Hidden Belgium: The first international postal service

Hidden Belgium: The first international postal service

Two plaques attached to a corner building next to the Petit Sablon park in Brussels mark the site of a vanished palace.

It was here, in 1516, that François de Tassis organised the first international postal service. The plaque to the left show François, looking a bit chubby, while the plaque on the right portrays the young Emperor Charles V with his prominent jaw.

Charles needed to create an efficient communication system to rule over his vast empire. The horses worked in relays to deliver messages to distant cities. The Tassis family ran the service until 1704, when it was moved to Frankfurt.

The land in northern Brussels where the post horses grazed became the site of a huge 19th century customs complex known as Tour et Taxis. For many years, people living in Brussels had to go here to pay duty on parcels from the United States or Australia.

The name Tour et Taxis has survived in this new urban quarter as a last nostalgic reminder of the imperial postmaster who lived on the Sablon.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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