Do you know, where Waterloo is situated? I didn't, before I came to Belgium. Probably ABBA has part of the fault, because in 1974 they sang "At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender". But they did that with English pronounciation - thus they mixed up geography entirely. Because Waterloo is situated in Belgium, just about twenty kilometres south of Brussels. And pronounced it is in Flemish - then the "a" sounds like in "father" and the "o" like in "so". The etymology of the word comes partly from "water" = water and partly from "lo(o)" = wood.
The memorial mound at Waterloo. The lion does NOT symbolize Napoleon, as some people believe!
From the beginning it was probably some swampy woodland, that was lying there. But that was in all likelihood much earlier, long before the time of Napoleon. And so we have come to talk about that man.
I am no friend of battles - but they did happen and that is, why they have some historical impact. And nobody really can argue, that Waterloo didn't influence European history. A short recapitulation: Napoleon was in no way better than for example Adolf Hitler, even if he is celebrated as a hero in France (and other places).

The Panorama - Outer shell of a painting, more than a thousand squaremeters large. To the left the stairs up to the lion.

Almost all of Europe was against him (only the Swedes got one of his fieldmarshals to become King of Sweden) and he was banned to live on the island of Elba. Nevertheless he could escape from there, put together a new army and tried to conquer Europe again. Anyhow, he got only as far as Belgium, that is to Waterloo. After twenty-two years of war, plotted by that megalomaniac, he was finally beaten there on June 18th, 1815 and definitively placed on the island of St. Helena, where he also ended his life.

Scenes from the big panorama-painting inside of the rotunda.

In remembrance of that victory a forty metre high hill was built, on top of which a lion stands, holding one paw on an earth-globe (thus being a guarantee, that such misery as the bygone wars will not happen again). Apart from the hill, there are many memorials in the area, raised by different nations, in order to honour their victims. Such memorials there are plenty of, all over the world. It is just that the victims can't appreciate it any more!
Last not least Waterloo has become a touristic centre, which, with the help of some attractions, wants to get us closer to history. For nine Euro you can get a ticket, giving entrance to all of the attractions. It allows you to climb the hill, to see two movies about the battle, to enter the "Panorama" and also the house, where the waxworks are to be found. Next to the ticketcounter there is a shop, but again everything is about Napoleon ... Napoleon on drinking glasses, Napoleon on postcards, Napoleon on keyrings - and then, of course, there are a lot of books as well, naturally about Napoleon!
Some of the French generals in the waxworks.
Twenty-two years of war that man is guilty of!
I am not going to watch the films. I know the historical background and I have seen more movies about war, than necessary. To climb the hill, I leave to younger people, with a little regret though - but anyhow, there are more than twohundred steps and there is no place to rest on the staircase ... So I start with the Panorama. That is a round building with about thirty metres in diameter. Inside it, over a staircase you can reach the centre of it and there you see yourself in the middle of the ongoing battle. All around the platform, that you stand on, it is shown, what happened in the battle at 4 p.m. on the 18th of June. It is an enormous painting on a canvas of about 110 meters long and twelve meters high. Louis Dumoulin is the painter of this gigantic work, which he created in 1912. Apart from the painting you can hear adequate noise from the battle. In the foreground the visitor can see labels, explaining which units are portraited. In spite of the motive, this piece of art is impressive.
On the opposite side of the street there is the waxworks. Various fieldmarshals and generals are here to be seen.

The "winner" of the battle - Duke Wellington
When will there ever be a museum, in which the great scientists of the world get their place of remembrance, people, who have brought forward all mankind? Still - the individual characters are pretty well done and there are as well other objects - drawings, findings - which have some connection with the battle.

This is, what it looks like today - but on the neighbouring site one is building a new centre, which hasn't come over the very first stages, though.
Ah, yes, I haven't said anything about the battle yet? There we go - the Englishman Wellington and the Prussian Blücher have beaten Napoleon. And 40000 men have lost their lives on one single day!

Copyright Bernhard Kauntz, Wolvertem 2013

Many nations have built memorials in the surroundings. Here is one of the Belgians.

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last update: 22.9.2013 by