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The Smell of Durians Sent Employees of a German Post Office to the Hospital

The incident deployed six ambulances, two emergency vehicles, and five first responder cars.
durian, king of fruit, german post office, hospital, smell
Photo: Jim Teo on Unsplash

Over the weekend, a post office in the German town of Schweinfurt was caught in a dramatic emergency involving a strange-smelling parcel.

Police officers and firefighters arrived at the scene after receiving a call about an unusually smelly package on Saturday, June 20, CNN reported. While the first responders tried to figure out the contents of the potentially dangerous parcel, the entire building consisting of about 60 postal workers were evacuated. It turned out, though, that the situation wasn’t nearly as dangerous as they all thought.


It was later discovered that the suspicious parcel contained four Thai durians, which a 50-year-old resident of Schweinfurt had mailed home from Nuremberg.

Known for its polarising scent, the Southeast Asian fruit has made even the most adventurous gastronomers gag. It has been described as “carrion in custard,” and may very well leave your breath smelling like you’ve been “French-kissing your dead grandmother.”

Despite its gustatory offences, Southeast Asians take their durians very seriously. Some are even willing to fork out exorbitant prices for the finest varieties of the mean-looking fruit.

While it may come as a relief that the parcel wasn’t hazardous, its offensive odour still wreaked havoc among unsuspecting postal workers. Twelve employees were treated at the scene for nausea and six were sent to the hospital.

In total, the big brouhaha deployed six ambulances, two emergency vehicles, and five first responder cars, across three fire departments — a feat that sounds about right for the “King of Fruit.”

Fans of the durian will be pleased to know that the parcel at the centre of the commotion eventually made its way to its recipient.

This isn’t the first time the durian has unleashed mayhem onto ill-prepared masses.

In 2018, the strong odour wafting from a durian left in a university library cupboard in Australia was mistaken for a gas leak, causing hundreds of people to be evacuated. Last year, a similar incident happened to another university library in Australia.

Durians have also been the culprits of several air travel episodes, like when a flight in Jakarta was delayed because its passengers simply couldn’t stand the smell of durians in the plane’s cargo hold. Then, the same distinctive odour forced a Canadian plane to make an emergency landing with passengers decked in oxygen masks.

Scientists have tried to find out what exactly gives the fruit its distinctive smell, but there’s still no definite answer to why durians smell heavenly to some yet deeply offensive to others.

Find Koh Ewe on Instagram.