Postcrossing Blog

Stories about the Postcrossing community and the postal world

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Erik (aka flamey) is an adventurous postcrosser from Sochi, in Russia. Sometime ago, he heard about a mysterious postbox on top of a mountain nearby and decided to go check it out — here is the report of his cool adventure, which was first published on his blog and is reposted here with permission.

Black Pyramid mountaintop postbox

"As a postcrosser – and in general – I’m lucky to live in a city that is beautiful, touristy, hosted a wide variety of World class sporting events, interconnected with a UNESCO WHS, and borders a “rare” country. There were also many postage stamps issued dedicated to our city, events that took place here, our flora and fauna, which is also nice. All this is a great basis for postcard exchanges!

Last year I discovered yet another interesting and cool way to postcross: a postbox at the top of Black Pyramid mountain in our city! And a year later I decided to try it out.

Sochi postal box Black Pyramid

Sochi, which is squeezed between the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea, has several great skiing resorts. One of them – “Krasnaya Polayana” (formerly known as “Gorki Gorod”) – has a postbox at the top of the mountain the resort is based around. It sits right at the top of it! You need to hike and climb to it from the highest lift station. Not far, but still, it’s probably not for everyone. At first, it felt like a tourist trap: its pricey to get there, and why else would it be up there?! But then… there’s very little info about it online (and none on the official site), resort’s staff knows about it, but, as it turns out, doesn’t even know where exactly it is located, and there are no postcards or stamps sold anywhere near it. So, it’s a bit of a mystery why it’s there exactly, and who picks up the mail from it. But the staff assured me it’s being serviced, so let’s do it.

Sochi road to Krasnaya Polyana

I live in Adler – a seaside part of the city. The trip starts with a picturesque drive up to Krasnaya Polyana town area, where all our skiing resorts are located. While grabbing some food I looked at the thick clouds covering the mountain, contemplating if going up actually makes much sense that day. When buying lift tickets I asked about the postbox, where it is, and if it is hard to get to. The answer: not hard, it’s up there, on our territory, just ask the staff when you get to the last lift station. Something similar I heard from the customer support rep when I called in advance.

Krasnaya Polyana lifts view

The lifts start at 540 meters above sea level. The gondola lifts take you up to 960m, then to 1460m, then to 2200m. From here you have to take two short (but really slow) chair lift rides. The line to the first one was so long, I decided to follow the staff’s suggestion and take a walk to the next one, because it was actually downhill. The line to the final lift was short, the ride was steep, and after a little while I was at the highest lift station on the Black Pyramid mount.

It was windy, and cold, just 10C, compare that to cozy 24C I left in Adler. I looked around, but saw no postbox anywhere near. I asked: oh, it’s at the top of the mountain! you have to hike up there by this trail. The trail looked easy, and had a safety rope set up along it, but I could not see past the nearest turn. It costs additional $7 to go up the top. They dressed me up for a climb, and instructed on use of the safety lines, and rules on passing other people — seemed excessive at that point, but turned out to be needed beyond the closest turn.

Black Pyramid mountain views

The easy trail turned into some mild climbing very quickly. It was fun. It probably took about 15 minutes to get up there. The postbox sits right at the top. The views are fantastic! Clouds just highlighted where I was, and did not spoil anything.

Black Pyramid mountain top postal box

I took a few photos, a selfie for a “proof”, and dropped the postcards into the box. The sound of cards hitting the bottom of it told me it was empty. Who picks mail up? How often? And, again, why is it here in the first place? Mystery. But I hope somebody does pick it up, and all 15 people will receive their cards!"

Hurray for nice postal adventures! Erik was very kind to mail a postcard to Postcrossing’s PO box from this excursion, and it arrived some time ago. So the mailbox works, and reading his report of the trip made us appreciate it even more.

Are there any special postboxes where you live? And what kind of postal-themed adventures would you like to embark on?

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Sometime ago, I noticed people posting photos of their cute postboxes on Twitter, under the hashtag #PostboxSaturday, and I immediately wanted in too! :D Saturday is my favourite postcard-writing day, and a visit to the postbox is part of the weekend ritual. Turns out Dinah, from the wonderful Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society, started the whole #PostboxSaturday movement with this tweet:

Postbox Saturday inaugural tweet Dinah in her red postbox

She says she almost deleted it at the time, but we’re really glad she didn’t, because on Saturday our social feeds are now overflowing with postbox loveliness. 😍 Surely, there isn’t a better way to start the weekend!

She later wrote on her website:

“I’ve always loved the romance of a postbox but a postbox in a rural or remote or picturesque setting really does pull on my heart strings. Perhaps it’s the result of reading Rosamund Pilcher novels, or years spent on trips to the mountains, or working in the outdoors, and of course the backdrop of always writing letters that collided to make #PostboxSaturday, but it’s just the loveliest feeling being transported off to a little red postbox some place else. Maybe even more so these days.”

