Yesterday I purchased this cover at a meeting of the Baltimore Chapter of the German Philatelic Society. Why? Not for its value as postal history, because it surely was sent to a stamp collector who enjoyed seeing new issues—in this case the complete set of German farmhouse semi-postal stamps issued in 1995. (The stamps grossly overpay the normal mailing and registration fee.)
Just as the recipient surely enjoyed seeing these stamps in his daily mail, though delivery appears to have been a problem judging from the delivery notice hand-stamp, I experienced some of that joy because of the clean colorful renderings of the houses—one of my favorite stamp topics. I like seeing the amazing variety of house designs from around the world and learning about how these structures relate to their particular locales.
The 200+70pf stamp at the upper right of the cover particularly attracted me. Searching Wikipedia I learned that this type of timber-framed farmhouse is found in Northern Germany and the Netherlands and combines living quarters and barn under one roof. It contains a large hall with bays on the sides for livestock and storage, and has living accommodation at one end. (Note: That close proximity of large, farm animals and humans would not be my first choice for living accommodations.)
By the late 19th century this type of farmhouse had become outmoded. Rising living standards, larger harvests and the introduction of farm machinery all contributed to its demise. Examples of these thatched-roof houses, however, can still be seen in many north German villages.
And what about those extended pointed gables? With a magnifying glass I could see horses’ heads were carved at the end of each timber. This same imagery can be seen on the coats of arms of many north German towns.