Postcrossing Blog

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

Continuing on their tour of the world, last year the Little Mail Carriers visited Terceira, a tiny Portuguese island in the archipelago of Azores. They were warmly welcomed by the local postcrossers, and discovered a land of mystery and delights, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll let them tell you all about it!

Olá everyone! We tagged along big Paulo and Ana to attend a Postcrossing meetup in the Terceira island, in the Azores. Can you spot it on a map? It’s a luscious archipelago made of 9 volcanic islands, halfway between Portugal and the USA. Terceira (aka, the “third”) was so named because it was the third island to be discovered by the Portuguese.

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To kick off the meeting, we were received by Angra do Heroísmo’s mayor, who generously took the time to introduce us to the history of the island and its many stories, both historical and geological. Angra is after all a UNESCO Heritage site, for being an obligatory port of call of the fleets that crossed the Atlantic in the 15th century, and also a testimony to the maritime exploration that allowed exchanges between the world’s great civilizations of the time.

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We admired downtown’s architecture, and even met Vasco da Gama, an important Portuguese explorer, who first sailed the sea route from Portugal to India. On the way back from his first voyage there in 1499, his brother got sick and eventually died in Terceira, where the fleet stopped for some time to grieve and recover.

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From the geological point of view, the Azores are a very interesting place as they’ve got 26 active volcanoes (8 of which are underwater)! The islands straddle the mid-Atlantic ridge, with 2 of them being on the North American Plate. We could see a lot of evidence of this volcanic origin all around us, on the dark rocks that have been used for centuries in walls and even mailboxes!

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We had the adventure of a lifetime when we visited Algar do Carvão, the chimney of a very old volcano — now without lava, of course. Have you ever been inside a volcano? It’s magical!

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Volcanic signs are everywhere in Terceira: from sea pools made of cooled lava to sulfur vents that still send off their stinky gases today! One of the most curious uses for the volcanic rocks is to grow wine. The vines are planted among basaltic rocks, protected from the winds by low rock walls. Basalt heats up in the sun and slowly dissipates its heat, sweetening the grapes and giving them a unique terroir.

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After learning some geology, we visited a couple of big churches (rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1980) and learned about the islands devotion to the Holy Spirit. On the right of the photo below you can see a “Império” (or “Empire”), which are colorful mini-houses used as central points for the festivities of the Holy Spirit.

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There are dozens of such Impérios in Terceira, all uniquely decorated. During the Pentecost period, children are made “emperor” for a week with great pomp and circumstance. The processions and banquets involved in the celebrations bring the local communities together and are a treasured part of the island’s heritage.

After touring Terceira, it was time to get together with the local postcrossers to write some postcards to all our friends. The locals were friendly and well-organized, and they put together a wonderful meeting, featuring lots of laughter and the local D. Amélias pastries which everyone loved!

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Lots of enthusiastic postcrossers (both from the continent and the islands) attended the meeting, and there was even a special postcard designed by a local artist, as well as a special postmark dedicated to Postcrossing to celebrate the occasion!

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We had a great time in Terceira, and are eternally grateful for the hospitality of the friendly postcrossers there! Hopefully we’ll be back soon to explore more of the beautiful Azores archipelago…

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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!

Previously on this series, we’ve talked about musicians and writers, but what about other artists from your country? Are there any inspiring (past or present) visual artists whose work you find interesting or iconic?

In February, write about a visual artist from your country.
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Ok, I’ll go first! One of the most striking Portuguese-born painters of our time is Paula Rego. Her works are often unsettling and raw, maybe even grotesque… and yet so full of power. They feature strong female characters prominently, in a clear drawing style that blends fantasy and realism by mixing fairy tales, folklore and political issues. The result is an indescribable imaginary universe, that feels very much a part of our national artistic heritage.

What about your country? Are there any painters, photographers, filmmakers, designers or other artists you’d like to spread the word about? Let other postcrossers know about them in the postcards you send out this month!

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February is a busy month in the mail calendar, and we can’t wait for it to start! Are you ready? :)

Letter Month

I love a good mail challenge, and since February is the “Month of Letters”, it is time to dust off your special stationery and put pen to paper! It’s the perfect opportunity for reconnecting with family and friends, sending a Valentine card to your special someone, saying thank you to the helpful people in your life… or simply surprising strangers across the world with postcards! 😉

The rules of the Month of Letters challenge are simple:

  • Mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture or a cutting from a newspaper… anything goes!
  • Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

That’s it! The challenge started back in 2012, after Mary Robinette Kowal decided it was time for a break from the internet. She spent a month offline, and asked her friends to communicate with her through letters. The results were relaxing and intimate, so she decided to invite others to join, sparking a flurry of correspondence.

