Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "germany"

Earlier this year, we started noticing a lot of tweets about articles featuring Postcrossing, published in newspapers like The Saturday Star in South Africa, or The Citizen in Tanzania… but also in a lot of other publications, from Ethiopia to Bangladesh. Our curiosity was piqued! Turns out, this was the work of Rainer (aka rainerebert), who was doing his best to spread the word about Postcrossing in these “rare countries” by taking the time to interview local postcrossers in each country, and then writing articles with their experiences for all these newspapers. We were in awe of his efforts and enthusiasm (which earned him the Ambassador badge) and decided to interview him for the blog. 😊

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?
Posting a postcard at the Southmore Post Office, Houston, Texas, USA

I have been fascinated by the mail for as long as I can think. All you need is a stamp and your letter or postcard will be carried to (almost) any corner of the world. If you think about the logistics of it, the coordination and agreements between countries and private companies, the technology, and the vast network of planes, helicopters, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, bicycles, and feet required to make the system work, it is simply amazing. I remember, as a child, whenever I went on a trip somewhere with my parents, I sent postcards back home. I wrote to my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, friends, my teachers, and the old lady who ran the little grocery store in my grandparents’ village. I imagined how finding the postcards in their mailboxes would put smiles on their faces. My postcards often arrived back home long after I did, but that did not matter. What I wanted is for the people back home to have a physical token that proves I was thinking about them while I was away.

This fascination for the mail persists to this day, and I got hooked immediately when I came across Postcrossing in 2015. How I came across Postcrossing, I do not remember, but I probably googled something related to the mail.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I am curious about the world, and I love to travel! To date, I have had the privilege to visit about fifty countries. A distant dream is to have visited all of them someday. If I can make it at least halfway to achieving that dream, I think I will be satisfied.

My greatest adventure so far was a three-month motorcycle ride with friends in 2011, from my hometown of Adelmannsfelden in Southwest Germany to Cape Town in South Africa. We covered a total of approximately 13,000 km (or 8077 miles), crossing twelve countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. We made many friends along the way, and we found that Africa is home to some of the world’s warmest and most welcoming people. I have written about the motorcycle trip here, and here, hoping to inspire others to go and make friends in Africa as well.

Rainer in the Sahara Desert in Sudan in 2011
Rainer in the Sahara Desert in Sudan in 2011

There is much to learn and experience on all continents, but I am particularly fond of Africa and I think more people from other parts of the world should travel there. Too often, people think of Africa as if it was a single country, rife with disease, poverty, hopelessness, and corruption. This tiring image is at best misleading, and has little to do with reality! In fact, Africa is all but monolithic, and arguably the most diverse continent of all. Africa is full of hope, joy, and energy, and incredibly rich in history, culture, language, food, wildlife, and natural beauty.

I have been trying to capture some of the beauty of Africa, and the other places I have been to, with my camera, and photography has become another hobby of mine. You can see some of my photos on my website.

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

Besides Germany, where I was born and raised, there are three more places that I consider home: Texas, where I live and went to graduate school, Bangladesh, where I have family and friends and try to go once or twice every year, and Tanzania, where I taught philosophy at the University of Dar es Salaam from 2017 to 2019. I have sent postcards from all of these places.

University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
My PO box at the University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
My PO box at the University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

In Tanzania, my post office is the University Hill Post Office in Dar es Salaam, where I still have a PO box. I went there so often that the two nice ladies working there, Leah and Winnie, treat me like family. The same is true for Romana, who works at the Jigatola Post Office in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s bustling capital. I will print copies of this interview and mail them to Leah, Winnie, and Romana! I hope they will be inspired to help promote Postcrossing in their communities, and maybe even join Postcrossing themselves.

Jigatola Post Office, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Jigatola Post Office, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Whenever I go to Bangladesh or Tanzania, I try to send as many postcards as I can, as both countries are sadly still underrepresented on Postcrossing. In Texas, the post office closest to where I live is the Southmore Post Office, where I usually go with my bicycle to send greetings from Houston to wherever the Postcrossing website tells me to send them!

