It is history redefined at Waterloo. Every hill and plain reverberates with the sound of battle even today.
Waterloo — a name that even today brings to mind many who are aware of European history — the famous Battle of Waterloo, where the great Emperor of France Napoleon Bonaparte met his fall. The Battle of Waterloo is regarded today as one of the greatest battles in European history marking the final confrontation between Europe and France.
My husband and I are no strangers to Belgium having lived there twice and even after our return to India from Brussels, we have made short visits to Brussels during our trips to Europe and so the towns and sights of Belgium are not unfamiliar to us.
Into the woods
During our recent trip to Brussels, I was keen to go to the little town of Waterloo, 20 km away from Brussels.
Leaving Hotel Ibis near Grand Place where we were staying, we drove past the beautiful woods known as Bois de la Cambre and reached Waterloo, which like any other Belgium town has its share of sights, museums, boutiques, shops and restaurants. It is now a modern town with an enormous past history.
Every year, visitors and tourists flock to Waterloo mainly to see the historic battle-field, where the Duke of Wellington, Commander of the allied armies, led his forces to a victory against Napoleon Bonaparte and what a great fall it was to the mighty French Emperor.
As our vehicle reached the town, we see the most prominent feature — the Lion Hill. Raised between 1824 and 1826, it is dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives on June 18, 1815, and marks the spot where the Prince of Orange, heir to the throne and Commander-in-Chief of the first body of the Wellington's army was wounded. Atop the mound or hill stands our enormous cast-iron-lion weighing 28 tonnes. There is a steep climb of more than 200 steps and reaching the top one can admire the perfectly preserved spot where it is believed that 30,000 men from seven nations met in battle.
After this we went to a building nearby, where there is a Panorama show. The circular building has painting in canvas depicting the various stages of the battle and as one goes round, one gets a complete picture of the battle. The sound-effects of generals on either side charging on their horses, soldiers clashing their swords, commands being given, pictures showing wounded and dead soldiers, upturned carriages, dead horses on the battle ground — the battle scene almost comes alive. Even now in common parlance, the word Waterloo means defeat.
Visitors can also avail themselves of a specially adapted small lorry for a 40 km tour, with commentaries in French, English and Dutch.
The wax work museum has life-like impressions of the principal actors of the battle displayed against faithfully reconstructed backgrounds. A trip to Waterloo is incomplete without visits to the Napoleon Museum and Wellington Museum.
Having spent quite a lot of time in Waterloo, we had a quick drive around the town seeing monuments. We beat the retreat to our hotel in Brussels, with memories of the great historic battle still lingering.