Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields


Just completed the blog on our visit to Lepizig, which is the last battlefield we visited during our Midas Battlefield Tour entitled "Napoleon in Germany". It was the last commercial battlefield tour we went on, largely because we were so disappointed with this tour.

In August 1999 we spent a week visiting Jena, Auerstadt, Dresden, Bautzen, Lutzen and finally Leipzig. It was the second tour we did with Midas, and we had high expectations. Although it was a guided tour I did lots of preparation in the six months before the tour started. I read all of the books I could find, I photocopied maps and even pages of books. I did just as much preparation as I would have done had we been going on our own.

We had already done a walking holiday of Austerlitz with Midas. It poured with rain, and the ground was very muddy, but the whole weekend was a great success. Our guide was very knowledgeable and obviously knew the ground well.

This holiday started badly. We were scheduled to fly to Leipzig, but at the last moment it was changed to Prague. When we arrived we had to wait a couple of hours for our coach, which had gone to Berlin to collect a couple of the group. We then had a very long drive from Prague to Gera, where we arrived very late and very tired.

The first battlefield was Jena, which was very well done. Despite an overcast day with light rain we spent sufficient time on the ground and got a good feel.

Auerstadt was, I felt, a little rushed. But we did explore Hasselhausen and did justice to the French position. Less justice was done to the Prussian side.

We were given a lot of "free time" in Dresden, which I always feel is a "cop out". You don't go on a battlefield walking tour to waste time walking around a city. There was a rumour that our guide had gone off to recce Bautzen.

Bautzen was good, though it is a large battlefield and I felt we could have spent more time on it.

Lutzen was excellent. We walked the whole area and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent there.

But Leipzig, the jewel in the crown, was a complete disappointment. We had a whole day for this very large battlefield, but only spent a morning touring it. There were two locations, which could have been anywhere. Then a long visit to the monument, which was good value. We then went for a long lunch and were told that we had another "free afternoon".

I have not read any accounts of visits to Lepizig battlefield, so I don't know how much more there is to see. But I am sure that there must be more than the very short time we spent walking the ground. There was a feeling amongst some of the group that not sufficient time had been spent by the organisers in recce prior to the tour, and that we were paying the price for this lack of preparation - particularly at Leipzig.

Whatever the reason, this would be our last commercial battlefield tour. Our future visits would be on our own, and would prove much more satisfying and enjoyable.

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