My bicycle in front of the Southmore Post Office, Houston, Texas, USA
My bicycle in front of the Southmore Post Office, Houston, Texas, USA
Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

Each postcard is as unique and special as the person who wrote it. But if I have to pick one postcard, I will pick the one and only one I got from Hungary, in 2016 (HU-111390).

Postcard from Hungary HU 111390
Postcard from Hungary, HU-111390

It is special to me because my grandmother was born in Baranyajenő in Hungary, and lived there until being expelled by the Hungarian government in June 1946. She then had to start her life all over again in Germany… When I was nine years old, our whole family went to visit my grandmother’s village home in Hungary, and the postcard brought back good memories of that trip.

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

There are not many Postcrossers in Bangladesh and Tanzania, so whenever I go to these countries I try to convince new people to join, with some success. I especially encourage my students to join, as I think Postcrossing is a wonderful way to learn, about other cultures and places.

Postcards I have sent from Tanzania via Postcrossing
Postcards I have sent from Tanzania via Postcrossing

A few months ago, I spoke to some of the most active Postcrossers in Bangladesh and Tanzania, and also in Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Africa, to find out what keeps people in these countries from joining Postcrossing. One reason that I was given again and again is cost. Postage rates are relatively high, which is very unfortunate, as those living in low-income countries rarely have the opportunity to travel abroad and would benefit the most from exchanging postcards with people in other countries. My conversations with these Postcrossers were published in a number of newspapers in their respective countries, and I hope some readers were inspired by my articles to join.

Is there anything that you are passionate about?
Rainer s PhD graduation at Rice University in Texas in 2016

I am a moral philosopher by profession, and I believe that philosophers should not confine themselves to the ivory tower, but spend at least some of their time actively working to achieve a broader presence of philosophy in public life. Philosophy can make a meaningful contribution to society, not least in that it can help people to think more clearly and critically about important social and policy issues.

I try to do my part and apply philosophy in the columns that I regularly write for newspapers around the globe. I have written on topics such as same-sex marriage, homophobia, transgender rights, veganism and animal rights, everyday racism, anti-refugee sentiment, open borders, religious tolerance, free speech and censorship, capital punishment, children’s rights, illiberal populism, and effective altruism. A common theme of much of my writing is the importance of individual freedom, about which I am particularly passionate.

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The day has come at last! The German postcrossers have been enthusiastically keeping track of their December postcards, and it is now time to reveal to the whole community how many postcards for a good cause were sent from Germany last year.

Ready to find out? Let’s do this!

Postcrossers in Germany sent a total of 99,683 postcards during December, raising €9,968.30 for Stiftung Lesen!
Cards for Literacy results

Woohoo! This has been the best result yet in all the years we’ve been running the Cards for Literacy campaign with Deutsche Post! Our fleißig German postcrossers absolutely smashed last year’s record! 🎉 We’re proud beyond words, and thankful for each and every one of these postcards, whose corresponding donations are soon going to be put to a good use.

And naturally, if you’ve registered a postcard from Germany sent in December, you’ve also been a part of this campaign! Thank you for registering your postcards promptly, and contributing for this amazing result.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to Deutsche Post, for collaborating with Postcrossing and standing by their commitment to improve literacy in Germany, year after year. Bravo! 🎉

All that is left to do is for Paulo to run his magic script to choose the winners of this year’s prizes. If you’re in Germany and participated in this campaign, keep an eye on your email — you should receive a message soon, if you’ve won a prize. 😊

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Sometime ago, we received a wonderful handcrafted postcard from Noa (aka Chenoah) in Germany. On it, she mentioned the struggles of living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a debilitating chronic illness. She also mentioned how Postcrossing is an outlet for her creativity and helps her connect with the world while being housebound.

Over the years, we’ve heard from several postcrossers with similarly serious conditions, about how important this activity is for them — sometimes on aspects that hadn’t even crossed our minds. So, in an effort to raise awareness about these realities and understand them a bit better, we’ve asked Noa a few questions about her life and her interaction with the world through Postcrossing.

