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I'm writing a historical fiction TV pilot and I need some help from the history buffs here. One of my characters, a young, aspiring, musician needs to travel from Venice to Dresden, Germany. I suspect it more likely that he took some part of journey by water. Can anyone offer information about how people travelled this route around 1700?

Thank you!

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    Is the musician trying to travel as fast as possible (no expense spared) or leisurely/cheaply?
    – Steve Bird
    Dec 5, 2022 at 20:06
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    The main route would be: Venice, [Mountain crossings], Vienna, Brünn, Prague, [Mountain crossing Bad Schandau], Dresden. These would have been long established trade routes. No major waterways along the way. Dec 6, 2022 at 0:29
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    From Prague, the river Moldau flows north into the Elbe and from there on to Dresden. No idea if possible per boat in 1700. Look for Casanova's trip from Dresden through Prague and Vienna on to Venice between October 1752 and May 1753. Details may give a hint on how he traveled between the cities. Dec 6, 2022 at 7:03
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    @RiddleLeafFilms Travelling was very expensive at the time. Not just for the cost of transportation but most of all lodging for the night. One way to save on lodging was through connections. Therefore being a guest of relatives / friends but also religious groups. Proper letters of introduction / patronage would be needed. Dec 8, 2022 at 11:59
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    @Jan Yes, the Alte Dresden-Teplitzer Poststraße (through Fürstenwalde, Pass am Geiersberg) would be the main crossing point in 1700 (until 1860). The Neue Dresden-Teplitzer Poststraße (through Peterswald, Nollendorf Pass) starting 1810. Erzgebirgspässe - Entwicklung des Botenwesens und der Poststraßen, Pass am Geiersberg. Bad Schandau, as a railways crossing, after 1850. Dec 10, 2022 at 11:24

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Here is a roughly contemporary map (from 1727) with postal routes that includes both Venice and Dresden. This does not yet mean your character would actually take any of these routes (e.g. because there were cheaper modes of transportation?) but it might be a start.

Please note that according to the map legend, routes drawn with a single line are for post riders ("reitende Posten") and routes drawn with duplicate lines are for coaches, carts or the like ("fahrende Posten").

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  • Typo: "postal". So from the map, a hypothetical route would be Venice - Palmanova - Laubach (Ljubljana) - Gratz (Graz) - Vienna - Prague - Dresden.
    – njuffa
    Dec 9, 2022 at 22:37
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Working from the map posted by @Jan, the route would be:

  • Depart Venice to Laubach (optionally Klagenfurt via Burgo and Brixen);
    The route through Klagenfurt would be inhospitable in winter, but perhaps more scenic in summer.
    enter image description here

  • Depart Laubach for Vienna, via Gratz and Loeben (meeting up with any travelers through Klagenfurt);
    enter image description here

  • Depart Vienna for Linz;
    Linz is the only Danube crossing between Vienna itself and Passau. Crossing at Vienna takes one into Moravia through Olmutz (ie Austerlitz) and then into Silesia via Breslau - a very roundabout route, but possible.
    enter image description here

  • Depart Linz for Prague;
    Shortly after leaving Linz one descends into the Moldau/Vitava river valley, which flows into the Elbe at Prague. This stretch has only ever been intermittently navigable, so travel would have been on foot, horseback, or carriage.
    enter image description here

  • Depart Prague for Dresden;
    One is now simply following the Elbe river valley. The Elbe has always been navigable by commercial vessels as far inland as Prague, according to Wikipedia, so this could be a comfortable downstream river excursion.
    enter image description here

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    The Elbe has always been navigable by commercial vessels is what Wikipedia states. Also the needed locks only came about in the 19th century according to the source given in my answer. Dec 10, 2022 at 12:50
  • @MarkJohnson: Thank you. I've made the correction. Dec 10, 2022 at 12:55
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    There is a northern route from Vienna )through Stockerau) that goes directly to Prague, so going over Brünn (Brinn on the map) or Linz is an unlikely option. Dec 10, 2022 at 13:20
  • @MarkJohnson: Until much later than 1809, there was no Danube crossing between Vienna and Linz. Yes, one can always trek overland; but that's not how city folk, such as musicians, travel. Check out Napoleon's 1805 and 1809 campaigns post-Vienna, for an idea of the difficulties of that route you favour. Dec 10, 2022 at 13:23
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    The map is a bit misleading as it gives mainly postal lines, not general streets (Landstraßen) its main focus. But there always was a "Prager (Land)Straße" between Vienna and Prague, and you can see it in the map as a double dotted line via Stockerau - Znaim - Stocken (Štoky) - Kuttenberg (Kutna Hora). Its route is basically the same as modern day auto routes S3 - E59 - I38 - I12.
    – ccprog
    Dec 10, 2022 at 15:10
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The main route would be: Venice, [Mountain crossings], Vienna, Stockerau (north bank of the Danube outside of Vienna), Prague, [Mountain crossing Pass am Geiersberg], Dresden.

These would have been long established trade routes.

  • Alte Dresden-Teplitzer Poststraße
    • through Pass am Geiersberg and Fürstenwalde until 1860
      • pink, left route

No major waterways along the way in 1700.

From Prague, the river Moldau flows north into the Elbe and from there on to Dresden.

Serious planning for a Donau/Moldau/Elbe connection only started in the early 19th century. Most references about the shipping on the Elbe (north of Dresden towards Hamburg) is about the shipping of goods.


Sources:

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