I, postmaster

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This post is about a 21km walk from Sélestat to Zotzenberg. I try to deliver a postcard and outrun the rain.

The weirdo left Sélestat by train, I left on foot. We were going to meet again a few days later in Strasbourg.

the warning

I headed in the direction of northwest towards the Vosges, a range of forested hills that separated Alsace from the rest of France. There was a castle in the distance. And another one. And another one. It felt a bit like a scene out of a fairytale.

I was worried, though. The sky didn’t look too bad, but the precipitation radar was showing a string of rain clouds rolling in from the North Atlantic. At the time it was still over the UK and Western France, but it would catch up with me by nightfall. I wanted to be somewhere safe by then, preferably not in my tent, however new and waterproof it was supposed to be.


Then I found the postcard. It lay in the grass next to the road. There were six puffins on it, perched on a rock in front of a blue background. I turned it around and that it had been sent from the far west of France. There was an address on the back along with a short message: ATLANTIC PUFFINS ARE VERY DISTINGUISHED BIRDS. BIG KISSES FROM GRAMPA.


I put the postcard next to the cameras in the Caboose and decided to think about it later. I walked as I thought about it, I thought about it as I walked. Then I decided to look up the address: it was right in the next town.

How had the postcard ended up here on the side of the road anyway? Had it fallen out of the postman’s car? Or had the receiving person lost it or thrown it away?

the job

When I arrived in the next town, which was called Dambach-la-Ville. I had somehow assumed the job of the postmaster. Holding the Caboose with one hand and my phone with a map in the other, I walked toward the address on the back of the postcard.

I saw a bunch of pilgrims on the way. They were people who walked around wearing hats and hiking boots, carrying backpacks and walking sticks, so they actually looked a lot like me. But they weren’t like me. They presumably had a purpose. One of them, a German, talked to me. He was walking the local part of the Camino de Santiago. I didn’t tell him the truth about my newfound duties as postmaster. It felt too stupid.

The situation got even more dumb when I arrived at the address and the name wasn’t there. Had the recipient moved houses in the meantime? Had Gramps written down the wrong address of his grandchild? I showed the postcard to a woman who was passing by and asked her what I should do. She took it and crammed it into one of the mailboxes at the address.

And so my job was done.

cracks in the roof

There was still the problem with the evening rain. On the map, I had found a wooden shelter that I wanted to get to before nightfall. And so I walked quickly along the foot of the Vosges. One time, when the path went through a forest, I realized that this spot right here was the westernmost point on The Longest Way. From here on, the Caboose and I would be moving either north or east until we got home.

I reached the shelter with the first raindrops. And then, just as I had unfolded my camping chair and was getting ready to have my dinner, the sky darkened, the wind got angry, and the rain started hammering on the land as if someone was emptying a giant bucket.

It even came in through the cracks in the roof.


the walk from Sélestat to Zotzenberg:

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