th state, admitted in 1889.

South Dakota is a U.S. state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux Native American tribes, who compose a large portion of the population and historically dominated the territory. South Dakota is the seventeenth largest by area, but the fifth smallest by population and the 5th least densely populated of the 50 United States. As the southern part of the former Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on 2 November 1889, simultaneously with North Dakota. Pierre is the state capital and Sioux Falls, with a population of about 187.200, is South Dakota's largest city.
South Dakota is bordered by the states of North Dakota (to the north), Minnesota (to the east), Iowa (to the southeast), Nebraska (to the south), Wyoming (to the west), and Montana (to the northwest). The state is bisected by the Missouri River, dividing South Dakota into two geographically and socially distinct halves, known to residents as "East River" and "West River".
Eastern South Dakota is home to most of the state's population, and the area's fertile soil is used to grow a variety of crops. West of the Missouri River, ranching is the predominant agricultural activity, and the economy is more dependent on tourism and defense spending. Most of the Native American reservations are in West River. The Black Hills, a group of low pine-covered mountains sacred to the Sioux, are in the southwest part of the state. Mount Rushmore, a major tourist destination, is there. South Dakota has a temperate continental climate, with four distinct seasons and precipitation ranging from moderate in the east to semi-arid in the west. The state's ecology features species typical of a North American grassland biome.
Humans have inhabited the area for several millennia, with the Sioux becoming dominant by the early 19th century. In the late 19th century, European-American settlement intensified after a gold rush in the Black Hills and the construction of railroads from the east. Encroaching miners and settlers triggered a number of Indian wars, ending with the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Key events in the 20th century included the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, increased federal spending during the 1940s and 1950s for agriculture and defense, and an industrialization of agriculture that has reduced family farming.

The stamps were affixed by me and come from the Flags of our nation, State birds and Greetings series and the stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of statehood. I sent the envelope to the post office in the capital Pierreto be postmarked. It arrived back in over two months with a nice datestamp, but again with a terrible black machine postmark.

Date sent: 2 May 2017
Date postmark: 28 June 2017
Date received: 4 July 2017
Number of days: 63
Envelope in collection: 207




Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Palau

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. The country contains approximately 340 islands, and together with parts of the Federated States of Micronesia, forms the western chain of the Caroline Islands. Its area is 466 km². The most populous island is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with the Philippines, Indonesia, and Micronesia.
The country was originally settled approximately 3.000 years ago by migrants from Insular Southeast Asia. The islands were first explored by Europeans in the 16th century, and were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1574. Following Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Imperial Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German-Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. After World War I the islands were made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Pacific Mandate by the League of Nations. During World War II, skirmishes, including the major Battle of Peleliu, were fought between American and Japanese troops as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defence, funding, and access to social services. Legislative power is concentrated in the bicameral Palau National Congress. Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product (GNP) derived from foreign aid. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency. The islands' culture mixes Micronesian, Melanesian, Asian, and Western elements. Ethnic Palauans, the majority of the population, are of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent. A smaller proportion of the population is descended from Japanese. The country's two official languages are Palauan (a member of the Austronesian language family) and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognized as regional languages.

For this envelope I first emailed Palau Post to ask what the rate was for a letter from Palau to the Netherlands and if older Palau stamps were still valid. I mailed on Friday and on Monday I got an answer from Edwin of the ROP Postal Service. Older stamps were still valid and the tariff was US$ 1,20. Online I bought a block of four stamps from 2016 with 'Rare birds of Palau'. Each stamp was US$ 1,50. I used the one with the Palau flycatcher. After one month it returned with perfect postmarks. There was a machine cancellation from Honolulu (Hawaii), but that was only a small one that did not touch the stamp.

Website of the Republic of Palau Postal Service: palaupost.org.

Date sent: 31 May 2017
Date postmark: 19 June 2017
Date received: 1 July 2017
Number of days: 31
Envelope in collection: 204



Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Guam

Guam is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the westernmost point and territory of the United States, along with the Northern Mariana Islands. The capital city of Guam is Hagåtña and the most populous city is Dededo. The inhabitants of Guam are called Guamanians, and they are American citizens by birth. The indigenous Guamanians are the Chamorros, who are related to other Austronesian natives of Eastern Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Guam has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983.
In 2016, 162.742 people resided on Guam. Guam has an area of 540 km². In Oceania, it is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands and the largest island in Micronesia. Since the 1960s, the economy has been supported by two industries: tourism and the United States Armed Forces.
The indigenous Chamorros settled the island approximately 4.000 years ago. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, while in the service of Spain, was the first European to visit the island, on 6 March 1521. Guam was colonized by Spain in 1668 with settlers, including Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Catholic Jesuit missionary. Between the 16th century and the 18th century, Guam was an important stopover for the Spanish Manila Galleons. During the Spanish-American War, the United States captured Guam on 21 June 1898. Under the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded Guam to the United States on 10 December 1898. Guam is among the 17 non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations.
On7 December 1941, hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was captured by the Japanese, who occupied the island for two and a half years. During the occupation, Guamanians were subjected to beheadings, forced labour, rape, and torture. American forces recaptured the island on 21 July 1944; Liberation Day commemorates the victory.
An unofficial but frequently used territorial motto is "Where America's Day Begins", which refers to the island's proximity to the International Date Line.

For the envelope from Guam I used the flag stamp from the Flags of our nation series and the 2007 air mail stamp with a view of Hagåtña Bay. The envelope arrived back in one month with two nice datestamps but also with a machine cancellation. Although different than earlier cancellations, it still ruined the beautiful stamps.

Date sent: 2 June 2017
Date postmark: 18 June 2017
Date received: 1 July 2017
Number of days: 29
Envelope in collection: 203