celebrates the victory and mourns the defeat

Wallonia

Cliquez sur le drapeau et alors ctrl + R (PC) ou cdm + R (Mac)

Program of the week •••

Flames from muskets and cannons illuminate the darkening evening and clouds of gunpowder smoke cover the Waterloo cornfields.

Cries of pain and war cries are mixed with cracks and bangs on muskets and canons when 191,000 young men rush at each other with murder on their minds.

 

Napo napo Napo Napo NAPO NAPO NAPOOLEOON!

A strengthening rhythmic shout is getting nearer and nearer from somewhere on our right.

I take off my binoculars, the time machine breaks, the magic evaporates and a little fat man on a white horse passes us peacefully and greets our yell by waving in a friendly but not so emporial manner.
However, his five generals on similar horses seem to pay more attention to the battle, where thousands of men and riders shoot, slash and blast each other.No computer animations now or then

I am not sitting in the movies watching young soldiers killing and dying in the fields of Waterloo, but at a stadium with 130.000 spectators. In front of our eyes 6.000 Watertloo enthusiasts shoot and impale, 130 cavalrymen cut each other and 30 cannons blast flames to the cornfields. Everything is blood, flesh, iron and gun power. No computer animations.
All this a big show, a confusing spectacle, but exactly 200 years ago 65.000 young men from France, Great Britain, Prussia, Netherlands, Nassau and Braunschweig died here. Tens of thousands disappeared or got wounded.

 

Attaaaac!!

Suddenly hundreds of men rush shouting bloodcurdling at another group of men, who retreat for their lives. The mens's uniforms are fabulous, but it’s hard to distinguish which ones are the bad and which the ones good.

The speakers in English, French and Dutch try to keep us informed of what’s happening, but their tongues are not fast enough like that of an Argentinean soccer reporter on radio. So they rather tend to repeat historical facts, which are difficult to join with what’s happening in the field.Whom should I bet on?With binoculars I can distinguish men in kilts. Of course they a Scots, belong to the group of Duke Wellington. As his group outruns the number of survivors of the opposite side at the end, they are considered the winners and thus the good ones.The French may have a different opinion and even for other nations he may be considered at least a working class hero. For the aristocracy Napoleon was and will be a war criminal.

CLick any picture below to enlarge it, than click on or back.

Six days earlier
Discovering the History and Today
of Wallonia • July 14.-20.2015

The second happy SCIJ reunion of the year at the Brussels airport and Hotel Pullman. After a standing luncheon Betty Cleeren’s team rushed us to a bus that took us Hotel Cathedral in Tournai. The name comes after a huge building a block away.
Tournai, bullied by everyone and his brotherTournai is a more than 2000 years old town, which has been destroyed and ruled by most nations in the Western Europe, even by the English for five years. The incendiaries in the World War II did the greatest damage.

Tournai was a “free city” 1187-1521 under protection of the kings of France. However, England took the town in 1513, fortified it, and gave it back in the London Treaty. The fortification held for 6 weeks in 1521, when the army on Spanish Netherlands invaded. After that the Protestants went on exile and the economy of the city declined.
 

The blow of the central hole of the Bridge of holes, not the whole bridge. Pont des Tous was too low for modern riverboats and could finally be raised by 2,4 metres. The Germans are to be thanked for that.
The towers of the bridge built at the turn of 13th and 14th century are flat on the southeast side but round on the other side. It’s supposed to better prevent bullets from northwest. From whom, left a question mark in my mind. After all, the enemies have come from any direction. Well, maybe not from below, but in WW2 from above. 90 % of the city was destroyed.


An odd piece of architecture
Cathedral Notre-Dame de Tournai

riginally built the 12 th century in rather sturdy Romanescue style, with not one, not two, not three, not four, but with 5 bell towers. In mid-13th century the choir was replaced by a new one in Gothic style. However, that was not enough, the new choir was separated from the bell towers with three long aisles and some side spaces as long as the original Romanescue aisles. Naturally the new part is also much higer then the old one as is typical for Gothic churches. The rest of the church was supposed to be rebuild in the same style, but luckily was not. Only a western porch was added.

According to the style the inside of the Romanesque part is rather ascetic, but the other end is richly decorated with sculpture. Also a beautiful rood screen in Renaissance style has been added in 1573.

The dogs of the city must go crazy at noon.
Then we got a chance to train our thighs for the slalom race by climbing the belfry. Not only did we profit from it by muscles bulging with new power, but a great view all around the centre of Tournai.Especially interesting was the market place, its sides full of cafes and restaurants.The cathedral, with its five bell towers are twenty meters from the belfry. When the five bells of the cathedral toll, what chance does the belfry have to compete with the noise?

 

An army marches on its stomach
and so does the Fourth Estate

At 19.30 we were more than ready for the dinner at restaurant “l’Ancienne Poste” (Former Post Office) http://www.restaurantlancienneposte.com.Im so sorry!

