Postcrossing Blog

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

May is here, and it’s time to vote for the best EUROPA stamp of the year!

This year’s EUROPA stamp competition is all about our feathered friends: kingfishers and storks, eagles and cranes, robins and swallows, they all have their place in the philatelic spotlight. Here’s a small selection:

EUROPA stamps 2019

Even if this is a topic that has been covered many times before, there are still some interesting illustrations and colorful sights in this year’s choices. A few of these stamps can even be scanned with an app, so that you can hear the birds chirping away!

Voting is open until September 9th, so go have a look at the all the pretty stamps and cast your vote!

PS – If your country is participating this year, what did you think did of your national bird stamps? And which one did you vote for? 🐦 Let us know in the comments below!

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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!

This month, our suggestion is all about museums. We love a good museum, where carefully curated collections and exhibitions contribute to scientific knowledge while sparking a universe of learning possibilities!

In May, write about your favorite museum.
Portugal Communications museum

Do you have a favorite museum? Paulo and I like quirky museums, but our favorites so far (no surprise here!) are usually related with mail history.

In Lisbon, the Communications Museum has a wonderful exhibition where you can learn about the postal history of Portugal, from the first mail coaches to its present day modernization. There’s also an interesting section containing a recreation of a real post office, where you can pretend to be either a postal worker or a customer waiting to get some stamps! After so many years being on the customer side of the counter, it’s surprisingly fun to move behind the counter to do the job ourselves. Things look different from there!

So, what about your own country? Which national museum is your favorite? Which place should a postcrosser definitely visit if they find themselves in the area? We invite you to share your best museum tips on the postcards you send this month.

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Michele (aka mikebond) comes from Italy, but currently lives in France. He’s a big fan of languages and can speak lots of them, including Portuguese — not an easy feat! Michele is also a big enthusiast of Postcrossing meetups, which is how we’ve met him a few times already. :) Here he is:

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I have always loved sending and receiving postcards to friends and family members. At high school I started penpalling with people from several countries, but sadly I lost contact with them when I started university and had no time left to write meaningful letters.

So, imagine my excitement when, in 2008, Pinar, a fellow Turkish member of VirtualTourist.com, told me about a website where you could send and receive postcards to and from all over the world. I immediately loved the idea of having my mailbox full of beautiful postcards and messages from strangers. Back in 2008, Finland was the most represented country on Postcrossing, and some people moaned about getting “always Finland!” (later, the recurring moan turned into “always Russia!”), but postal fares were cheaper, waiting times shorter, and it was easier to send to, or receive from rare countries. I received some of my rarest postcards in 2008 or 2009.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Definitely drawing addresses, with the hope of getting a rare country, or an inspiring profile! Then reading the profiles and finding the appropriate postcard for each recipient.

Of course, opening my mailbox and finding beautiful postcards in it is just as amazing! The first thing I do when I get one is to read the message and look at the decorations and stamps. To me, an outstanding back side makes the ugliest postcard pretty!

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

This is the mailbox where I post my postcards in my Breton village:

mikebondmailbox

We don’t have a real post office here, but only a “post relay”, i.e. a desk inside the mini-market, whose owner also provides postal services. The closest post office is in the nearby town, 5 kms far away, so I rarely go there. I always order my stamps online since La Poste’s online shop ships stamps orders within a couple of days and for free if you spend over 25 euros. Postmen here deliver the mail in yellow vans, between 10am and midday.

I keep most of my official Postcrossing cards in albums like this:

mikebondalbum

And since space is limited in my albums, I keep postcards from swaps, RAS, etc on piles like these:

mikebondpile
Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

I was amazed when I received not one but two postcards from Mauritius in 2015, sent by Jordan and Tamera, two young siblings who had drawn my address simultaneously: MU-3168 and MU-3173!

More recently, I was extremely surprised when I drew an address on the Isle of Man. I was so happy to be able to send a postcard to this fellow Celtic land with only 25 postcrossers! And the recipient, Andrea, loved it, too!

Have you met any other members in real life?

I still cannot explain to myself how on Earth I could be a postcrosser for over 9 years without ever attending a Postcrossing meetup! Since I organised, and attended, my first two meetings in Italy in October and November 2017, traveling to such events has become an essential part of my Postcrossing experience. It is so much more fun to write postcards with old and new friends than at home alone!

So far, I have attended 15 meetings in seven different countries (Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Austria, Norway, Luxembourg and the latest in Belgium).

This photo was taken during my birthday dinner in Lisbon on 7 May 2018, two days after the awesome international meeting I attended there!

mikebondbday

I would have never imagined I could have such an international celebration with new friends from Portugal, Belgium and Norway, but Postcrossing made it possible! Since my very first meetup, I have become increasingly convinced that “Postcrossing is real only when shared”, just like happiness.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

It is almost impossible to pick ONE favorite postcard out of about 2700, but I will choose this one:

mikebondfav lFAHqrKo

(Back of postcard posted with permission)

I have chosen it because it is the most beautiful Christmas card I have received so far. Christmas time is often a sad time of the year for me, but postcards like this one, wisely chosen, brightly decorated, and with awesome Christmas stamps, made it lighter than usual.

Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

Yes! After my first meetup in 2017, I was interviewed by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which prompted over 400 Italian readers to join Postcrossing.

Moreover, my stories about postcards and meetings inspired a few (virtual) friends to try Postcrossing, including my Catalan tutor Carol. We even organized a Postcrossing meeting in her Catalan village in October 2018.

