Post Office Madness – WIF Travel

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Craziest Post Offices

on Earth

(and Beyond)

Going to the post office can be one of the most mundane—and dreaded—items on your to-do list. But if you’ve ever had the chance to visit any of the outposts below, you know that not all post offices are boring. Here are 10 crazy post offices that make mail delivery seem exciting…

 10. Peach Springs and Supai, AZ

The post office in Peach Springs, Arizona isn’t much to look at—just a squat yellow brick building that seems about the right size for a town with a population of just over 1,000 residents. The physical facility is unremarkable, except for one unusual feature—the only walk-in freezer found in a post office in the continental US. Why does it need this? The Peach Springs post office has a very unusual mission—delivering mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon–and that cargo includes a lot of perishable groceries. The tiny town of Supai, populated by a few hundred members of the Havasupai tribal nation, sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Supai has its own tiny post office, and residents and tourists are rely on the USPS to deliver all the provisions that aren’t otherwise available at the bottom of the canyon.

So, after the mail makes the 70-mile trip to the canyon rim from Peach Springs, how does it get down to Supai? Helicopter transport is expensive and unreliable, as choppers can’t fly during periods of high winds. Enter the “mule train,” a caravan of up to 50 horses and mules, guided by intrepid riders, carrying up to 200 pounds each of mail and packages that make the 8-mile trek down to the base of the canyon and then eventually back up, carrying outgoing mail and trash. At least 2 mule trains are operating at any given time, so the mules, horses, and riders are able to rest overnight in the village before making the return trip back up the next day. Mail sent from Supai bears a special postmark, indicating that it traveled by mule train to reach its destination. Despite the inherent difficulty of the journey and the extreme conditions faced by riders and mules, scheduled mail delivery has only been skipped twice since 1999.

9. Inside the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower holds a lot of history within its iconic frame, which was originally constructed for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It also holds shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, a conference room, a replica of Gustave Eiffel’s original office at the top of the tower, and one more surprising facility: a post office, which is found on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower’s south pillar.

While this post office may seem to be a present-day concession to tourists, the Eiffel Tower has had a post office since it has been open to the public (it was, after all, built for an exposition designed to attract visitors from around the world). The original post office wassituated at the top of the tower, where, after riding an elevator, fairgoers could mail postcards from more than 900 feet above ground. Postmarks from the original post office read “Sommet de la Tour Eiffel” (Summit of the Eiffel Tower), or, for less intrepid tourists, after the ground floor post office was added, “1er Etage de la Tour Eiffel” (First floor of the Eiffel Tower) while the contemporary Eiffel Tower post office offers a more generic postmark, which doesn’t specify its less exalted present-day location within the tower.

8. Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

With post offices closing by the hundreds across the globe—including in the US, the UK,South Africa, and Germany—you may find yourself complaining about the inconvenient “trek” to a more distant post office or having to contend with more-limited operating hours in your local branch. However, one post office can put issues of accessibility and availability in perspective—the China Post office located in the Mount Everest Base Camp.

The post office, which is actually more of a post tent, has been present (seasonally) at the Everest Base Camp since 2008. Sitting at 5,300 meters, it’s purported to be the world’s highest post office. However, because of the extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the post office has a rather short operating window—from late April to August each year, when conditions permit a temporary road to open up from base camp to the town of Tingri. This remote outpost operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during those months, not including a noontime break for the post office’s three workers (apparently, there is no altitude at which postal workers will not adhere to their break schedules). There is a markup on the usual postcard rate to compensate for the challenges in transporting mail from the top of the world to its destination—as of 2016, the post office charged about $1.45 USD to mail a postcard to the UK, whereas elsewhere in Nepal, mailing a postcard would cost about $0.30 USD.

7. Underwater (in Vanuatu)

Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, faces a potentially grim future as the result of climate change, with some experts suggesting much of the archipelago could eventually be submerged because of rising sea levels. However, there is one facility in Vanuatu that is already (deliberately) submerged beneath the tides—the world’s only underwater post office, located within Vanuatu’s Hideaway Marine Sanctuary.

The post office sits about 10 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Opening hours are posted on a nearby beach and a special flag is hoisted to float on the surface when the postal workers (wearing scuba equipment) are staffing the post office. The post office has been open since 2003 and several Vanuatu Post staff members received open water dive training to be able to man the location. Divers or snorklers are able to mail special waterproof postcards at the underwater outpost (if snorklers can’t dive down to the post office, staff members will help get the postcard down to the ocean floor). Because the postcards can’t be cancelled using traditional ink, Vanuatu Post developed a special embossing device to cancel the postcards.

