Our Monday Motivation series on GuinnessWorldRecords.com profiles the inspiring stories of commitment, courage and dedication behind some of our most extraordinary titles. This week we're placing the spotlight on a woman who has kept track of her extraordinary world travels over time with her massive postcard collection.
It has often been said that 'a picture is worth a thousand words', and that idiom is especially meaningful for Marina Noutsou.
The Grecian doctor, who lives in Athens with her husband and two sons, has a house stocked with thousands of pictures; all places from around the globe.
Each time Marina looks at her collection of postcards, she is transformed to another time and place.
Some date back to the 1970s, almost fifty years ago, while one is a recent acquisition from a friend’s excursion abroad.
Whether she gathered the mementos herself, or received them from someone else, the experience is all the same.
Her mind takes her to a scene she may or may not have experienced before; an incredible, imagined journey that brings a stark appreciation for travel, culture, and the world that she lives in.
Though Marina would venture all over her home nation with her family in tow, it never occurred to her to savor those moments with a keepsake.
That was until 1970, when she received her very first post card from her grandfather - an image of the small town Ioannina, in which they lived.
“Ioannina is a beautiful green city with an adorable lake and a cute island in the lake which is something very characteristic of the city. One day as I was walking with my grandpa along the lakeshore, he bought me a postcard of Ioannina and told me: ‘Marina try to remember your roots wherever you go and whatever you do. Keep this postcard to remind you of the place where your life was started, where most of your family lives.’”
As her parents had moved Marina and her brother to Athens, from that day forward, the sentimental card served as window that linked Marina to a place dear to her heart.
It would be the spark that inspired her to start collecting more.
“Browsing through my albums always made me feel more relaxed and nostalgic. As the years passed, I found that hobby really fascinating. I started sharing my passion with friends and relatives. Most of them found it very interesting and started contributing by bringing postcards from places they had visited from all over the world. Some of them are really rare! Postcards from Nepal, Everest, China, Japan, Laos, Yemen, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Cuba, Patagonia, Antarctica and so many others. They helped me make my collection very exceptional!”
But as expected, some pieces became more significant than others, particularly ones that Marina had attached experiences to.
During the early part of 1989, Marina had traveled to visit her German friend Yvonne, which she had made while at a university exchange program in Budapest.
Now an adult traveling with her husband George, Marina could understand quite clearly the part of history she was looking at when coming face to face with the Berlin wall.
At the time, she was staying in East Berlin, where the wall was considered still “live and strong”.
“In the background, the wheels of history had already began to turn but the wall was still there; no cracks, no trembling, not a single sign of weakness. I remember the cold feeling when I first saw the it from the east side, walking down the “Unter Den Linden’’ avenue and getting a glimpse of the Bradenburg Gate at a distance. It could be seen just behind the gate: a white concrete barrier that stood at twelve feet high, so terrifying.
“We were facing the frontline of the Cold War. I leaned on the fence and George took a quick photo. Two days later we visited West Berlin – Yvonne was not allowed to come along. There I had the chance to get closer and actually touch the beast with my hand, see the Bradenburg Gate behind the barrier, get close to the abandoned Reichstag. Ugly, unnatural, intimidating. That wall had no place in the modern Europe.”
A few months later, the wall would be officially taken down by the German government, a sign that the times had indeed changed since it was erected in 1961.
Nonetheless, Marina still had her postcards would forever preserve the memory of that historic period of time.
To this day, she still gets emotional looking at the image.
But there were also times in which Marina’s postcards commemorated a period of joy in her life, particularly the ones that came from her honeymoon.
Touring Europe as infatuated newlyweds, Marina and George visited an abundance of countries, ranging from Yugoslavia, Hungary, and various cities in Austria, containing the city of music.
One of the most fascinating elements of Marina’s collection is how the photos seem to capture a place’s change over time – even over the span of a few decades, she’s been able to witness, and catalogue the transformations of entire cities, namely Dubai.
In 1985 she first visited the Arabic municipality, which was filled with a few shops, figures of oil wells amid endless views of sand and deserts.
But when returning in 2011, the massive city was unrecognizable.
Though in disbelief of the dramatic change that occurred over such a brief period of time, Marina was grateful she had both images to remind her of the vast transitions the world undergoes.
“An important life lesson I have gained from all these years of travelling and collecting postcards, is to appreciate the present. Through my travels I had the chance of seeing many landmarks that do not exist anymore; the World Trade Center, the Kathmandu temples destroyed in the 2015 earthquake, the sites in Palmyra destroyed by ISIS and many more.”
As her excursions continued, Marina, who now embodied the epitome of a world traveler, would use her postcards to relive her life passions.
On a visit to Argentina with her husband in 2010, they fell in love with the culture: the intense fervor and zest for life that seemed to be undeviating between the buildings, colors, music, and people.
With this backdrop, Marina and her husband found it easy to immerse themselves in the movements of the Argentinian Tango, which they thought personified the fiery Latin spirit.
The postcard she acquired from that trip reminds her to this day of her adoration for the country, and the influence it had on her afterwards.
Both Marina and George took up professional Argentinian dance, and competed until they earned a gold medal from the International Teachers Dance Association.
The postcard was added to a massive collection consisting of more than 10,000 postcards – all receipts from the adventures she incurred or the places she wished to travel to.
She even had a few postcards from Antarctica, brought to her from friends who had trekked to South Pole.
They were stored within her home and her hobby turned into a Guinness World Records title for the Largest collection of postcards, amassing to 15,089 unique cards after being counted.
The very first gift her grandfather had given Marina had now turned into a massive, record-breaking accomplishment; a library of memories and places captured in time.
It has now persuaded her to move forward and continue collecting, seeing as each single postcard symbolises such important parts of her life.
“Collecting postcards is now more of a lifestyle than a hobby to me. The first thing I do when I visit a location is to search for stores selling postcards. My friends and family know my passion and bring me cards from all their travels. My collection is growing each day.”