So your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to take a photo of your postbox and share it with others on social media this Saturday, using the hashtag #PostboxSaturday! Bonus points if you’re mailing some postcards too. 📮

Let’s spread some postal charm around, and make sure that postboxes from all around the world are featured in this nice initiative!

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:

Dodauer Forst
23701 Eutin

Let us know how it goes!

PS – A big thanks to Nhung (aka tthn235), who did the research for this post.


We’ve written about postboxes on the blog before, like the very old post office tree in South Africa, or the barrel postbox in the Galapagos… but did you know there’s a very special postbox in Utah that has its own Postcrossing account?

Yup, you read that right! Her name is M (aka MthePostBox), and she lives in South Jordan (a leafy suburb of Salt Lake City), together with Sir Owen, a telephone booth which functions as a free library. They love postcards and books respectively — and when we stumbled on their profile, we found their story so charming that we just had to invite them for the blog. 😊

Sir Owen and M

Sir Owen and M

Could you introduce yourselves to the community?

M: Certainly! I am Dame Mavis Margaret, although my friends all call me 'M’. I was named after two female code breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Have you ever seen the movie, “The Imitation Game”? That was the place. There were around 10,000 people working to break codes in secret during those years (and that’s just the people! There were also telephone boxes, telegraphs, post boxes, and a not insignificant number of spy pigeons — but that’s another story). As an anthropomorphised Post Box, I came into service in 1941.

Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey, a code breaker at Bletchley Park during WWII, and one of M’s namesakes.

Sir Owen: I am Sir Owen St. George, named after the Royal Librarian of Kings George V, VI, and the first years of Queen Elizabeth II. As an anthropomorphised telephone box I came into service in 1936, and also got involved in the code breaking efforts during the war. M. and I first worked together at Bletchley, then stayed in intermittent contact after the war — she stayed in England, while I immigrated to Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States in the 1970s, (though still in the capacity of a functioning telephone box — I wasn’t decommissioned until the early 2000s).

What is South Jordan like? And how did you end up there?

Sir Owen: South Jordan is just lovely — it’s located about 25 km southwest of Salt Lake City, the capital city of Utah. As a former farming community that has become increasingly developed and suburban, there are plenty of parks and open spaces, though some neighbourhoods can be quite spread out and not feel very walkable. Everyone seems to favour their Sport Utility Vehicle or Minivan!

Which leads to how I happened to relocate to South Jordan. My stewards had wanted a Little Free Library or neighbourhood book swap for several years: an opportunity to share their love of books and reading, but also to provide a reason for families, friends, and neighbours in the community to get out walking, interact, and share a smile. And what can do that better than free books in a British telephone box? They investigated having one restored and shipped from England, but when they happened upon me outside a Las Vegas antique store, it was an ideal match for all of us.

Sir Owen without M

Sir Owen without M. Doesn’t he look a bit lonely?

M: Sir Owen relocated to Utah and began his days as a Little Free Library in August of 2015. He enjoyed his new surroundings so much that he asked if I might consider joining him. I had been retired for some years at that point, but know that whatever our age or position, we can all find new purpose and be useful. I immigrated in mid 2016, and my stewards finally had my brickwork completed last October.

How did you find out about Postcrossing? What made you stay?

M: I must thank one of my patrons! My stewards originally had postcards made up to enable Sir Owen’s and my visitors to send a kind note to a friend, but then one of our patrons pointed me to the Postcrossing website. Imagine being able to do a similar thing with people all across the world! I remember wondering what I would say that could possibly be interesting enough to fill up a whole postcard. But reading about the person to whom I’m sending a postcard (or from whom I’ve received one), and possibly finding a point of commonality and connection, it helps me realise that no matter our backgrounds, we have so much in common with and so much to learn from each other. And that’s what makes me stay. 😊

Do you have a favourite postcard you’ve received?
Postcard Selection

Sampling of postcards that M has received.

M: I have received so many wonderful and beautiful postcards! Honestly the ones I remember the most are the ones where someone shares something about themselves or why they chose the particular card they sent. A lovely Postcrosser (and self-proclaimed “Crazy Cat Lady” 😀 ) in Switzerland recently sent me a postcard she had made which included a picture of her cat who lived over 16 years! Our library cat Locutus also turns 16 this year, which gave us each a chance to connect and reflect on our benevolent feline overlords.

Locutus the Library Cat

Locutus the Library Cat will occasionally deign to visit, if treats are provided.

Do you do anything special with the cards you receive?
World Map Mural

A world map mural, perfect for marking all the postcards sent and received.

M: My stewards have a large (2 meters x 3 meters) world map mural in the family office. Each postcard sent and received gets a small sticky tab showing were it was received from (or sent to), the number of days it took to be delivered, and distance sent. Their children love learning about the geography and cultural details of so many people across the globe! I also feature many postcards that I’ve received on Sir Owen’s Instagram account, which helps share the Postcrossing fun with his followers in the Little Free Library and larger “Bookstagram” community (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, includes a lot of existing Postcrossers and has convinced others to join!).