6. Aogashima Island, Japan (…on an active volcano)

Why would you put a post office on an active volcano? Even Vanuatu Post (yes, Vanuatu is apparently at the epicenter of postal innovation), only put a postal box on the crater of Mt. Yasur, where visitors can mail letters steps away from molten magma spewing into the air. However, on Japan’s Aogashima Island, there’s really nowhere else to put a post office—the island is a volcano (actually 4 overlapping calderas).
 The population of the isolated island, less than 200 people, are served by a tiny post office which transmits mail to and from mainland Japan (Tokyo is about 200 miles to the south of the island). Life on the island can be described as “sleepy,” with residents (mainly farmers and fishermen) enjoying the slow pace of island life, the beauty, and volcanic hot springs that comprise the island. However, the volcano is still considered active. The last time the volcano erupted (in 1785), about half the island’s inhabitants perished, though modern-day inhabitants have the benefit of a volcano alert system that has been operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency since 2007. As of 2017, no alerts have been issued for the island, meaning that Aogoshima’s population, and its tiny post office, have had no cause to consider moving away from their volcanic outpost.

5. Ny-Alesund, Norway

Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost civilian settlement—an unincorporated town on a peninsula, home to more than 10 scientific research stations that draw scientists from around the world, 30 year-round residents, and as many 120 residents during the summer. It is also the site of the world’s northernmost post office. Whereas the town’s origins are related to mining and expeditions to the North Pole, today, the town’s activity is largely driven by research and tourism. Given that the town now enjoys fiberoptic internet connections to the rest of the world, Ny-Alesund’s tiny post office exists largely to serve tourists, who arrive at the town via cruise ship.

Ny-Alesund has long served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole and, given that it is the most proximate post office to Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop, you might expect that the post office is busy processing letters to Santa from children across the globe. However, Santa’s mail does not pass through Ny-Alesund. Instead, that flood of Christmas correspondence is handled by the United States Post Office in North Pole, Alaska.

4. J.W. Westcott II, Marine Post Office

Even as the US Postal Service makes cutbacks, at least one US post office has found a way to stay afloat… literally. The J.W. Westcott II, a 45-foot mail boat that serves freighters traversing the Detroit River, is the nation’s (and likely the world’s) only floating post office.

The J.W. Westcott Company of Detroit has been conveying messages between merchant sailors, who are often aboard ship for months at a time, and their loved ones since 1874. Mail delivery began in 1895 and the boat has been a registered post office since 1948. The company motto is “mail in the pail,” which literally described how the mail, even today, is often hoisted aboard freighters using a rope and a bucket. The J.W. Westcott II even has its own zip code—48222—and mail delivered to the freighters is to be addressed:

Vessel Name
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222

Like many post offices, the J.W. Westcott has seen a decline in mail volume, as email enables families and friends to stay in touch more immediately, even aboard ship. However, the company, which also delivers for UPS and FedEx, reports that it has seen an increase in package delivery. The company’s contract with the USPS runs to 2021, and the company’s owner sees a long future for his floating post office, pointing out that he has diversified into personnel transportation and that drone technology may never be cost-effective enough to compete in the delivery of low-value bulky goods like paper towels.

3. The Washington Park and Zoo Railway at the Portland Zoo

Today, the idea of a post office on a train may seem like a quirky novelty, and it doesn’t helpthat the only railway left in the US that offers mail service and its own authorized postal cancellation, was originally planned as a “kiddy train” at the zoo and was sited to serve Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Celebration. But while “mail by rail” now seems like an anachronism, it was once the gold standard for express mail delivery in the United States.

From 1862 to 1977, the Railway Post Office (RPO) operated postal cars, which offered mail sorting and cancellation on trains that crisscrossed the country, operating on 794 routes at its peak. However, as mail sorting became an automated task, it was increasingly moved to and from large regional processing centers by truck. While the Washington Park and Zoo Railway offers the only postal car operating in the US on a regular basis, another mail car recently rolled again. The 40th anniversary of the last RPO rail train was celebrated on May 6, 2017 (which is National Train Day, in case you didn’t mark your calendar), with the Northern Pacific #1102, its RPO car (one of only two known to still be in working order) and postmark coming out of retirement for a one-day commemorative mail run.

2. Penguin Post Office, Antarctica

One continent’s most popular tourist attraction is its post office. If you guessed Antarctica, which, despite its abundance of natural beauty, has few other tourist facilities to compete with its tiny post office, you’re right! The so-called “Penguin Post Office” is located on the Antarctic Penninsula at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, making it the world’s most southerly post office.

The post office, which is operated by the UK Heritage Trust on behalf of the government, is open for less than 5 months a year (during the Antarctic summer from November to May). Who uses the post office? While Port Lockroy has thousands of residents, most of them are penguins, so the 70,000 post cards that are sent annually from the office come mostly from the 18,000 or so tourists who arrive every year via cruise ship.

