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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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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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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.

view

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.

IMG 2365

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.

vascodagama

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!

cartas

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!

carvao

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.

volcanic

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.

imperios

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!

amelias

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!

meetupaz

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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Earlier this year, we noticed a curious link on Terry’s (aka Terry5) profile… which triggered a few enthusiastic email exchanges, and eventually ended with the Little Mail Carriers jumping onto an envelope headed to Ohio to check out a very special place. Come discover the Postmark Collectors Club, and their wonderful museum!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

Hi everyone! We traveled to the center of the USA to visit the National Postmark Museum, the premiere collection of the Postmark Collectors Club. Yes! There is a whole club devoted to the collecting, studying and enjoying the trusted postmark! The Club has been around since 1946 and a few years later some of the Club members formed a group collection of postmarks. When the collection began to grow, they actually put it into an old School Bus!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

The club’s membership comes from all across the USA and many other countries. Each year they hold an annual convention somewhere around the USA, getting together to share postmarks, stories and good wishes. The Museum has continued to grow and preserve material important to the field of postmarks and postal history. The Museum has been in a few homes along the way typically moving to larger spaces to house the holdings. Then it moved to Bellevue, Ohio, USA, into the Historic Lyme Village, where it has been since 1978.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

One of the largest single holdings is the Willett-Thompson Collection, and today it is held in more than 300 blue binders.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

We checked out many of the special collections including postmarks from Military Camps and Bases. “First Day Cover” with postmarks that were only cancelled on the first day that a new stamp is issued by the Post Office.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

There are so many of these in this collection, covering many years. Some of the other special collections here in the Museum include postmarks with slogans, “Pray for Peace” cancels, and individual U.S. state collections. Being mail carriers, we moved over to our favorite part of the museum, a collection of Post Office photographs.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

The museum has drawers and drawers holding more than 55,000 pictures of Post Offices including new and old ones, from around the USA and around the World. They have thousands more pictures in their on-line internet collection.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

Another cool stop on our journey was the assortment of memorabilia and artifacts from Post Offices, hand stamps, canceling devices, sorting windows, mailboxes… and even some model mail trucks! All of these tools helped move the mail. There is certainly a passion here for collecting and showing mail and postcards, especially those with interesting postmarks. Each letter and postcard has a story to tell and the cancel helps telling that story!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

PS – Thank you very much Terry and Ron for these wonderful photos and report! They were a nice distraction from the nail-biting wait for postcard number 50 million to be registered…

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As promised, here are the Little Mail Carriers to tell us all about their exciting visit to the Museum for Communication, in Berlin.

Hallo zusammen! We arrived at the museum in the early morning with lots of letters to deliver.

Museum for Communication building, in Berlin

After almost being run over by one of their cool robots, we started exploring the exhibitions. While we were marveling at the variety of mail boxes, we met Stefan, who was very happy to receive a letter from us. Did you spot him in the movie in our previous post?

The Little Mail Carriers meet Stefan

We also found a large collection of stamps in the exhibition and in the basement they have a “tableau” of some of the most well-known and rarest letters and stamps, including the über famous Mauritius blue!

The Mauritius Blue stamp

They are displayed alongside lots of other treasures from the history of communication, which is why they call it the “writing chamber”.

The Writing Chamber

We also learned a lot about postcards. In Germany, postcards, as we know them today, were officially approved in 1905, prior to that the address was written on one side and the text on the other (starting in 1870). Images were introduced early on before becoming one of the main features of postcards.

Our favorite part was a cool installation of a mail pneumatic tube! We embarked on a journey through the tubes to deliver a letter to Anne, which you can see in our video. The distance on the museum’s pneumatic tube installation is only 30 metres (about 100 feet), but the total length of the pneumatic tube system in Berlin in 1940 measured 400 kilometres (or 250 miles) — 1,333 times longer!

Researching in the library

Afterwards, we paid a visit to the museum’s library. It’s an important part of the museum, as it contains many sources on the history of communication, namely postal service and telecommunication. Researchers and museum staff use the resources for projects and new exhibitions. Here we met Florian, who was happy to help us write a short greeting into our travel journal and guided us behind the scenes to tell us about the large part of the collection that is not displayed in the exhibitions.

Mailboxes in storage

Together with the Museum for Communication Frankfurt, the Museum for Communication Nürnberg and the Archive for Philately Bonn, the Museum for Communication in Berlin forms a foundation with a large collection that is housed in two major storage spaces and the archive for philately. One of the storages is in Berlin, the other one in Frankfurt am Main. Thus, we went to the collections in Berlin-Tempelhof, where we found a great variety of objects and met more friendly museum staff members.

Pneumatic post Scales in storage

Among the objects were additional mail boxes, historic pneumatic tubes, post house signs and lots of photographs and postcards. We also made new friends with workers active in the miniature models of postal facilities such as a parcel sorting center and couldn’t resist the bus ride in a model of an old post bus! The original vehicles are located in Frankfurt am Main.

 Miniature post bus

The collection also stores a large number of letters sent by and to soldiers during different wars (e.g. WWI and WWII), letters that were exchanged between East and West Germany between 1949 and 1990 and letters between friends and lovers. We learned a lot about the postal system as well as the stories behind the letters — and you can too, as it is possible to research a lot of these letters online at www.briefsammlungen.de.

Goodbye Berlin!

Full of impressions, we delivered our last letters and hopped into the museum’s mailbox to continue our journey Tschüß Berlin!

A big thank you to Anne-Sophie Gutsche, Stefan Jahrling and Johannes Lindenlaub from the Museum for Communication for agreeing to host the little guys, writing and taking all these photos! 😊 On they go on their next adventure…

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