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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

Virtual Reality Tour: The GPO at Christmas, with a sneak peek at this year's Santa letters

Every year, thousands of Irish kids post letters to Santa in this iconic building. We got a preview.

Tap to start your tour inside the GPO’s Public Office. Look around in 360 degrees, and walk by tapping the circles. The blue dots will tell you more about this unique space. And can you find all 6 letters to Santa from Irish kids, scattered around the room? 

If you have Google Cardboard or other VR headset, you can enjoy a full 3D experience by tapping the ‘goggles’ icon.

EVERY CHRISTMAS, more than 140,000 Irish children post a letter to Santa, hoping that they’ve been good this year.

Those letters are sorted by An Post and sent off to the North Pole, where he replies personally to each one.

Many of the letters are posted through the special Santa’s Postbox at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street. We were lucky enough to catch some of them in transit, and you can find them in the VR tour above.

Source: Shutterstock/yykkaa

The GPO, of course, is a building with a unique place in Irish history. Next year will mark 200 years since it first opened in 1818. It is “one of the very oldest still functioning purpose-built post offices in the world”, according to An Post assistant secretary and historian Stephen Ferguson.

However, most of what we see today in the public office – the huge central space where thousands of letters and parcels pass over the counter every day – dates from when the GPO was reconstructed after being almost totally destroyed in the Rising.

“The only bit [that survived] was the facade – the columns and the portico,” says Ferguson. So today’s GPO, built in the 1920s, has an art deco feel.

“The overall feel of the space is very much like Grand Central Station, or the classic hotels of the period,” says Ferguson. “There are lots of art deco features. Like the lamps – both on the exterior and in the interior – the writing desks, the combinations of wood and metal. Details like the lions’ heads in bronze which lots of people probably wouldn’t notice.”

In the nineteenth century, people lived here – there were kitchens and servants’ quarters in a huge basement below your feet as you buy stamps today, stretching out under the pavement of O’Connell Street. The manager had “essentially his own house” inside the GPO, says Ferguson; it was a perk of the job.

Source: Shutterstock/mielag

Since the events of 1916, of course, the GPO has had a powerful connection with the battle for Irish independence. But even when it was first built in 1818, says Ferguson, it was designed to assert a kind of Irish nationhood.

“There was a desire to build a fine building that would be our post office. Look at the statue of Hibernia on the portico, for instance. This was a desire to emphasise a sense of Irishness – that long predates 1916. And ever since then, it has become a symbol of Irish nationalism and independence.”

As well as an important stop on the route of thousands of kids’ letters to Santa. See if you can find them in the VR tour, above.

Did you find all six letters to Santa? The lion’s head? The Greek motif on the ceiling?

KBC’s Experience Your World is a technology project that allows people to experience spaces around them in virtual reality – from properties on Daft.ie, to iconic landmarks and city neighbourhoods on TheJournal.ie. As a digital-led bank, KBC also offers 24/7 anytime chat on the phone, webchat and social media, account opening in minutes on your mobile and a Mobile Mortgage team who can come to your house.

Lending criteria, underwriting, terms and conditions apply. Security and insurance are required. KBC Bank Ireland plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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