With the rise of dating apps in recent years, the ways in which people find romantic connections have changed dramatically. Single people can now spend their time swiping through prospective lovers’ profiles on their phones, arranging to meet them after sharing a few messages online. But for some, more traditional methods of dating are more appealing. Over in Germany, for instance, near a place called Eutin, singletons can turn to a mysterious matchmaker that’s been helping people to find love for the last hundred years or so. The catch? Well, this matchmaker is a tree.
The Bridegroom’s Oak
This matchmaking tree, it’s said, has been responsible for a whole lot of happily-ever-afters. Over 100 weddings have apparently taken place as a direct result of this now-legendary plant. And if that sounds weird, try this one on for size: the tree itself got married in 2009! So, what’s the story here? How does this ancient oak help people to find love?
Well, the tree — which has come to be known as the Bridegroom’s Oak — has a hole in its trunk, within which people looking for a relationship can place a letter containing their details. They can also read the other letters in there, and if they like the sound of someone’s note, they can strike up a correspondence.
People can visit the oak themselves to place their letter inside the hollow, but if they’re based further afield they can send their note through the post. A mail carrier will deliver it to the tree; for two decades that person was Karl-Heinz Martens. His daily routine involved traveling through the north-German town of Eutin, delivering mail along the way, and eventually forging a path through the forest towards this unique tree.
Karl-Heinz was equipped with a key, which would allow him to open a gate in the forest. He’d pass through here, park up his vehicle, and go for a walk through the woods. His goal: to deliver love letters to the Bridegroom’s Oak.
Living the single life
In 2019 magazine The Atlantic wrote a story about the Bridegroom’s Oak and the postal worker who’d delivered letters to it for so long. In the piece, the magazine quoted something Karl-Heinz had once told the media.
He said, “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.” Clearly there was a huge amount of interest in Karl-Heinz and the Bridegroom’s Oak, but for so long the man himself was never especially taken by the potential for romance that the tree potentially offered. Following his divorce, he’d spent many of his middle years as a singleton. Almost inevitably, though, the tree eventually intervened on his own behalf.
Love off the cards
When Karl-Heinz had first started delivering letters to the Bridegroom’s Oak, the year was 1984 and his native Germany was still split into East and West; the tree lay on the western side of the border.
His own life had taken a bit of a break, too, following the end of his marriage: he no longer felt like love was on the cards. As Karl-Heinz told The Atlantic, he was done with going on dates at that time. In his own words, “I was fed up with women back then.” He seemingly just wanted to get on with his job, and that was that.