Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

The Little Mail Carriers did some island hopping earlier this year, from the Azores across the Atlantic Ocean to the Dominican Republic, where they were welcomed by the local community of enthusiastic postcrossers. Read on to learn about this sunny land and its many delights!

Hi everyone! That was a long ride in our envelope, and we’re really glad to finally be out to meet Stephanie, the friendly post officer that stamped our passport.

The Little Mail Carriers visit Dominican Republic!

After the formalities were done, our first order of business was to meet the local Postcrossing community! Everyone was super friendly and they had lots of ideas of things they wanted to show us. While they discussed and made plans, we tasted the delicious “Pasteles en hoja”, a local savory speciality.

Pasteles!

Our first host Ramón (aka ramonlora) showed us the old part of Santo Domingo, which is called the “Zona Colonial”. It is an area filled with monuments and landmarks that are often featured on postcards. We visited the impressive Basílica Catedral de Santa María de la Encarnación, the Alcázar de Colón, the Ovando Statue overlooking the Plaza España and the Ozama fortress.

Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo

We also checked out a curious landmark: the “Faro a Colón” (or, the Columbus lighthouse). It’s a peculiar lighthouse, as it was built quite inland, in the last decades of the XX century, when boats no longer relied so much on lighthouses for navigation. Why would they build it, then? Turns out, the cross-shaped lighthouse is more of a monument in honor of Columbus than a navigation tool. Its construction was quite controversial and took several decades until it was finished in 1992.

The Little Mail Carriers visit Dominican Republic!

After that, we went to see the thing that is featured in most Dominican Republic postcards… the beach! Though many beaches here are private, Juan Dolio is still free to visit and just an hour drive from Santo Domingo.

Julian Dolio beach

And what feels good after a day at the beach? Paletas, of course! These fruity ice-popsicles were a delicious treat on a warm day. On every corner there’s a fruit stall, and they will offer you a kaleidoscope of juicy and tasty fresh fruits, all year around.

Paletas!

On the next days, we hitched a ride with Darío (aka dariomartinezb) and drove to Santiago de los Caballeros, a city located about 160 kms Northwest of Santo Domingo, in the center of the Cibao Valley. It was founded by Cristopher Columbus in 1495, it had to be rebuilt some miles farther in 1562 due to a devastating earthquake.

Here we visited the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration), which is the most famous landmark in Santiago, and can be seen from almost every corner of the city. The Monumento is flanked by statues of the heroes that helped the still young Dominican Republic regain its independence in 1863, and it was an honor for us to stand by the feet of such brave men.

Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración

After that, it was time to pay a visit to the second-best place according to our host: the Cibao Stadium, home of the Cibao Eagles. Baseball is king in the Dominican Republic, and we imagined the crowd screaming "VUAL’ÁGUILA!” (that’s Go Eagles!) when there’s a home run.

Cibao Stadium

Our next host Hanley was waiting for us to visit Salcedo, hometown of the Mirabal Sisters, to visit their home and gardens which are now a museum.

Ever heard about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, commemorated worldwide on November 25th? The date has its roots on the Mirabal Sisters, three brave women that opposed Dominican ruthless ruler Rafael L. Trujillo and were killed by his orders on November 25, 1960. The three sisters and their husbands suffered countless horrors but endured them all and inspired the population to fight the dictator. Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal are called “Las Mariposas” (the butterflies) as they symbolize freedom and hope.

Visiting the Mirabal sisters museum

Driving southwest, we reached San Francisco de Macorís, a town known for being the epicenter of the Dominican rice industry, and also the birthplace of several national heroes. We had a look at the local parks and Victorian architecture houses that are featured in so many local postcards and also strolled around the Plaza de los Mártires (aka Martyrs Place) which honors the men that took part on the crucial expedition against Trujillo in 1959.

Plaza de los Mártires

While the mission failed, it helped increase the discomfort of the people and it’s said that this expedition, along with the Mirabal Sisters assassination, marked the tipping point of the regime. Less than two years after the expedition, the Dominican Republic was freed from the dictator.

Hanley also took us to Tenares where his dad is from, and where we played a dominoes tournament! It’s said that there are three things you can find in almost any corner in the Dominican Republic: a Colmado (small grocery store), a radio-set playing bachata, and a game of Dominoes.

Playing dominoes

Our last host for the trip was Namir (aka rosanza), who took us to Puerto Plata, the city where she was born. Puerto Plata is called the Bride of the Atlantic, and for good reasons. While nowadays most tourists will know Punta Cana and Bávaro (in the East), the Dominican enchanting love story with beaches and golden sands started in Puerto Plata, many decades ago. It remains a very popular destination, especially among Europeans, some of which love it so much that they decide to settle there. Cabarete and Sosúa, a few miles East of Puerto Plata, may properly be called European refuges for retirees and surfers.

Architecture in Puerto Plata

Namir’s parents keep a small museum at home, and just before we left, she showed us some curious artifacts, including this “iron made of iron” which was used to iron clothes before electricity was invented… can you guess how it worked?

