1794 - Ann Radcliffe
Mainz: Travelling by Post
The business of supplying post-horses is here not the private undertaking of the innkeepers; so that the emulation and civility, which might be excited by their views of profit, are entirely wanting. The Prince de la Tour Taxis [Thurn und Taxis] is the Hereditary Grand Post-master of the Empire, an office, which has raised his family from the station of private Counts, to a seat in the College of Princes. He has a monopoly of the profits arising from this concern, for which he is obliged to forward all the Imperial packets gratis. A settled number of horses and a post-master are kept at every stage; where the arms of the prince, and some line entreating a blessing upon the post, distinguish the door of his office. The post-master determines, according to the number of travellers and the quantity of baggage, how many horses must be hired; three persons cannot be allowed to proceed with less than three horses, and he will generally endeavour to send out as many horses as there are persons.
The price for each horse was established at one florin, or twenty pence per post, but, on account of the war, a florin and an half is now paid; half a florin is also due for the carriage; and the postillion is entitled to a trinkgeld, or drink-money, of another half florin; but, unless he is promised more than this at the beginning of the stage, he will proceed only at the regulated pace of four hours for each post, which may be reckoned at ten or twelve English miles. We soon learned the way of quickening him, and, in the Palatinate and the Brisgau, where the roads are good, could proceed nearly as fast as we wished, amounting to about five miles an hour.
If the post-master supplies a carriage, he demands half a florin per stage for it; but the whole expence of a chaise and two horses, including the tolls and the trinkgeld, which word the postillions accommodate to English ears by pronouncing it drinkhealth, does not exceed eight pence per mile. We are, however, to caution all persons against supposing, as we did, that the chaises of the post must be proper ones, and that the necessity of buying a carriage, which may be urged to them, is merely that of shew; these chaises are more inconvenient and filthy, than any travelling carriage, seen in England, can give an idea of, and a stranger should not enter Germany, before he has purchased a carriage, which will probably cost twenty pounds in Holland and sell for fifteen, at his return. Having neglected this, we escaped from the chaises de poste as offen as possible, by hiring those of voituriers, whose price is about half as much again as that of the post.
The regular drivers wear a sort of uniform, consisting of a yellow coat, with black cuffs and cape, a small bugle horn, flung over the shoulders, and a yellow sash.At the entrance of towns and narrow passes, they sometimes sound the horn, playing upon it a perfect and not unpleasant tune, the music of their order. All other carriages give way to theirs, and persons travelling with them are considered to be under the protection of the Empire ; so that, if they were robbed, information would be forwarded from one post-house to another throughout all Germany, and it would become a common cause to detect the aggressors. On this account, and because there can be no concealment in a country so little populous, highway robberies are almost unknown in it, and the fear of them is never mentioned. The Germans, who, in summer, travel chiefly by night, are seldom armed, and are so far from thinking even watchfulness necessary, that most of their carriages, though open in front, during the day-time are contrived with curtains and benches, in order to promote rest. The post-masters also assure you, that, if there were robbers, they would content themselves with attacking private voituriers, without violating the sacredness of the post; and the security of the postillons is so strictly attended to that no man dare strike them, while they have the yellow coat on. In disputes with their passengers they have, therefore, sometimes been known to put off this coat, in order to shew, that they do not claim the extraordinary protection of the laws.
These postillions acknowledge no obligation to travellers, who usually give double what can be demanded, and seem to consider them only as so many bales of goods, which they are under a contract with the post-master to deliver at a certain place and within a certain time. Knowing, that their slowness, if there is no addition to their trinkgeld, is of itself sufficient to compel some gratuity they do not depart from the German luxury of incivility, and frequently return no answer, when they are questioned, as to distance, or desired to call the servant of an inn, or to quit the worst part of a road. When you tell them, that they shall have a good drinkhealth for speed, they reply, “Yaw yaw;” and, after that, think it unnecessary to reply to any enquiry till they ask you for the money at the end of a stage. They are all provided with tobacco boxes and combustible bark, on which they stop to strike with a flint and steel immediately after leaving their town; in the hottest day and on the most dusty road, they will begin to smoke, though every whiff flies into the faces of the passengers behind; and it must be some very positive interference, that prevents them from continuing it.
A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany
Dublin 1795; Reprint 1975