Mail Carrier Appreciation Day

Another happy mail-related event coming up is Mail Carrier Appreciation Day, which happens every year on February 4th. This is the day to celebrate our trusty mail carriers, who make it possible for this hobby to exist by delivering all our postcards!

The date falls on a Monday this year, so make sure to make something nice for your mail carrier and give them a smile in the beginning of the week. Pour your gratitude into a thank you note that you’ll deliver (or affix to your mailbox) for them to discover on their rounds. I’m sure it’ll be the highlight of their day week!

If you can, take a photo of what you did to celebrate this special day, and share a link to it in the comments! 😊

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Alexander (aka puzzlel) from Germany says he started drawing as a little child, and never really stopped. Although he considers it just a hobby, his hand-drawn postcards are a work of beauty! We were enchanted by his talent and decided to ask him a few questions about them.

How did you discover Postcrossing? What made you stay?

One year ago my aunt Karin and her husband Meck introduced me to Postcrossing. I bought some postcards and started. Address No 8 was supposed to go to a postcrosser in America. She wrote in her profile: “Handmade cards are like a gift ~ I love them!” I thought about it and sent her my first handmade card DE-6864388. That – and her very positive reaction when she received the card – was the starting point. You can guess: I owe her a million thanks!

Puzzlel drawn postcards

I don’t know what makes me stay. Sometimes I think I got addicted to making postcards…

As I understand it, you find your inspiration for the postcards on the profiles assigned to you. Could you explain a bit the process of making these postcards?

I get the new address, read the profile and try to find something in the list I could draw or paint. It must be something I am happy with. Sometimes it is pretty easy, for example if the receiver is fond of pineapples or elephants I know what to do. Sometimes I have to think about it for quite a while. If I have no idea at all I read the text to my kids: they have enough ideas!

Next step: I need a reference. I cannot make a pineapple just out of my head without a photo or a real pineapple in front of me. I look in the internet for a proper photo; I check my sketch books for a drawing I could use as reference; I ask my kids “Guys! Does anyone of you have a photo of Darth Vader/a pig/a cat/Lucky Luke/an ice bear? Maybe in one of your books?” Or I ask “Would you mind borrowing me your teddy bear/Eifel tower/plastic scull/little locomotive for a while?”

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Then I start to paint or to draw.

There is an important post process as well. I send a photo of every postcard to my aunt Karin (the game does not work without her comments) and I show the card to my wife and my kids for quality check. Sometimes I have to do corrections.

When the card is about an animal or a plant I usually write the name of it in the language of the receiver and in German on the card. A Chinese and a Russian friend help me to check my writing. Once I made a funny mistake: for the animal “Seehund” I wrote the Chinese word “sealing”. It took a while to understand: google does not translate directly German to Chinese, but German to English and then English to Chinese. The English word for “Seehund” is seal.

Do you have a favourite postcard that you’ve made?

On very rare occasions I stood in front of the letterbox with the new postcard in my hand thinking: No! I would like to keep this one! … I remember that it happened with DE-6959811, DE-7169621 and lately DE-7761999 (still traveling). So I guess these are my favourite ones.

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How much time do you need for a postcard and where do you find the time to make them?

It depends. Usually it takes one or two hours. Not counting the time thinking about what to paint/draw.

Over the years my wife and I watched less and less TV. Last year we replaced it by a fireplace (much better program…). Think of all the free time you generate in the evenings when you stop watching TV and reduce internet surfing to a minimum!

On the weekend I wake up the same time as every day. While my lazy family stays in bed I have one or two hours just for me to do a little painting. And to listen to music they are not so very fond of, like Miles Davis.

Puzzlel drawn postcards

Thank you Alexander for this wonderful interview! You can see more of his postcards on his Sent gallery.

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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!

Happy New Year, everyone! May your mailboxes be filled to the brim with happy postcards this year!

This writing prompt came from Danny (aka WildernessCat), who suggests you start your January postcards like this:

“I will tell you three things about my country: two are true, and one is false. Try to guess which one I made up…”

And then, you should follow that introduction by writing 2 true facts about your country, and one false fact. Bonus points if you make the false fact believable and tricky to guess, to really test your recipient’s knowledge and make them want to discuss it with you on the registration message. Ok, I’ll go first then…

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I will tell you three things about Portugal, two are true and one is false. Try to guess which one I made up:

  • Portugal has the second longest bridge in Europe.
  • It never snows in Portugal.
  • Portuguese is an official language in 10 countries.

So, what do you think? Did you guess the fake fact there… or did you really believe that there is no snow in our little southern country? We do have a couple of big mountains, and it’s cold up there — you can even ski in one of them! And yes, we do have a 13km-long bridge and Portuguese is the 6th language with most native speakers in the world.

This was a surprisingly tricky prompt to write though, inviting some reflection on our own stereotypes and even a request for help from other Portuguese postcrossers. Which true and false facts will you mention on your postcards this month?

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