Old ironing iron

Sadly, too soon it was time for us to go, but we treasure the memories we bring from this beautiful country! 💛

Our big thank you to everyone in the Dominican Republic who made this trip such a great adventure. Who knows where the Little Mail Carriers will pop up next? Stay tuned for their adventures!

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The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcard’s messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

Earlier this year, postcrosser Marg (aka MargLondon) sent BBC Radio 4 a really nice sound clip about her favorite sound, which was the sound of postcards being dropped through her mail slot. In the conversation we had with her afterwards, I discovered Marg had been collecting sounds for quite some time, all around the world. In her profile, she asks for members to write about what they hear in their city, home or room, and we thought this was a nice idea.

In November, write about the sounds of your area or your home.
Listening for sounds

So stand very still for a minute and listen carefully to the sounds around you. What do you hear?

From where I sit, I hear mostly swallows and sparrows chirping away. Some distance buzz from traffic, the rustle from the palm trees swaying in the wind… and Paulo, quietly typing away on his keyboard.

If I had to pick one sound to represent this region though, it would be the sound of cicadas in the summer. Their loud buzzing is a permanent soundtrack on warm days around here, starting quietly and then quickly increasing in volume as more of them join in, like a wave of sound. They’re so omnipresent in the region that for us, the song of the cicadas sounds like being home.

What about you, which sounds are special to your place? What do you hear all around you? And what memories do they stir? Let’s listen carefully and write about it on the postcards we send out this month.

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The Bridegroom's Oak

We love unusual post offices and mailboxes and have featured a few on the blog over the years, from Galapagos to South Africa to the underwater Post Office of Vanuatu. Today’s special postbox comes from somewhere a bit closer to us here in Europe, and is said to have magical matchmaking powers…

The Bridegroom’s Oak is a 500 year old tree in the Dodauer Forst forest in northern Germany, close to the Baltic Sea. It is a special tree, which has its own postal address! Why would it need its own postal address, you might ask? Well, hundreds of people write to the tree every year, in search of a love partner, someone to share their lives with. The tradition is said to have started from this story:

“The name of the tree derives from an incident in the late 19th century. The daughter of the head forester, Ohrt, and the son of a Leipzig chocolate maker, Schütte-Felsche, were in love but her father disapproved of the relationship, so they secretly exchanged letters by leaving them in the hole in the tree’s trunk. When Herr Ohrt gave in and granted his permission, they were married under the tree on 2 June 1891.”

And the rest is history, as they say! As their love bloomed and the story spread, many people started to write to the tree and visit it to read each other’s letters in the the hopes of finding love. So many people came that in 1927 Deutsche Post put up a ladder and gave the tree its own address. A postman was assigned to deliver these letters in a hole on the tree, and this continues to this day.

Many weddings have happened as a result of these letters and encounters, including the one from Karl-Heinz Martens, the postman who for years delivered mail to it. His wife wrote to him through the tree’s address after seeing a report about his special “tree-postman duties” on a TV channel, and they ended up meeting and falling in love. How sweet is that?

Interested in giving it a try, perhaps? :) The Bridegroom Oak’s address is:

Bräutigamseiche
Dodauer Forst
23701 Eutin
Germany

Let us know how it goes!

PS – A big thanks to Nhung (aka tthn235), who did the research for this post.

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Christa’s (aka reepeecheep) profile was brought to our attention by Norway_girl, who stumbled on it and was intrigued when reading this line:

“I am a librarian and collect everything about mice and rats. My collection is the biggest in the world and so I am holder of a Guinness Book Record – I got more than 47000 items.”

Wow… that seemed interesting! Our curiosity was piqued, and we immediately sent Christa a few questions about her unusual collection. She was super nice and let us know more about her unusual hobby and how things escalated to an impressive world record. Read on!

reepeecheep from Germany, has a large collection of mouse-themed items, and even a world record!
What prompted you to start collecting mice and rat-themed items?

My first husband died and I married again in 1991. My second husband is a geologist and had been collecting postcards about mining and mineral resources (he now has about 35000 and puts them online for the public). So I often went with him to fairs or postcard dealers to get cards for his collection. But I felt bored there, and I asked him what he would think about me collecting something. And he agreed. He suggested to collect mice and rats – that was the biggest fault he ever did in his life!!!

As a librarian I am a very systematic person, and when I act, I do it with all my heart. After two or three years, I went all in, collecting everything connected to my favorite animals. And as you know rodents are very fertile, so soon I ended up with hundreds and then thousands of items. We only had a small flat, but as space was getting tight we rented the apartment next door also. When we retired, we moved into a three storied house! Now every room is filled with mice and rats – even the basement, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the toilets.

reepeecheep's collection of mouse-themed items reepeecheep's collection of mouse-themed items

I am very lucky to have a husband who respects me and my spleen. When he starts to moan I always remind him that it was his idea!!! But on the other hand he is proud of me and it was he who had the idea to apply at the Guinness Book people.

Why rodents? Are mice or rats your favorite animal? Do you also have them as pets?

