Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Over a month has passed since I've returned. I've made a decent effort to return to my life in Melbourne without forgetting that fiery, passionate, ecstatic part of myself I'd discovered abroad - although I'd like to see you try the same while waiting on people. I thought it would be a good reminder to remember my postcard vendetta and the stories behind them all.

I must say, first of all, that I'd grown accustomed to the procedure of buying new postcards and sending them out. I had a mailing list of about seven or eight people, all in a little address book so that I was sure not to forget people; though sometimes that worked in theory and not practice. I had handled seven or eight identical, brand new and fresh. To come home to eventually see them as a complete set; all worn, some bent, with unique postmarks on them from their own adventures was nothing short of remarkable.

I was fairly particular and fussy with this process as well; I wanted the cards to have the local stamps, bought with the local currency, and sent from the country so that it would be legit.

I'll go chronologically.

Clockwise from top left: Sweden, Barcelona, Lappland, Paris.
Sweden was quite the easy one. Swedish Krona. I'd bought the cards at a news agency/bookstore in town, and the stamps were found at the Pressbyrån (local convenience store) on campus. The post box was right outside the Pressbyrån as well. Fairly straightforward. 

Barcelona; Euro. I was there for two days and I'd honestly almost forgotten about postcards, we were so busy! I'd even forgotten my little mailing book. I messaged most people on my mailing list online the night before we left asking for addresses. Bought the cards and stamps from the reception at our hostel on our departure morning. I sunk down on the little staircase in the lobby and feverishly scribbled out some greetings before addressing the cards, double checking the addresses with my iPod touch next to me. The hostel even had a little mailbox of their own, so those went right in.

Lappland. Swedish Krona. I bought these interesting cards from the Sami gift shop; after having just met and fed a live reindeer, and before tasting some reindeer meat. Since we hadn't left Sweden, I didn't find it necessary to mail them straight out. I took my time writing them and waited until we returned to Örebro, then simply bought stamps and mailed them out from the campus Pressbyrån.

Paris. Euro. These cards were found at a stall along the Seine, while my travel companion had popped into the Subway across the street. I loved these cards, they showed an old time view of the city from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which we'd climbed the previous night. Gorgeous view, by the way. I bought some stamps from the Louvre that same day (there were cartoon cows on them for some reason), and wrote them all out that night. I'd forgotten to mail them out until we were leaving; I was quite distressed until we came across a post box randomly at the airport. There were two different slots, both labelled in French, so I simply shrugged and put them in one, hoping they would get to their final destinations. Apparently they did.

Clockwise from top left: Stockholm, Poland, London, Valletta (Malta).
Stockholm. Swedish Krona. There were plenty of stalls and vendors if you knew where to look for them. As with Lappland, I simply bought the cards, took my time writing them, and mailed them from the Örebro campus' Pressbyrån. Again, straightforward.

Poland; now this is an interesting one. Polish Zloty. I bought these ones from a store nearby Auschwitz; they were all fairly poignant and it was difficult to choose the scenery I wanted. I wrote them out after the shock of Auschwitz that night. The rest of the process that followed is quite hilarious to me now, and it was at the time to my travel companion as well.

The post box outside the Uprising Museum in Warsaw hinted stamps would be sold, but on enquiry I was met with blank stares as though I was an idiot. One guy finally said at the souvenir shop in broken English (I can imitate this remarkably in person), "Post stamps are at post office in Poland". We finally found one on the second last day of the trip, but I didn't have enough cash for all of the cards to be stamped and they didn't take card. We were assured that the office was open 24 hours ('Awesome', we thought) but by the time I'd gotten cash and returned, they were closed.

We were literally with our suitcases leaving the next morning, and I was fretting like Paris. My companion noticed we had a extra ten minutes until our bus for the airport, so he suggested I try again (the office was close to the stop). I tried, and it worked! There was a bit of hilarity with language barriers and standing in the wrong queue, but I got there in the end. They posted it for me and I returned to my travel companion relieved.

London was fairly straightforward as well. British Pounds. I bought the cards and stamps from the same souvenir shop. I wrote out the cards that night and posted them in the box around the corner from my cousin's house on the way to the Overground.

Malta was not as straightforward, but not difficult either. Euro. I bought the cards in Valletta. Wrote them out that night, then bought the stamps and mailed them off while in the Maltese island Gozo.

