“Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say.
Yours sincerely, wasting away.”
~Paul McCartney, When I’m Sixty-Four
My great-grandparents ran the post office in a small Minnesota town in the early 1900s. I never had a chance to meet them or see where they worked, but through old photos and family stories, I always had the idea that it was an interesting place to be in those days. Not only were these post offices the central hubs of their communities, but some were architectural treasures, reflecting the eras when they were built.
Maybe it’s something in my gene pool that drives me to seek out local post offices when I travel. I’d much rather buy stamps and postcards from a local postmaster than from a souvenir stand. I like mailing my cards from the post office, too. Even though we email and Skype with our family when we’re away, there is something special about getting a postcard with a stamp and postmark from somewhere faraway.
Here are a few post offices that are worth checking out:
1. Vatican City, Italy.
The world’s smallest country began operating a postal service – Poste Vaticane – in 1929. The bright yellow postal boxes can be found in St. Peter’s Square, just a short walk from St. Peter’s Basilica (turn right as you exit). The Vatican sells postcards and stamps, including special commemorative editions – and of course, that intangible souvenir of sending a postmark from the smallest country in the world.
2. Monte Carlo, Monaco.
I had hoped to send postcards from the second smallest country in the world, but all government offices were closed for a national holiday the day we were there. Like the country it represents, La Poste Monaco has an air of elegance that invites you to step inside. Unless it’s a national holiday.
3. Copenhagen, Denmark.
I waited in line and was almost at the check-out window when I realized that in Copenhagen, you must take a number from a ticket machine before entering the line. Lesson learned, I got a number and began again. The lovely Kongelig Postgaard is in the old town, on the route the Changing of the Guard takes for its daily march to Amalienborg Palace.
4. Tallinn, Estonia.
We happened upon the Essti Post while wandering through Tallinn’s Old Town. The tiny Estonian post office had one counter and a delightfully friendly employee.
5. Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy.
Yes, I know this isn’t a real post office where mail is delivered, but the lion’s mouth at Venice’s Doge’s Palace is one of the most unusual letter boxes around. Made for “secret denunciations” in ancient Venice, the lion’s mouth was a mail slot where citizens could anonymously deposit information on fellow Venetians who they believed had broken the law.