Many years before the invention of Tinder, this over 500-year-old oak tree near Dodau, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, became a successful matchmaker for humans. It’s also one of the few trees that ever got married.
It all began with a strict father. In the early days of the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the daughter of the Dodau forester fell in love with a chocolate manufacturer from Leipzig. Her father opposed the match (apparently he had no sweet tooth), forcing the young lovers to meet in secret. They used a hole in a big oak tree close to the forester’s mansion as their amorous letter box.
Eventually, the woman’s father caved in. The wedding celebration took place on June 2, 1891, under the very same tree that played such an instrumental role in sowing the seeds of the young couple’s romance.
As news of the story spread, more and more people started visiting the tree. It became known as the Bräutigamseiche, meaning “Bridegroom’s Oak.” Men and women looking to branch out from the usual dating scene while looking for a marriage partner left letters in the tree’s hole that stated their relevant personal details and a postal contact address. Whoever found that letter and took an interest could then write to that person.
Apparently, there were as many lonely hearts in Northern Germany a hundred years ago as there are today. The oak became so popular that it was given its own postal address in 1927, making it possible for out-of-towners to contact the tree. The Bridegroom’s Oak receives a handful of letters per day.
The botanical matchmaking is a success story. According to local legend, more than 100 marriages are rooted in letters found in the Bridegroom’s Oak. Funnily enough, Karl Heinz Martens, the very postman who pushed letters down the tree’s hole for 20 years, owes his marital happiness to the oak. A few days after he appeared on a local television program about the tree, he received a personal letter from a young woman from Hamburg via the Bridegroom’s Oak. The two got together shortly after and are married to this day.
But the tree’s own love life was not a happy one. After centuries of singledom, it was betrothed on April 25, 2009 to the only other German tree with a personal postal address: the Himmelgeister Kastanie, a chestnut tree in Himmelgeist, a suburb of Düsseldorf. Due to natural circumstances, the couple never met in person, though they exchanged photographs and leaves instead. Most unfortunately, the marriage came to an end on December 14, 2015, when the Himmelgeister Kastanie had to be taken down because of a fungal infestation (the dead tree’s trunk has since been transformed into a sculpture).
A widower now, the Bridegroom’s Oak still helps humans find their mate. And perhaps it, too, will remarry one day. The Post Office Tree of Mossel Bay, South Africa, might be a promising candidate. Alternatively, the oak might become proactive and contact the city trees of Melbourne, Australia, who all went online in 2015 with their personal email addresses. It is never too late to find love in a tree!
Know Before You Go
Follow the B76 from Eutin to Plön. Take a right at the Münster distillery, about two miles outside Eutin. The tree is signposted from the car park on the left.