We all know how it works: find a nice postcard, write it, and mail it off. Then, after a few days, weeks or even a little adventure later, our postcard finds its way into the recipient's mailbox. But what happens in the meantime, after we post it on a postbox? We've written about mail sorting centers before (e.g., here, here or here), and the magic that goes on behind the scenes... but it's always nicer to see it with your own eyes, right?
That's what a group of curious postcrossers in Germany thought too, so they got together some time ago, and asked Deutsche Post for a tour of a mail sorting center — which they got, due to their persistent and persuasive requests! They turned it into a Postcrossing meetup, took pictures, sent postcards and even wrote about it for our viewing pleasure. 😊
Here are Claas (aka Speicher3) and Christine (aka Reisegern), the meetup organizers, to tell us all about it:
In the morning of June 19th, we were welcomed by employees of Deutsche Post to the "Briefzentrum 28 Bremen" (that's the official name of Bremen's mail sorting center). This is one of more than 80 sorting centers for mail in Germany, that every day process about 66 million letters from 140,000 mailboxes throughout the country. So this is the place where postcards come to after postboxes are emptied.
Wow... they take quite a tumble! We could even see what happens to letters containing keys, coins or other loose parts when going through the machines. Can you imagine? You'd better not send things like those on a simple envelope...
The mail that arrives is sorted by size, and then a machine checks the postage and puts a special cancellation mark on the mail. Perhaps you've already received a postcard with a postmark from Bremen?
It shows the outline of this distribution center's zone of responsibility and one of the city's landmarks: the Town Musicians of Bremen (a donkey with a dog, cat and rooster standing on top of it), from the famous Grimm Brothers fairy tale!
A machine further down the line reads addresses. Did you ever notice the orange bar code on postcards from Germany? This code is printed onto the card in the sorting center, and it contains all the important information about the card's destination.
There are plenty of impressive machines in the giant, busy hall of the sorting center. Within those machines, letters and postcards dart back and forth at breathtaking speeds.
As soon as a Postcrossing postcard makes its journey through all these machines, it finally arrives in a yellow box, together with hundreds of other letters and postcards, which will be sent to the sorting center closest to the recipient's address. And from here, the postcard will be delivered by a mail carrier to a happy postcrosser.
If the postcard is being delivered to another country, it will instead be forwarded to the international sorting center in Frankfurt, where it will be delivered via air mail. Every day, busy and focused employees make sure that our mail will be delivered quickly and reliably.
Postcrossers were visibly impressed by all the machines and the dizzying speed at which our postcards passed through the sorting center.
After the tour was over, the meetup participants did what is a traditional part of every postcrossing meetup: sitting together, talking and writing postcards!
The cards that were written during this special meetup didn't need to take the detour through a mailbox though — about 1000 of them were mailed directly from the inside of the sorting center in Bremen. The participants gained insight to the world of mail delivery and learned a lot about the adventurous journey of their postcards!
A big thank you to the Deutsche Post and the friendly employees of the sorting center in Bremen, who enabled us to have this very interesting day.
Thank you Deutsche Post — and thank you Claas and Christine for this wonderful report!