Do you get many visitors everyday?
Halloween Visitors

Halloween visitors.

Sir Owen: Yes! Although technically located on my stewards’ property, they intentionally located us next to a walking path that many children use to go to and from the local primary school. My stewards try to keep my shelves stocked with a good selection of books, but there are also other reasons to stop by — free bookmarks and treats, colouring pages, doggie treats, and of course blank postcards to send to a friend! If patrons address them and place them in M, my stewards will even affix postage and mail them via USPS on their behalf. Sir Owen Freebies

Various surprises for patrons. Oh, and don’t forget a book while you’re here!

Visitor Notes

Visitors love leaving Sir Owen and M (and each other) notes on the windows when they visit.

How does the free library work?

Sir Owen: While the motto of a Little Free Library is “Take a Book, Leave a Book”, there’s no expectation that you have to leave a book in order to take one. The purpose is to share the love of reading and build community! If you like a book that you take, you can keep it forever. Or you can share it with a friend, or even return it to another Little Free Library in a different neighbourhood. Similarly if patrons have books they’ve enjoyed that they’d like to share with others, they can place them in my returns and donations bin under my bottom shelf (emblazoned with the Union Jack, of course).

Sir Owen s Rules

Sir Owen’s Rules. The first rule is by far the most important.

I have five shelves organized roughly by age, from picture books on the bottom shelf for children, up through primary and secondary school, young adult, and books for grown-ups. While most of my selections are donated, my stewards also enjoy curating books to ensure I have a good selection for all reading levels (one steward has become quite familiar with the local thrift stores), as well as for particular holidays and themes throughout the year. My favourite celebration? Banned Books Week — celebrated the last week in September every year with the American Library Association. I’ve rediscovered classics and found so many new and interesting ideas that way!

Is M a normal mailbox, still in use by USPS? And is there a phone in the phone booth? :)

M: I am merely decorative as far as the USPS is concerned, as I would have to have the words 'U.S. Mail’ stamped or painted on me to serve in any official capacity. However I did have the great honour of serving as an official letter drop for Santa Claus this past Christmas! Not only did I get to help deliver them, but every child who wrote also received a return postcard from Mrs. Claus stamped from the North Pole. I have also occasionally been mistaken as a book return. 😊

Santa Letter Drop

M loved being an official drop-off for letters to Santa this past Christmas.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning!

Checking M for Postcards

The youngest child of Sir Owen and M’s stewards loves checking M every day for new postcards to mail for patrons.

Sir Owen: I no longer feature a telephone; that leaves more room for books! However about a week after I opened, a kindly gentleman visited me and gave me a frame that had once housed the emergency telephone in a lift. As you saw above, I use it now to welcome patrons and explain what a Little Free Library is.

Finally, any plans for the future?

Sir Owen and M: Why, books, reading, and Postcrossing of course! Our stewards also think there might be a faerie garden in our future, as well as a couple of other surprises still in the works. One of our stewards says that if he could figure out how to pay the bills by purchasing books at thrift stores and then giving them away for free, he’d retire and steward for us full time (well, that and tend the royal beehives 😊 ). Our other steward (by far the more handy of the two) enjoys creating amazing projects for us in her growing wood shop (such as Sir Owen’s bookshelves, and our brand new bench featured in the first picture above!). Sir Owen and I plan on being here happily giving people a chance to slow down, share a smile, and build community, both in our local neighbourhood and across the world.

Thank you Ana for letting us share our story!

Thank you guys for this wonderful interview! I wish we lived closer to South Jordan, to pay M and Sir Owen a visit and sit on their bench for a while…

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You might have heard of a game called “Yellow car”, in which participants say yellow car! as soon as they spot one on the road. It’s a bit silly, truth be told, but it helps pass the time on boring stretches of commute or roadtrips.

Japanese Post box cat

The last time we were in the UK, Michael (aka gibsonms) introduced us to a postal-themed variant of the “Yellow car” game… using postboxes! It’s brilliant for short trips and we cannot stop playing it wherever we go, so we thought we’d share it with you.
Here are the rules:

  • It’s simple, really: when you see a postbox, say “postbox!” and add a point to your total.
  • If you see someone posting something on that postbox, wow, how lucky is that! Two points for you!
  • If someone calls a postbox but it turns out that there isn’t one there, then that person loses a point…
  • And if you see the mail carrier clearing the postbox, well… you win for that journey! 😀

Lots of variations can probably be added to make it more complex and keep you and your kids entertained, like spotting a post office or a golden pillar box (if you’re in the UK) so feel free to add or suggest new rules as you discover them!

Who’s ready to play? 📮

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