Friday, June 19, 2015

200 Years Ago.......

This week marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. We won't be partaking in this weekend's reenactments, but here's a repost of our visit from last year. We will be returning; just after the crowds subside....

Lion's Mound: whether visiting or just
driving past, it is a distinctive sight to see
War has come a long way in the past two hundred years and nothing exemplifies this more than a visit to the Lion's Mound in Waterloo, Belgium. The site of Napoleon's last stand, the Lion's Mound and the adjacent panorama museum introduce visitors to one of the great wars of the world that helped shape the course of modern European history.

It was here, in the middle of Belgian farmland that 300,000 soldiers representing six nations met in battle on the 18th of June 1815. Under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington, the British Army and their new shrapnel cannonballs met Napoleon's soldiers. The battle proved to be bloody all around with both sides amassing a total of 75,000 casualties and losses.

Today, looking at the still pristine farmland that surrounds the Mound, it is hard to fathom the violence and death that occurred here. Visitors can climb the 226 steps up to the top of the hill to view the battlefields. The mound took three years to build and was completed in 1826. The lion itself is 40 meters high and was erected in the supposed spot where the Prince of Orange (who later became the King of the Netherlands) was injured during the battle. The lion, designed by royal architect Charles Van der Straeten under the order of William I, is symbolic of the allies victories and his paw sits on a globe "announcing the peace that Europe was won in the plains of Waterloo". On the day we visited it was clear and from the summit we could watch farmers harvesting their crops and treasure hunters plying the same fields with metal detectors in hope of finding a war relic. Even with the highway traffic in the distance, it was so incredibly serene and peaceful that it was hard to imagine the battle that had been fought down below.

I enjoyed the views from the top of the Lion's Mound but for me, viewing the 360 degree panoramic fresco of the battle is what brought the battle to life and drove home the harsh realities of war. Unlike today, where modern technology has made much of war impersonal, soldiers fighting in 1815 came face to face with their enemies. In fact, that was really the only way to fight. Upon entering the panoramic room visitors are greeted by the sounds of war; rifles, cannon blasts and the neighing of horses make the battle seem real. Standing above the panorama and looking down, you can see the detailed images of soldiers from all armies engaged in hand to hand combat. There are images of injured soldiers lying beside their fallen horses while their comrades fight over their dying corpses. Perhaps the most eerie and unnerving part of the scene are those battalions who are standing in the distance watching the fighting and waiting their turn to enter into the fray. What must it have been like to watch hundreds of your peers being slaughtered knowing that your turn was next? The scene is extremely powerful and morbid, but then again, so is war.

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The site is currently being updated in anticipation of the celebrations. We plan on visiting again next year and if you are in the BENELUX area during 2015, you too should visit to experience a small, but pivotal part of history.

Just a small section of the 360 degree panoramic painting depicting the Battle of Waterloo

If you go:

Route du Lion 315
1420 Braine-l-Alleud (Waterloo)

Open: 09.30-18.30 1st of April - 30th of September
          10:00- 17:00 1st of October - 31st of March

Adults: 7.50 Euro to visit the Lion's Mound and Panorama, children 7 and over 4.50 Euro

+32 (0)2 385 19 12

There is a cafe adjacent to the visitor's center which has an impressive selection of Belgian beers and so-so food.

No comments:

Post a Comment