Monday, 27 August 2012

Continental and English Railway Travelling

We're back again with an ancient travel report. I hope you enjoy these things as much as I do.

Some things never change. Like the superior organisation and comfort of continental railways compared to those in Britain. Funnily enough, one of the area wher the Germans excelled was in superior catering. It's still true today. A German station of any resonable size will have at a bare minimum a kiosk selling food, beer and impulse schnapps. Large stations have a dazzling array of refreshment options.

A correspondent of the Athenaeum, writing from Vienna, says:- One great faet which strikes an Englishman travelling on the Continent is, that in foreign parts the convenience of the public (with some exceptions) is more studied better cared for than in England. Who that has eaten and drunk at a railway restauration, or Speise Saal, as they call it in Germany, or a "buffet" in France, but must have felt more than ever ashamed of the so called "refreshment rooms" in which the British travelling public are supposed to refresh themselves? Go where you will abroad, the superiority is manifest. The restauration at Olten is well known to all who have traveled in Switzerland, It is one of the largest, if not the largest, in Europe. I arrived there with a party from Baale, and during the 20 minutes of waiting for the train to Berne we had an excellent breakfast, unlimited in quantity, café-au-lait, bread, butter, honey, and jam, for whioh the charge was one franc each person, There were waiters enough to attend to the crowd of travellers, and, notwithtanding the apparent confusion, the traincaller did his duty so well that throng after throng left the tables as their train was ready, and none was left behind.
Glasgow Herald - Saturday 24 October 1868, page 3.

I'm pretty sure that you'd pay more than one franc a head in a Swiss station buffet today.

Now we get to all the good beer stuff.

"All through the Rhine provinces; the Palatinate, and Baden, railway travelling is divested of some of its inconveniences by the nimble lads and lasses who, wherever the train stops, run from carriage to carriage with baskets of fruit or trays of freshly-drawn beer, or jugs of water. Many a traveller who does not wish to alight may wish to quench his thirst, and there the opportunity is afforded. All over Germany the same practice prevails, but, perhaps, finds its culmination in Bavaria. If any of our railway directors want to know what a refreshment room ought to be, let  him go and look at the restauration at Augsburg or Munich. One room is allotted to first and second class passengers, who, instead of crowding at a single counter, seat themselves at the numerous tables, and eat and drink in comfort. But third class passengers are' not neglected; theirs is the largest room, containing scores of tables every one of which may be crowded, as I saw more than once, and with  a few of the first and second class passengers, who seemed to enjoy the bustle. Of course, the noise is overpowering, but you can get a good dinner, promptly served, of soup; meat (roast and boiled), the never~failing sausage, potatoes and salad, with sweet things if you like, and good beer at a very moderate cost. The counter from which the chief delivers his supplies is so well arranged and fitted with pots and pans that the various dishes are kept hot and ready for serving dut at a moment's notice. And let it be rermarked, a table-napkin is supplied to each person who dines. This is a touch of consideration for third-class passengers which I can hardly hope to see adopted in England, live as long as I may. At nearly all the stations the third-class waiting-room is also the restauration. "Will any of you dine at the table d'hote at Linz ?" asked the guard of the train, looking into our second-class carriage, as we were nearing that city. Whether he sent a message on by telegraph or otherwise I know not, but on our arrival at Linz, with twenty minutes to wait, we found forty plates of soup, smoking hot all ready for us; these were followed by two courses of meat, and a mehlspeise, which resembled a baked apple-pudding. No one complained of not having enough. The charge, inclnding beer, was equivalent to 2s."
Glasgow Herald - Saturday 24 October 1868, page 3.
Doesn't that sound civilised - lads and lasses bringing draught beer around the train. I wonder what it was served in? Because surely they wouldn't be around to collect empty glasses.

 Even continental boats were better than their British counterparts:
"Draught beer can be had onboard the Danube steamers at ten or twelve kreutzers the tankard. How the steward of a Thames steamer would stare if you asked for a pint of draught ale while on a trip to Gravesend or the Nore! when all the while the majority of the passengers prefer draught beer to the frothy, bottled stuff which is supposed to be good because it contaius fixed air. England is commionly spoken of as a beer drinking country; but what are the facilities afforded to drinkers? In London and the large towns you stand at the counter, or the bar parlour, or the big room upstars, where one large table nearly fills the space; and in any case you are, served in pewter. In Germany even at very modest houses, the drinking cups and tankards are of glass, or in some instances stone with a pewter lid, and the room is furnished with rows of small tables, which facilitate companionship.
Glasgow Herald - Saturday 24 October 1868, page 3.
This is exciting. He's talking about a pub I know:
"At the Hof Brauhaus, in Munich, I have seen from four to five hundred persons taking their evening draught - brown beer on one side of the house; white beer, with a slice of lemon in each tankard, on the other. At the Ober Pollinger, a 20 gallon cask of beer stands on a pedestal in the middle of the room, and is emptied in about fifteen minutes. Down goes the pedestal, speedily to re-appear with another full cask, which in turn is soon drawn off, and so it goes on all the evening. So rapid is the demand that although the waiters carry five tankards in each hand, they cannot supply the eager customers quickly enough, and you see a crowd round the cask holding out their tankards to the tapster. In some rooms a fountain of iced-water is provided in which the tankards and glasses can be rinsed and cooled. Pains are taken to keep the beer cool in the cellars; hence, as will be understood, the Bavarians are highly favoured in their national beverage. They can drink it to perfection. To those who know what Bavarian beer is this particular will be important, because even a good thing may be spoilt by bad serving. An Englishman who cannot drink beer at home without undergoing a severe bilious attack, finds that he can drink beer at Munich with impunity. He feels refreshed and comnforted thereby but not stupefied. But hould he travel on to Vienna be will find that the Austrian capital has beaten the Bavarian in the article of beer."
Glasgow Herald - Saturday 24 October 1868, page 3.
Did you spot the most fascinating part of this whole article? The one real nugget of fact. That Weissbier was served with a slice of lemon. No way the Hofbräuhaus would do that today. I'd wondered if a lemon garnish had ever been the practice in Germany. It seems that it was. At least in the 1860's.

That pedastal with the barrel sounds very much like the lifts that some Alt and Kölsch pubs have built into the bar and which bring up fresh barrels from the cellar.


Tandleman said...

I did notice that. And this "Pains are taken to keep the beer cool in the cellars; hence, as will be understood, the Bavarians are highly favoured in their national beverage. They can drink it to perfection. To those who know what Bavarian beer is this particular will be important, because even a good thing may be spoilt by bad serving."

Another qualitative difference between Germany and here.

Erlangernick said...

Great post.

The American practice of serving lemon with Hefeweizen originated with people like the Widmer brothers reportedly having experienced it Over Here. I have only seen it once or twice myself, over in the deep southwest, in Freiburg, never anywhere else.

As someone who travels as a tourist by train in England and down here, I can say that service by conductors is markedly better in England than with the Deutsche Bahn. Today, anyway, when DB conductors won't even stamp your Streifenkarte ("strip card" or whatever you lot might call them...if you have such things!) let alone sell you a ticket unless you're on an IC or ICE.

In other aspects, chiefly accurate information on the platform at smaller stations, Britrail beats DB too IME.

Vienna better than Munich? I'm inclined to agree.