For this weekend’s adventure we headed west to Belgium and visited Waterloo. No, it was not an ABBA concert – it was the battlefield where Napoleon met his end. In case your European history is a little rusty (sorry, Mr. Arnold, 10th grade was a long time ago), it was here that Napoleon, fresh out of his exile on Elba, made his final attempt at conquering Europe, but the Duke of Wellington and the coalition forces had it in for him.
We’ve been to our fair share of Civil War battlesites (Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Shiloh, and many more I can’t remember.) Here we went for the complete package – a bus tour, two movies, a climb up the Lion Butte, a visit to the Panorama and a stop in the Wax Museum.
The bus tour was about 40 minutes long. We traversed the outskirts of the battlefield. It was a bit hilly which is exactly why Wellington decided on this site. This is the Hougoumont Farm, Napoleon’s HQ. Unlike Civil War battlefields there is minimum signage, and no cannons or other battle equipment around.
Instead, the fields are in use as farmland, just as they were in 1815. How strange to grow crops on the same land that marked such a significant event in world history! By law no new buildings were erected on this ground after the battle so I suppose farming is making good use of the land.
There were a few monuments in the area. The largest one is this, called the Lion Butte, built in 1825 as a memorial to those who died. (The loss of life – both human and horse – was staggering.)
There are 226 steps to the top of this monument. The lion on the top has a globe under his paw, which represented the peace that Europe was enjoying as a result of the battle.
It was impossible to get a photo of the whole lion from the top, but here’s a shot of his head. It is made of cast iron and weighs over 30 tons!
The Panorama is a 360 degree oil painting of the battle. It was pretty impressive, and since it was wrapped all around the room, impossible to accurately photograph. What was interesting was how they put real items (grass, dirt, battle debris, models of men and horses) in the foreground to add realism. (For example this poor fellow in the bottom left.)
Our last stop was the wax museum. These models were a step up in sophistication from the usual museum mannequin. The uniforms they wore were quite ornate back in the day – much fancier than Jeremy’s normal ABUs (thank goodness! I wouldn’t want all those feathers falling off his hat all over the house!)
After a quick stop in the gift shop (Andrew got another sword – Thomas pocketed the money we gave him to spend) we were on our way back home. This is another great place just an hour and a half from us!
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