For someone who doesn’t know, what is it like to live with chronic fatigue? What are some of the challenges that you face?

Chenoah from GermanyWhen they stumble upon the word “fatigue”, healthy folks think of being tired… but clinical fatigue is more like an overwhelming exhaustion that healthy people don‘t experience. You’re so exhausted that you might be unable not just to move (thus leading to muscle weakness) but also unable to even grasp your own thoughts or speak. It’s not something that can be relieved by a couple of good nights of sleep or even a few weeks’ long holiday. It’s an exhaustion without a cause, that leaves you totally drained.

For instance, when I brush my teeth, I need to rest for a while afterwards, so that I can then attempt to slowly eat breakfast. And when I don‘t let myself have a break afterwards, digestion won‘t work well or even temporarily stop entirely. So it’s the little things that most people won’t even consider tiresome, which wipe me out entirely.

It’s hard to be taken seriously by doctors (especially as a twenty-something female), and it took me 8 years to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and to find a physician willing to treat me. And naturally, until your condition has been diagnosed, it’s hard to get health insurance companies to help. Besides these more technical things, are the very personal ones. I‘m relatively isolated. My regulars are my husband, my substitute carer friend, who lets him off duty for two hours each Friday, and my physiotherapist who does house calls.

Nevertheless, I am still fascinated that I have someone by my side. The more ill you are, the less opportunities of meeting people there are. Visits are a rare highlight, because they exhaust me terribly, and the same goes for phone calls. One friend is allowed to call on a regular basis. She‘s a “spoonie” too — which means, someone with illness that comes with extremely raised fatigability and difficulty in recovering energy. It‘s a whispered call with long pauses and lots of muffled laughter. Sometimes we cry together, which is a good thing. And then we laugh some more, because her jealous borderline-narcissistic cat Romi is screaming like an infant to get her attention.

How does Postcrossing work for you? What can you do yourself and on what parts do you help with?

Everything I do is slow and there are lots of interruptions, because I need some rest, but I am glad that the website is very well structured and I‘ve never lost my way so far.

Chenoah from GermanyPicking a card is a long process. I start with reading the profile and getting a feel for the recipient, sometimes looking into the favorites. I obviously can’t go out and shop for postcards, which I loved to do. I do have a huge stash, but walking to the boxes can be “iffy” and involve some help. Usually I end up in bed again, with 3 cards and the final decision postponed for after a break.

A concept or decoration will be thought up and I very consciously give my love, my time and my precious energy to the postcard. Art and creativity is totally my thing. I have found materials and ways to draw and paint in bed (I love water soluble crayons!), and I‘ve sent out some original artwork before or crafted cards using a print. My first two professional cards are in print at the moment, which is really exciting. They are published by a cooperative supporting initiatives helping people in all kinds of disadvantages, locally and globally.

Writing the Postcard IDs can be a little tricky, as my short-time memory is very impaired. My solution: I rap or sing them. This way, I manage to write four digits at once and the rest in a second go. Same goes for when I need to register the cards I receive.

My postcards are brought to the postbox by my husband, or the other two regulars. Even the physiotherapist has been my Postcrossing assistant a couple of times.

How does postcard writing help with some of the challenges?

Chenoah from GermanyI‘ve always been pretty active and busy… but no longer being sure that you can finish a certain task in time, is definitely not a good feeling. In this sense, a postcard can be quite therapeutic: it‘s just a piece of cardboard with an empty space, that even on not so good days looks manageable. I am able to take a postcard, hold onto it, focus my attention on the task of sending someone else a greeting. Though that might not sound like much, it actually is.

I‘d been studying psychology, when illness struck, and I am well aware of how easily chronic illness can lead to depression. Helplessness and desperation together are a really dangerous mixture. Being active changes your perception of the situation. You’re not as much at the mercy of your illness, but a human being doing something.

