The Atlantic

The Tree With Matchmaking Powers

For nearly a century, an oak in a German forest has helped lonely people find love—including the mailman who delivers its letters.
Source: Courtesy of Karl-Heinz Martens

Every morning for 20 years, Karl-Heinz Martens steered his yellow mail truck through the narrow streets of Eutin, a market town arranged around a little castle in northern Germany, near the Baltic Sea. On his route, Martens would drive through miles of farms and fields before disappearing into a deep, enchanted forest, where he unlocked a gate using a special key and reversed into his parking spot—as all mailmen do—facing outward to ensure a quick exit. As he crunched into the woods carrying his mailbag, his tidy beard and glasses were sometimes flecked with snowflakes or sleet, and every morning, just before the clock struck 12, he arrived beneath a towering oak.

“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,” Martens told the press, who called the now-retired mailman the “messenger of love.” The Bräutigamseiche, or Bridegroom’s Oak, is the only tree in Europe with its own mailing address. Every day the 500-year-old tree receives dozens of lonely-hearts letters, and singletons arrive from near and far to reach into a small knothole in the trunk, hoping to find a match. The tree is believed to possess magical matchmaking powers.

According to legend, the tree and its longest-serving mailman are together responsible for more than a hundred marriages. Despite holding the most romantic job in Europe, Martens was a middle-aged divorcé who did not believe in fate. The scores of relationships he helped create, he said when we spoke last year, were “just lucky coincidences.” But that was before the magical oak changed his life, too, and created a happy ending to rival any fairy tale.

In 1984, when Martens first took up the role, the Berlin Wall still separated West Germany (where the Bridegroom’s Oak grew) from the country’s Communist East. The mailman’s personal life had split down the middle too, when his marriage fizzled out and he found himself alone, with shared custody of his 12-year-old son. “I was fed up with women back then,” he said, and had sworn off dating. Sometimes Martens found his love-letter duties tiresome. People assumed the Bridegroom’s Oak was his only stop, he complained, but the tree was part of a challenging delivery route controlled by Deutsche Bundespost, the mail service that employed him. By noon the tourists would be waiting, he half-joked, to “steal my time.”

The magical tree drew tourists and fans of German folklore, in which forests are overrun with lonely princesses, magical spells, and romance (Disneyland’s castle is based on a Bavarian palace). Martens, who speaks in Low German, the

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