Manning a post office at the bottom of the world, a role that pays $1,700 a month, and involves, as one member of the four-person team staffing the post office put it, “being confined to an island the size of a football pitch,” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, hundreds of applicants have vied for a spot in recent years, perhaps inspired by documentaries on the Penguin Post Office that aired on the BBC and PBS.

1. China Post Space Office aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, 213 miles above Earth

The final post office on our list is out of this world—literally. Established in 2011, the “China Post Space Office,” has two outposts—one on the ground of mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Command and one more than 200 miles above the Earth in the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The post office even has its own zipcode—901001—and a special postmark that reads “Beijing” and “Space” in simplified Chinese.

Mail will be processed through the terrestrial branch, but emails can be routed through a computer aboard the unmanned spacecraft before returning to Earth to be printed out for commemorative mail. While this roundabout virtual space mail may be exciting only to true space aficionados, officials have indicated that future iterations will allow the public to send letters to astronauts and/or allow physical mail to be transported to space before returning to Earth for delivery.


Post Office Madness

– WIF Travel

Royal Weddings (In Descending Order)

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10 Real-Life Fairy Tale Weddings

 

The mystical realms of Fairy tales, leading us to an imaginary world of fantasy, never cease to fascinate or cast a magical spell.  Filled with Fairies, Elves, Talking Animals, Wicked Stepmothers, Bad Witches, Fairy Godmothers, Princes And Damsels in distress, reflecting the challenges of the day to today lives,  these enchanting characters, from the dark and deep woods, are for most part, damsels (deeply in distress of course!). The young Princes, saving these distressed damsels fall profoundly in love at first sight and end up marrying them, breaking all traditional norms of Royalty– as in the case of Cinderella,and Snow White– to name a few.  For ages, although, monarchies have had an unwritten law about marriages between Royalties in line of succession, to choose a spouse of equal stature, there were few who, despite the established law, broke all conventions and traditions, to marry ‘out of royal’ commoners.  Let us closely peek at ten of the most romantic royal pairs, destined to be part of monarchs, with their alluring passionate real-life fairy tale weddings.

10) Prince William and Kate Middleton of Great Britain (2011)

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The most popular of all Royal couples, Prince Williams and Kate Middleton’s wedding took place with a lot of gaiety and fanfare witnessed live by millions across the globe.  The Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born on January 9th 1982 at Reading, England.  Born in a middle class family, her parents were running a mail order company, selling party decoration and supplies.  The eldest of three daughters, Kate Middleton and Prince William while pursuing History of Art, met at Scotland’s, University of St Andrews, in Fife, in the year 2001.  After almost a decade’s long wait, she married Prince William, second in line to the British throne, on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey to become Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  They have a son, Prince George of Cambridge born on July 22nd 2013.  Kate, nevertheless, with her simple elegance and grace won the heart and admiration of million women in the world, for being one of Britain’s best-dressed celebrities.

9) Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling (2010)

victoria-daniel-weddings

Princess Victoria of Sweden was the eldest daughter of Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf.  Born inStockholm, Sweden on July 14, 1977, before her birth, the Swedish law ordained that the eldest male, born to the royal couple, would inherit the throne.  However, in 1979, this enforcement changed, when the Swedish parliament voted for acquisition of succession rights for the eldest child, irrespective of gender.  Thus, Princess Victoria became heir to the Swedish throne, and in 2001, fell for Daniel Westling, her personal trainer.  Daniel Westling had his upbringing in a village, situated at central Sweden calledOckelbo.  Born to working parents he went to ‘Prince School’ to train himself on the etiquette and behavior of the royals.  They were married on June 19, 2010 and have one daughter.

8) Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz of Spain (2004)

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Prince Felipe, the third child of Queen Sofía and King Juan Carlos, was born on January 30, 1968, inMadrid, Spain. However, Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano was born at Oviedo, Spain on September 15, 1972.  She earlier had a civil marriage with Alonso Guerrero in 1998 and a year later divorced him.  The royal couple met on November 2002, with the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker.  As a news reporter andjournalist, Letizia’s presence was required at the place, where she met the Prince, who had visited the accident-hit place to assess the damages.  Shortly afterwards, the Prince and the journalist started dating each other, albeit secretly, and on November 6th, they were officially engaged.  Their marriage was conducted in Madrid, Spain on May 22, 2004 at the Nuestra Senora de la Almudena Cathedral.  The two have two beautiful young girls.

