The Oldest Matchmaker in The World
The Oldest Matchmaker In The World
The Oldest Matchmaker in The World, a story that had to be shared. As someone who spends most of their time either traveling, or researching destinations untraveled, in search of new or interesting adventures. I had some down time this week and found a great story with what I consider absolutely heartwarming and wanted to share. There is a tree in northern Germany’s Dodauer Forest. It’s about 100 km north-east of Hamburg that has been the longest living “Matchmaker” in the world. What’s more remarkable is that this Tree even has its very own postal code and has for over 91 years. Like Love, this 500-year-old tree stands strong and tall, steady and unwavering throughout the measurement of time.
Known as Der Bräutigamseiche (the Bridegroom’s Oak), this ancient timber outside the town of Eutin has been matching singles long before Tinder and is reportedly responsible for more than 100 marriages. Today, people from all over the planet write letters addressed to the tree, hoping that for the price of a postage stamp, they may find a partner. The Postman charged with delivering the words written by singles from every corner of this world to this magical source hope is Karl-Heinz Martens. The 72-year-old Postman delivered letters to the tree as it’s Postman for 20 years, starting in 1984. In an interview he gave in (February 2018 * Eliot Stein) Mr. Martens stated “There’s something so magical and romantic about it. On the internet, facts and questions match people, but at the tree, it’s a beautiful coincidence – like fate.”
Though retired now, Martens still keeps a scrapbook filled with photographs, letters and newspaper clippings from his time as love’s official messenger – which he happily showed me over coffee in downtown Eutin. In his two decades of service to the oak, Martens delivered letters from six continents, often in languages he didn’t understand. He explained that while today many people know about the tree, 128 years ago it was a secret shared by two lovers.
How It Began
In 1890, a local girl named Minna fell in love with a young chocolate maker named Wilhelm. Minna’s father forbade her from seeing Wilhelm, so the two started secretly exchanging handwritten letters by leaving them in a knothole in the oak’s trunk. A year later, Minna’s father finally granted her permission to marry Wilhelm, and the two were wed on 2 June 1891 under the oak tree’s branches.
The story of the couple’s fairy-tale courtship spread, and soon, hopeful romantics throughout Germany who had no luck finding partners in biergartens or ballrooms began writing love letters to the Bridegroom’s Oak.
The tree received so much mail that, in 1927, the German postal service, Deutsche Post, assigned the oak its own postcode and Postman. It also placed a ladder up to the fist-sized postbox, so that anyone who wanted to open, read and respond to the letters could.
The only rule, is that if you open a letter you don’t want to answer, you should place it back in the tree for someone else to find.
Martin Grundler, the Spokesman for the Deutsche Post states that “The tree receives about 1,000 letters a year. “Most come in the summertime. I suppose that’s when everyone wants to fall in love.” For those sweet on someone specific, there’s a legend that says if a woman walks around the oak’s trunk three times under a full moon while thinking of her beloved, without speaking or laughing, she’ll marry within the year.
Today the Bridegroom’s Oak remains the only tree in the world with its own mailing address. Six days a week for the past 91 years, a Postman has walked through the forest – rain, snow or shine – and climbed the ladder to stuff letters from starry-eyed singles into the tree. And no-one has ever delivered mail to the oak tree longer than Martens. Postman Mr. Martens stated that “It was my favorite part of the day. People used to memorize my route and wait for me to arrive because they couldn’t believe that a Postman would deliver letters to a tree.”
In 1958, a young German soldier named Peter Pump reached into the oak, felt several letters and pulled out a piece of paper that had just a name and address on it. On a whim, he decided to respond to the ‘Honored Miss Marita’, who hadn’t written to the tree in the first place – her friends had, knowing she was too timid. Peter and Marita corresponded for a full year before he built up the courage to meet her. They were married in 1961 and are celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary this year.
Then there’s the story of the Christiansen’s. In 1988, Martens delivered a letter to the oak from a 19-year-old East German girl named Claudia, who was looking for a pen pal. A West German farmer named Friedrich Christiansen found it and wrote back to her. One letter turned into 40, and the couple fell in love. Unable to meet, Friedrich and Claudia exchanged letters for nearly two years across the border. When the Wall fell, the two met for the first time and were married in May 1990.
In 1989, a German TV station was doing a special feature on the oak, and asked Martens if he himself had ever found love under its branches. He said he hadn’t. A few days later, while Martens was climbing up the ladder to deliver the mail to the Bridegroom, he spotted a handwritten note from a woman named Renate addressed to the oak’s Postman.
“I would like to meet you,” it read. “You are my type. At the moment, I am also alone.”
“So, I called her – rather clumsily – and soon I met her,” Martens said, handing me a picture of him and Renate kissing on their wedding day. “We were married in 1994 and had our reception under the oak tree.”
The local newspaper printed a photo of Martens on the ladder in his suit and one of the newlyweds kissing under the tree alongside the headline, ‘Wedding of the year’. Twenty-four years later, Martens and Renate remain happily married, and the former Postman still keeps her letter. In 2009, after more than 100 years of bringing people together, the Bridegroom’s Oak was symbolically married to a 200-year-old chestnut tree near Düsseldorf. Though 503 km apart, the trees remained together for six years until the chestnut started suffering from old age and had to be cut down, leaving the Bridegroom a widow.
According to Mr. Martens, when he began delivering mail, “The tree was stronger and healthier,” describing a section of the oak’s branches now secured by cables. “But I’m not so healthy either, so I suppose we have a special connection.” Several years ago, arborists detected a fungal infection inside the oak, leading them to lop off a number of its limbs to prevent it from spreading. Around the same time, Martens was diagnosed with Leukemia. Like the tree’s branches, he explained that his bones aren’t so stable anymore. Though retired, Martens still likes to come back to visit the tree, he can still climb the ladder, but it’s a little slower process these days.
Looking for love?
You can send the oak tree a letter at:
23701 Eutin, Germany
To visit it in person, take the B76 road from Eutin towards Plön, turn right at the Alex Münster distillery and you’ll see a wooden sign pointing towards the tree on the left.
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