Sadly, I have never been able to inspire my family members to join Postcrossing. After more than ten years since I joined it, they still think I am a bit crazy!

Do you have any other interesting hobbies, or things that you’re passionate about?

Unfortunately (?), I have always been too curious about everything, so I have always had such a variety of hobbies that I often lack the time to devote to each of them.

My main hobby has been learning languages since I started studying French and English at junior high school. At high school I picked up Latin and German, then added a language after the other. Today I know a dozen of languages and have some knowledge of twice as many.

My other vital hobby has always been travelling. Since I was 7 years old, my parents and I travelled to a different part of France every summer for several years. When I was 17, I started attending summer school abroad (in England, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, and Slovenia). After that, I started travelling on my own and never stopped. I have travelled to half of the European countries and I aim to visit all of them. My latest visited country was Norway in July.

Another hobby I have nurtured since I was a child is collecting stuff: mostly coins and stamps, but also museum or transport tickets. In spite of this, I have never seen “official” Postcrossing as a way of increasing a collection, as its social aspect has always been more important to me.

More hobbies include reading, taking photos… and I must be forgetting something!

Besides these, I have been interested in Europe’s culture, society, and politics since I was a teenager. I used to volunteer for an Italian political party when I was in my early twenties, but now I no longer belong to any because I find it increasingly difficult to identify with one.

Since I have been living in the Breton countryside without a driving license and with an e-bike as my only autonomous means of transport, I have become increasingly passionate about riding my e-bike (I hadn’t ridden a bike for at least 15 years before buying my first one here in Brittany!) and interested in topics like slow/green mobility and alternative travel styles. I look forward to going on my first bike journey across Europe, hopefully soon!

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BrainTrust Canada is a Canadian foundation that supports people who suffered brain injuries as a result of traumatic and non-traumatic injuries such as stroke, car crashes, falls and diseases. Although often invisible from the outside, brain injuries bring about dramatic changes that many people struggle with for their whole lives, including poor fine motor skills and social isolation… which is where Postcrossing can come in! Writing short texts can help improve some of those abilities, and also increase contact with the world.

Realizing this, Arlene (aka whodalalee) decided to help others in the organization use Postcrossing for this purpose. Last year, she created an account for them on the website, and invited BrainTrust members to participate in monthly meetings to go over the postcards received and to write some together. Arlene even made a board with a map where postcards are shown and everyone that walks by can interact with!

btc

We asked Arlene how the experience was going, and this is what she told us:

“It is a healing time once a month for us…we listen to soft music, chat a little but mostly, it is the companionship that is happening that they love. I print out the profiles we have been given and they all get to chose who they want to write to. Of course the benefit of connecting with the world outside of our injury is so exciting and helps with the re-generation of our neurons in our brains too! When you have a brain injury, you have to learn about your ”new you" and this makes a person very introspective and self indulgent, because we have to work on ourselves only before we can expand into the “normal” world. Postcrossing has been a step into the world beyond injury, and this is a BIG step and exciting step for all of the clients who share in our Postcrossing Partners Group."

Congratulations Arlene — what a brilliant idea! 😊 We love seeing all the different ways in which the Postcrossing community uses postcards to connect (and heal) the world. If you’re inspired by this story and have an idea for a partnership that would make the world a better place, get in touch!

If you’d like to send Arlene and the group at BrainTrust a postcard, here’s their address:

Brain Trust Canada
c/o Arlene Hildred
938 Neptune rd.
Kelowna, BC V1X 3E5
CANADA

PS: Quick update from Arlene, to show us some of the postcards they’ve received so far:

20190510 12124620190510 121321

She mentions that their little group has been overwhelmed with the warmth of the senders and the inspiring stories everyone has shared with them. Hurray! 😍

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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!

This month, let’s talk history.

In April, talk about a famous person from your country’s history.
Written postcard

I agonized over this prompt for a long time, no historical figure seeming quite right… and then a couple days ago over dinner, our friend Tiago (aka ogait) asked: “How about Aristides?” and suddenly I felt really stupid. But of course!

Aristides de Sousa Mendes was a Portuguese consul in southern France when World War II broke out. Portugal was a neutral country and thus an appealing destination for the many people displaced by the war… but these were the dictatorship years. Fearing economic and political chaos, the authoritarian regime in power tightened the border controls and all consulates and embassies were issued strict orders to avoid giving out too many passports and transit visas.

But did Sousa Mendes care? No! He immediately disobeyed the order, on grounds that it was “an inhumane and racist directive”. Despite being officially reprimanded, he continued issuing thousands of visas to refugees who flocked to his embassy in Bordeaux. He was eventually called back to Lisbon, where he was trialed and suffered disciplinary punishments.

The regime took credit for receiving all those refugees, and history books of the time mention the benevolence of the dictator… but in reality, it was Sousa Mendes (and a few people like him) who disobeyed the law and made Portugal a safe haven for many. Alas, they never made a movie about him(*), and his role in history was only recognized many decades later, when it was discovered that he had granted over 30,000 people safe passage to Portugal.

So… which historical character of your own country would you pick? We invite you to share something about a national historical figure in the postcards you send out this month.

(*) I stand corrected: Jéssica (aka J2404Pt) sent me a nice message to let me know they did make a movie about Aristides in 2011! It’s called the Consul of Bordeaux, and I’m off to the local library, to see if they have it there. Brilliant!

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