Austria Post AG
Who says visiting a post office can't be fun? Part of my visit
to Oesterreichische Post (Austria Post) turns into an Indiana
Jones-Raiders of the Lost Ark-type adventure.
First, some interesting history on the post office's six-story
building two blocks from Vienna's Stephanplatz, the city center
plaza that is home to the city's magnificent cathedral. Main
parts of the building were once the Barbara seminary of the Society
of Jesus for which St. Barbara's Church, integrated in the building,
was erected in 1672. In 1775, after abolition of the Society
of Jesus, Empress Maria Theresia dedicated St. Barbara's Church,
and the building, to the Uniate (Catholic) Greek Church. Emperor
Joseph II then had the ancient seminary building seized to lodge
state offices. Later it was dedicated to the Imperial Postal
Administration. In 1861 the Ministry of Commerce and National
Economy moved in. In 1923 finally, once the state offices for
Commerce and Public Works had left, Austria Post took over the
whole ancient seminary building. So, what you see when standing
out front of the building entrance is a block-long building wrapped
more than half-way around an over 300-year old, still in use
With 30,000 employees and 1.6 billion Euros in revenues, Austria
Post is 100% owned by the Austrian government. This bureaucratic
upbringing hasn't curtailed the good folks from introducing some
important innovations in history. Did you know Austrian postmaster
Johann Georg Khumer introduced the first modern postmark in 1787?
Or that the postcard was an Austrian innovation in 1869?
Johannes Angerer from the Press Department is my contact person
and tour guide as we go from top to bottom. About 500 people
work here. Smoking is allowed in offices, senior management gets
reserved parking spots, it's 30 minutes to Vienna Airport, there's
no formal dress code, there's a fitness center (including Ping-Pong)
with showers and, ceremonial rooms on the first floor that are
named after their décor--such as the Mahogany and Baroque
Director General Anton Wais (CEO) occupies a corner office on
the fourth floor. I note the fresh lilies, desktop computer and
the five-framed stamps hanging on the walls.
Go back several hundred years and Vienna was a maze of underground
tunnels and catacombs. These tunnels ran for several miles and
served several purposes. Goods could be delivered in all kinds
of bad weather AND Austria's Emperors had emergency escape routes
from the Imperial Palace. So, Angerer calls up one of his colleagues
in the know and it's off we go. With one flashlight amongst the
three of us we scale down ladders and crawl on all fours through
spiderweb-laden dirt pathways. Man, it is REALLY spooky and if
you're claustrophobic-forget it. Imagine having to do this sans
flashlight and only candles. Several pathways take us to dead
ends that have been bricked-up. I actually expected to encounter
the remains of some poor soul who had mistakenly taken a wrong
turn and ended up hopelessly lost.
Heading to the basement of the building we check out Austria
Post's archive. There's a spiffy collection of antique mailboxes,
horns and stamps. It's too bad they don't have the space to open
a museum and properly display these items.
Angerer doesn't let me leave empty-handed as I'm given a bright
yellow official rain jacket worn by postal employees. Hey, I
wonder if wearing it while biking in the rain people will confuse
me with Lance Armstrong?