Clockwise from top left: Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Italy, Örebro.
Tallinn, capital of Estonia, was a tad difficult. Euro. I'd previously been to Tallinn for Sea Battle in April, but we'd only been there for a few hours just to ferry back to Stockholm again. I was hung over, dehydrated and dazed, I saw no point in rushing around for postcards when I'd be back again the next month.

The next time was a tour, with only a night in the city - a Sunday. The post office was closed. I really liked the cards but I bought them overpriced from an amber store. They had no stamps and only directed me to the post office - which, as I mentioned, was closed. Another place I was directed to was a cigarette counter, and after waiting for twenty minutes was given a dirty stare and told I was wrong.

We stopped for lunch and I scrawled out my cards, with my address book having been kept on my person in preparation. I finally thought to ask the tourist office and they simply pointed to a bookshop visible from across the street. The post box was located right outside our hostel, and they were mailed before we left for St. Petersburg the next morning.

St. Petersburg was one of the most difficult instances. Russian Rubles. I was still shaken from a (thankfully) failed robbery while in a church's ticket office. I saw these as I was leaving the church and had to have them, even though a British associate later called them 'garish'. I wrote them out that night, and went in search for the post office the next morning (learning from my time in Poland).

A bookshop owner helpfully told me in impressive English (for a Russian) of one near a church and scrawled the name on a piece of paper (didn't know it in English). I took one look at the piece of paper and sighed; it was written in Cyrillic symbols. I tried translating with my device and recognised the pictures as a nearby location and went to the church - but couldn't find it. I went with my friend into a café to try and ask, and the young waitresses working there couldn't speak a word of English. After a lot of gesturing and pointing on my part, and dirty looks on their part, one of them finally understood. She gestured and said slowly, "That way.....then...that way".

We found the office fine that way and I cautiously entered, asserting my position in the queue and waiting. When I got to the counter, it was a little old lady who presumably didn't know any English, so I was on the safe side. I fanned out the beautiful postcards and pointed to the post stamp square, making my intentions obvious. She looked through the cards and nodded deadpan, then took up a calculator, and typed in a price for me to see. I nodded, took out the notes and placed them on the counter, and she gave me the correct change. I nodded once again and left.

That whole exchange had occurred without either of us opening our mouths and communicating verbally. Even after the whole encounter, I was still unsure that my cards would arrive to their destinations (they did, though a little later than the next one).

Helsinki was a relief after Russia. Euro. There was a charming little market in a square where I bought the cards. A little shaken after Russia, I asked about stamps, and I was directed to a souvenir shop just up the way. The woman behind the desk was very friendly and reassuring, and pointed out the nearest post box (yellow in Finland). I didn't have my address book on hand that day, unfortunately, and we were only in Helsinki for a few hours.

I sat with my friends in a park, and as they relaxed, I tried to remember addresses off the top of my head. One of my companions was from Melbourne himself and he remembered postcodes when I couldn't. I think I remembered most addresses - if not, then REALLY close. I simply posted them off and they arrived in Melbourne before the St. Petersburg ones.

Italy; Euro. I bought the cards at one of the markets in Rome, and tried buying stamps. Apparently there's a private company that I bought them from and they had specific mailboxes in Rome that I couldn't reach from our hotel. We were leaving for Florence after the Vatican the next morning and I was adamant from sending them from Rome, so I was refunded the stamps I bought from the company. I wrote the cards that night and ended up buying stamps, mailing from the Vatican that next morning; which I was much happier with. It arrived with the next postcard, and after I had returned to Melbourne.

Örebro was the final card; Swedish Krona. These were sent a few days before I left Sweden in mid-June, and they came with the melancholy of returning home - but leaving another home. They had been bought from a Pressbyrån and stashed forgotten in a desk drawer, found as I was packing to leave. Sent from Örebro campus' Pressbyrån.

The water tower (Svampen) in Örebro, Sweden.
So there you have it... that's the summary of each card. Roughly seven cards per trip = ninety-one cards in total. I was looking at the postmarks and surprised to find that the ones from Örebro were postmarked from Västerås, a city on the way to Stockholm. I hope you enjoyed a little insight into the foreign crazy catastrophes that went into these postcards.

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