There are even some growth opportunities in Postcrossing. I don’t like profiles that are very demanding or defining what "real postcards“ are, or those that are mainly about collecting. As I have no way, to fulfill all those demands, in the beginning, I felt horribly cornered and was quite close to throwing in the towel. Now I am able to send them something made with love, time and more effort, he or she can imagine. Who knows when they last have been properly loved on. And of course I learned to let go, once I‘m done. I am not responsible for the happiness or contentment of another person. I try to do something for my recipients, the rest is entirely up to them.

What is your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

I love how it allows me to re-enter the world. In average years, I leave the house like five times a year, mostly to go to doctor’s offices or clinics. I‘m no longer able to watch TV, listen to radio, or be on social media, so the world I formerly felt part of, seems now very much disconnected. I‘m 42 years old now, but do often feel a culture shock not unlike someone who has been imprisoned for a long time when I am confronted with developments, topics, … I have no knowledge of or experience with. And I do have an urge to know about the world and it‘s people, as well as be part of the world.

I‘m scared of disappearing from the public eye so entirely, that I‘m kind of buried before I am actually dead. And despite my limitations and my little overall energy, the quality of this energy is very much alive and I am not planning of changing something about it. It just feels warm and fuzzy, to be able to share it with some random stranger friends. I‘ve been blessed with a few even becoming friends. We communicate per mail and email.

The postcards I get are like colorful specks of the world I miss so badly. We Germans even have words for it, “Fernweh” and “Weltschmerz”. I think, self perception happens almost always in the context of the world or groups of people you chose to surround yourself with. Isolation is a bummer and has you redefine yourself without the world… but I wanted a context, structure, a frame. And there came a welcoming rectangle, called postcard and invited me, to fill it with whatever makes me me.

And so the world, even though still very pixelated, is becoming perceivable again. Which makes me feel very grateful. Thanks a lot Postcrossing!

Do you have other hobbies or causes that you are passionate about?

I want the world to become a fairer and more peaceful place. And of course, to keep the world inhabitable, so I always try to not rush into decisions, but to be conscious and make as many healthy choices as possible. Anyone can help. I’ve got a small amount of money invested as Kiva loans, and I think of it as a human investment. My gain is, that I helped getting someone come closer to safety and being able to support a family.

I love animals so much that I am the godmother of Frederik, a teenager pig, growing at light speed. He has done the unthinkable and jumped off a pig transporter, only a few hours old. And he survived. I’m still completely in awe. I support Hof Butenland, the sanctuary at which he is at home now. (It’s a senior facility for former dairy cows, but they do have some other animals too). I am vegan, as best as I can under my given circumstances.

Then there is music. I’ve always been a musician and my wonderful husband and I formed a bond over immediately clicking musically, grooving and improvising including vocal harmonies, as if we had done this for ages. He is now my main carer and burdened by my illness as well. We still attempt to do one concert per year, and I sing and play strapped to my wheelchair, with my legs propped up onto a piano stool, to minimize the risk of losing consciousness. Of course, health-wise it’s a tremendously costly passion, but for my soul, it is sheer bliss because it really is my husband‘s and my favorite way of being a close unit. And we always transport messages and support causes with our concerts. So this is not just music: it is speaking out, being heard, contributing to a world and global society that is more just and fair than it is currently.

MEmi dolls, from Chenoah

I am also an ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) advocate, and I became a crochet artist when I became bedbound. And I‘ve made about 130 small dolls, called MEmis for fellow ME sufferers and a few others in need of some comfort, love and connection. Each doll is one of a kind and was made especially for this person. This project is coming slowly to an end, as I‘m no longer able to use Facebook, where many MEmi recipients are connected and where I received most requests. But as some even have their own blogs or social media, it seems to live on. Most “live” in Germany, but about a dozen is scattered all over the world.

This is still just a fraction of my interests and passions, as I am easily inflammable when it comes to enthusiasm and joy. And my dedication, once formed, doesn’t just go away.

Thank you Noa, for putting so much of your precious energy into this interview! ❤️ If you have some minutes to learn more about ME/CFS, we recommend this TED talk.

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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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