Stamps Hunting: Amsterdam and Athens, Greece

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Amsterdam, Holland

First off, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011! May it bring prosperous and joyous year to you! So for my winter break I went to Amsterdam and Athens for one week. I finally get a break from busy schedule in the hospital everyday. The holiday is definetely a good excuse to escape the bitterly cold winter in Ireland where pipes get blocked or even burst. My visit to Amsterdam was very brief as it served only as a transit to Greece. Nevertheless, I had about one full day to spend in the city. Finding a stamp shop was one of my primary motives in Amsterdam as I've enjoyed all the fun in the city including the notorious red light district and the breathtaking windmills when I visited the city 2 years ago. This time I was determined to look for another attraction the city has to offer.

Stamps shop Amsterdam

Amsterdam on the 20th December was covered in snow. This made walking a bit difficult, slippery and wet. Finding philatelic shops without prior knowledge of the street was like finding rare stamps - you only find it if you are lucky. Fortunately I managed to find some 3 stamps shops in Nieuwezijds Voorbugwal Street after a long walk. The bad thing about stamps hunting in Christmas time is that many shops are closed and it was good enough that one of the three shops was open.

I went in and was duly greeted in Dutch. Then, realizing that I was clueless in Dutch the old man asked me "hello, how may I help you?". I said to him that I was looking for Borneo stamps and he then asked me "you mean Sarawak, Labuan, Brunei and North Borneo?" "Yes that", I replied, slightly amazed to the fact that he knows about the British Borneo. "Well I have some covers, postcards and some stamps, but unfortunately my assistant is not around today, he's usually the one handling that area of specialty, but you can come back again tomorrow...". I explained to him that I will be in Amsterdam only for the day and that I have to fly to Athens that night, so I requested to just see the collection, but unfortunately he didn't know where exactly the stamps were and insisted that I come back the next day.

After many futile attempts, I gave in and asked him whether he would take my email, but then being a traditional seller and IT-illiterate he said that he had no email and that he's not very familiar with selling stamps online. In the end, all I got was a picture of the shop :( The moral of the story is, plan your visit and stay longer in any one city.

Athens, Greece

Temple of Poseidon

I stayed in Athens for about a week visiting some Greek Islands, the ancient Greek ruins and temples. It was a fascinating country with beautiful panoramic scenes. But stamps-wise, it's no better than Amsterdam. I only started to look for stamps shops on Christmas eve which was of course pretty silly as many shops were closed. Finding a stamp shop in Athens was slightly more difficult than in Amsterdam as I didn't know much of the Greek letters, only relying from my vague Maths and Physics symbolisms. I had to look up in the internet so as not to waste my time wandering the many streets in the vast city. Nonetheless, I managed to find 2 stamps shops, both of which were closed. Both were situated in Stadiou street (10 and 39) between Syntagma and Omonia square.

Stamps shop in Stadiou 10

There are of course many other stamps shops in Athens but I didn't bother to visit them as I know they're closed. Even the philatelic museum in Fokianou street was closed around Christmas time. Many other shops were closed as well, but I still get the chance to visit some interesting shops selling antique stuffs such as old coins and banknotes. Although I'm not a big fan of collecting these, I ended up spending hours looking at the old Greek currencies from one street to another. They're just interesting with varying designs incorporating the ancient Greek gods and mythology. My personal favourite was the old coin depicting an owl, which resembles closely to the current 1 Euro coin from Greece.

A visit to Mediterranean Greece was supposed to be an escape of the Irish winter. Although a year back, we heard of a violent riot in the city against the police, the city was actually quite peaceful during my visit. Nevertheless, I've seen some remnants of vandalisms on public buildings and facilities - the post office included. A post office just facing the Syntagma square had its window broken and smeared with red paints. Its kiosk vending stamps was burnt to the point of non functionality. But overall, the city was pleasant enough that I would consider coming back again, that time perhaps I would hunt for the awe-inspiring Hermes head stamps of Greece!

Old Greek coins in Monastiraki area


The Greek Postboxes in Syntagma

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love this post. You absolutely did the right thing ie taking photos and showing us the one thing we all look for when we travel. Have stamps will travel.
Yum Cha Gang KK

Marcel said...

Hi,

Thank you for your comment! I guess looking for stamps while travelling in different country gives that extra sense of thrill and excitement. You'll never know what you'll find! This is the real 'hunt' in every sense of the word. :)

Happy New Year,

Marcel

Игорь Шереметьев said...

Visiting Phuket and Krabi (Thailand) I've been looking for some stamps. On Phuket there's the stamp museum, a great place to visit. but to find some stamps, even modern is a great pain. finally I found some old Burmese and Thai stamps, not very rare, but... As well on Krabi I bought a post card, some valid stamp for international mail service and decided to send this card to my home address. I hoped it would be a good souvenir and a collecting item. but I never get this postcard...

Marcel said...

Hahaha...visiting a brick-and-mortar stamps shop means you get the opportunity to buy some stamps, although they are usually a bit more expensive than to the ones offered online. Some shops though do not sell online which makes the visit a potentially rewarding one. In Greece, I did the same, I bought a couple of beautiful postcards and sent home purely for souvenir purposes because I thought it's better to have a postcard used postally rather than an empty one. As of now, I haven't got them...probably next week...fingers cross... :)

Anonymous said...

hi Marcel,
I am Teck Hwa, Goh, from Penang.
Nice to know somebody like you. i thought i am the only one who will hunt high and low for stamp shops whenever i go for vacation. My most recent adventure was in Rome, Italy- i managed to find some old first day covers, mid modern coins at the stalls near central station and a posh stamp shop Bolaffi at de Conti and of course Vatican stamps and covers at museum area.

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