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7) Mohammed and Lalla Salma of Morocco (2002)

mohamed-lalla-weddings

Another commoner who married into royalty (Arab) was Lalla Salma.  Born On May10, 1978, in Fez, she lost her mother, while she was three years old.  Her father was a schoolteacher from Fez, and her maternal grandmother raised her.  A Computer Engineering graduate, she was working for ONA Group, a company managing a sizable share of the king’s assets.  In the year 1999, she met King Mohammed VI at a party and according to royal gossip; it was love at first sight for the king.  Nevertheless, for accepting the king’s proposal, Lalla Salma laid set laws, prior courtship, insisting on a monogamous marriage alliance.  Thus on July 13 2002, they were married in Rabat, Morocco.  For ages, the kings of Morocco had kept their brides and wives hidden.  Nonetheless, the first to break conventional norms was   King Mohammed VI who officially announced his engagement to Lalla Salma in 2001 and acknowledged her presence at the public celebrations held as part of their wedding ceremony.  The popular Queen is an activist against cancer with various awards to her credit and the royal couple have two children.

6) Henri & Maria Teresa of Luxembourg (2000)

maria-teresa-henri-weddings

Maria Teresa Mestre, a Spanish bourgeoisie descendent without titles, met Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Prince Henri, during her university days, at Geneva, where she was pursuing a degree in Political Science.  They were married in 1981 despite a lot of opposition from Prince Henri’s mother, Josephine Charlotte, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, regarding Maria Teresa’s status of being a mere commoner.  Nonetheless, in the year 2000, Maria Teresa became the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg when Prince Henri became the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, succeeding his father, Grand Duke, Jean. They have five children with Maria Teresa committing herself to humanitarian causes and social issues through several organizations.

5) King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan (1999)

Abdullah-Rania-wedding

Rania was born to Palestinian parents in 1970 at Kuwait.  She completed her education at Cairo’sAmerican University with Bachelors in Business Administration.  A thorough professional, she worked for Apple and Citibank.  While working for Apple, she met Prince Abdullah II at a dinner organised by his sister.  They fell in love and were engaged a couple of months later.  However, in February 1999, Prince Abdullah II was ordained the King of Jordan and on March 22, they were married. The couple now are proud parents of four children.  Queen Rania, one of the most popular queens, is the Global Ambassador for community development and education.

4) Akihito and Michiko of Japan (1990)

mikito-akihito-weddings

Michiko Shoda, daughter of an affluent Industrialist, was born in 1934 at Tokyo.  She met Akihito, Japans Crown Prince, in 1957 in Karuizawa during a tennis match.  A couple of years later they were married and now have three children.  It was customary for Japans Household Agency to choose a suitable bride for the heir to the throne.  However, Akihito broke traditions to marry Michiko, who was the first Empress to have entered the Japanese imperial family, as a commoner.  The imperial couple also challenged normal traditions by raising their children, instead of leaving them to the care of court chamberlains.  She became the Empress consort after Akihito became Japan’s 125th Emperor, after the death of Emperor Hirohito on Jan. 7, 1989.  Akihito and Michiko were enthroned on November 12, 1990 at the Imperial Palace Tokyo.

3) Carl Gustaf and Silvia of Sweden (1976)

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Silvia Sommerlath was born on December 23 in the year 1943.  She was the daughter of late Walther Sommerlath, a German businessperson and Alice, a Brazilian.  She met Sweden’s Crown Prince Carl Gustaf, at Munich, during the summer Olympics of 1972.  Silvia was working as a host and as an interpreter at the games.  After dating clandestinely for nearly four years, Carl Gustaf and Silvia were married in 1976 and have three children.  The Queen of Sweden became extremely popular due to her multilingual abilities and charisma combined with a commitment towards children’s cause.

2) Harald and Sonja of Norway (1968)

harald-sonja-weddings

Sonja Harladsen, born to a wood trader at Oslo in 1937, met Prince Harald at a party in 1959. Love blossomed between the two and after seeing each other for nine years, they were married.  However, their relationship was kept under wraps, considering their unequal status.  Due to Prince Harald’s undying love and devotion to Sonja, the couple were married at Oslo on August 29, 1968, with the approval of Prince Harald’s father, King Olav V.  They have a daughter and a son.  In the year 1991, at 53, Sonja became Norway’s First Queen Consort proving her worth and performing her royal duties with a sense of deep commitment to the country.

1) King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson of Great Britain (1936)

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King Edward VIII created a sensation when he bequeathed his throne that deemed marriages between the monarchs and commoners as unequal.  He took this extreme step for the sake of twice-divorced US socialite, Wallis Simpson, with whom he was smitten.

 The republicans however supported their cause and the couple became an embodiment of true love.  They were married in 1936 becoming Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  The Duchess, Wallis Simpson was, however never accepted by the members of the royal family, until thirty years later after the death of King Edward VIII.

Whatever may be the protocols, royalty is not about being born with blue blood coursing through the veins, it is all about conduct and exemplary behavior.  Hence, the common folks touch a chord with not just the royals, winning their hearts, but also endearing themselves to the common masses across the globe. A welcome change indeed!

Royal Weddings