I had gerbils and rats as pets for years. These are very intelligent and cute animals. You can teach them tricks, and they are very cuddly. And I feel sorry for animals and humans, too, who are pursued. As a teenage I had some cute mice puppets which I liked very much. So at Christmas or for my birthday people gave me more mice figures and I had a little showcase where I put them.

reepeecheep's mouse figurines
How many items do you have in total? And how many of these are postcards?
reepeecheep's postcards

Back in 2004 when the Guiness record was accepted, I had 27623 items. In 2014, I beat my own record with 47398 items. Now five years later I got more than 50000.

Some portions: 4577 books, 3568 modern graphics, 11928 figurines, 27746 postcards (6265 vintage, 19408 modern, 1073 big ones)
 and 3585 greetings cards

Tell us about your postcards featuring these little animals. Do you receive and swap a lot of them through Postcrossing?

I am very happy to be part oft he Postcrossing family and ask people to send me rodent cards if possible. Until today I got 2266 cards from all over the world, and among them were 794 mice and rats!!! So this is more than one third! Some of them are repeated but I don’t mind as I know that it is not easy to find mice and rat cards. :)

Thank you Christa, that was wonderful! 🐭 By the way, any guesses as to where Christa got her username, “reepeecheep”?

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This year is filled with historical anniversaries it seems, and today is both the 145th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, and the 50th World Post Day. Unbeknownst to us, while we were busy setting up the big exhibition, the Little Mail Carriers decided to wander the halls of UPU and see what they could find… Here they are to tell you about their adventure!

The Little Mail Carriers at the UPU

Hi everyone! We hitched a ride and snuck out while Paulo and Ana were distracted. 😇 Want to tour the UPU headquarters with us? Come along!

So, first things first, the UPU is composed of 4 bodies: the Congress, the Council of Administration, the Postal Operations Council and the International Bureau (IB), which is where we are and also where 250 or so people from 50 different countries work. They’re all busy connecting the world’s post offices, working on their development in different areas or monitoring the quality of mail service worldwide. In a way, being inside the UPU is like being inside a “big machine” that makes mail work… just with more offices, and less levers and cogwheels.

UPU conference center UPU conference center

Policies are made mostly by people talking to each other and finding compromises and common strategies to solve problems, and the conference center is one of the places where those important conversations happen. It’s a huge room, where delegates from each country sit down to hear each other and debate. We hopped on to the podium to address the crowd… but they had all left already.

UPU conference center UPU conference center

There is an upper level balcony on the sides of the room, where observers and translators sit. French, English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish are the official languages of the UPU, though sometimes simultaneous interpretation is other languages is also provided. The meeting attendants just need to tune in on the channel to hear speeches and discussions in their preferred language. And when it’s time for a coffee break, someone rings this bell!

Sustainable Development Goals

Speaking of languages, here’s something cool: the stairs between floors feature the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, translated in different languages. If you’ve never heard of the SDGs before, these are a group of 17 resolutions adopted by all UN members in 2015 as a universal call to action to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030”. All UN countries and partnering institutions keep these in mind, so that they can work together towards the same goals.

Chinese Tapestry at UPU

One thing that surprised us was how much art was their headquarters had on display. On all floors, there was barely a wall that didn’t feature something stunning, like this huge tapestry gifted by China in 1974 on the occasion of the UPU’s centenary. Every country wants to contribute with something and after 145 years, you can imagine just how much beauty there is all around.

Tunisian Tile Mural at UPU

We were particularly impressed by this modernist mural by Tunisian artist Abdelaziz Gorgi, on display in the building’s cafeteria. It shows two musicians floating in a boat in a fantastical garden, surrounded by flying and swimming creatures… It’s so beautiful!

Postal vehicles collection at UPU Postal vehicles collection at UPU

There was also this collection of miniature postal vehicles, on loan from a retired UPU employee… we wish we could ride on all these cars and trucks. What a cool idea for a postal collection!

UPU offices UPU mail room

But it’s not all art and fun — a lot of work goes on in this building! This is the office of Mrs. Olfa Mokaddem, manager of the UPU philately and IRC programs. She let us take a peek inside and also showed us the mail room, where everyone that works here can receive their mail.

UPU library The UPU Library

They also have a huge library here, with a beautiful detail: the bricks that cover the walls feature these colorful crystal structures, like little geodes. They were a gift from Japan.

The Little Mail Carriers at the UPU

Before we left, there was still time to marvel at the view of the Alps from the rooftop, and say hello to Mr. Bishar Hussein, the current UPU director-general. He wanted us to let everyone know about the role of the posts not just in delivering mail, but also in delivering development and progress. Every year on World Post Day, he shares his thoughts about the evolving role of the post, and this year’s message can be found here.

On our way back to the backpack, we stumbled on a framed excerpt of the Treaty of Bern — the treaty that officially launched the UPU, signed on this day 145 years ago.

The Treaty of Bern

We felt a bit emotional looking at these two sheets of paper. This is where it all started: with an ambitious idea and these 22 signatures. Since then, the world has evolved and changed, and 192 countries are now part of this global network of postal cooperations, that continues to adapt, grow and connect us all.

Congratulations UPU, and happy World Post Day everyone!

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