In the morning of June 15th Troy Hawks and I came out of the hotel a bit late finding no SCIJ members there.
We asked the gentleman at the reception which way our friends had gone for the bus. Evidently he only understood the word “bus”, did not realise that were belonged in the SCIJ group and directed us across the square to the main street, where we found a bus stop but no bus. We were stupid enough not to look at the cards that were hanging on our necks with phone numbers for cases of disaster.
I found Patrick Kinsella’s number on my phone and managed to make him understand that we were not on the bus. I heard negotiations at the other end of the line. Then we got orders to go back to the hotel.

After half an hour a furious Elisabeth Mathieu braked her Range Rover in front of us.

Shockwaves were felt in London
After a very fast but quiet drive we arrived at the Plugstreet 14-18 Experience with a cinema showing the background to the Great War, a three-dimensional map of the western front and a special presentation on the battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917, which was won by the Allies when thousands of tonnes of high explosive were detonated beneath the German line. It’s said that the shockwaves carried across the Channel and were felt in London.

The exhibition dedicated to the history of the area in the run up too and including both world wars. It is not just a military museum but shows the effect of warfare on the residents of Mons.

The displays are clear and easy to understand with a great mixture of film, hardware, uniforms and posters.

Legendary Christmas truce and the aftermat
After Plougstreet we visited some of the more than a hundred military graveyards and the legendary site of Christmas truce of 1914, where German and British troops sang carols and plays soccer together. Short truces occurred even elsewhere. In other places killing continued through Christmas.
The British High Command got furious. They feared that men would now question the war, and even mutiny, as a result of fraternising with the enemy that they were meant to defeat. The London Rifle Brigade’s War Diary for 2 January 1915 recorded that “informal truces with the enemy were to cease and any officer or found to having initiated one would be tried by Court Martial.”

 

The day at the races as funny
as that of the Marx Brothers

After lunch we were ready for a nap, but, instead headed for the Dwarf Slalom race at the biggest, greatest and grandest inside alpine resort in not only Wallonia, but the whole kingdom of Belgium.As was predictable, Gisella Motta figuratively washed the faces of all others with snow. I didn’t do so well, having, by mistake taken two left-hand gloves along. What can a right-hander do in a situation like this?!For MONS, European Capital of Culture 2015 we headed, the bus being filled with a lively discussion on the slalom race.

 

A night in a true cathedral

So we checked-in at Hotel DREAM that could have been named The Cathedral. After all, it is an unsanctified (is that a word?) church finely refurbished. Huge columns gave a sturdy backbone to the very modern bar and restaurant.

Most of the 57 rooms in this renovated 19th-century chapel have their quota of Belgian weirdness, from the bowler hat lampshades in the Magritte room to the giant Smurf mural in the Comics Room.

After a quick freshening-up we were ready for the Grand Gala dinner at restaurant « La Petite Provence » to relax of the pressures of the slalom race.
Well, Ingemar Stenmark always went to practice in the evening of a race day, but, you know the Swedes. Always so serious about racing. However, I don’t understand why, we missed them at this meeting.


The European Capital on Culture in 2015

Next morning a charming and funny expatriation guided us to a spin in Mons. Church, belfry, town hall, market place, artistic park, overflowing university library...Countess Waudru, mother of four became a nun after her husband had retired to an abbey in 656. She started a convent (Sainte-Waudru) and the city of Mons grew around it.It took 800 years for the collegiate to be ready to demolish the old building on the hill and start building Collegiale Sainte Waudru in 1450.

The best parts of it is Gothic, but maybe because it’s building lasted almost 2,5 centuries, there are some very different ideas on it’s outside. The part looking downhill is rather pompous and is showing the power of church. Understandable if it was built during the Renaissance era. The inside is not too overwhelming but rather peaceful. Somewhat overwhelming is the partly gilded carriage in which the shrine of Sainte Waudru is drawn through the city once a year.
The construction idea of a Gothic church works fine. The walls with fine glasswork look very light. However, because of their height they are heavy, but the “crutches” outside every column keep them from collapsing.

The treasury of the church is worth visiting as is the François Duesberg museum close by, if one likes beautiful objects of gold, class and porcelain.

Need for book bonfires?
Approaching the University Library we were stopped by a waterfall of books from the second floor.
To me it symbolized three things.

1. The overflow of books having been published.

2. As the development of sciences is getting faster, academic publications are getting outdated.This causes the need to destroy old books and also floppy disks vide tapes...3. Books loosing their meaning as media.
A poem longer than the National Anthem of GreeceA poetry installation on buildings called The Phrase stretches for 10 kilometres. We only read some short pieces of it. I don’t believe anybody ever sings or reads all the 158 verses of the National Anthem of Greece.

 

These I would have liked to see
1. The Passenger, the most impressive new work of modern art was a sprawling wooden structure in rue de Nimy, installed on 6 December by Arne Quinze. It hovered above a busy shopping street with blood-red struts brushing against the law courts. However, considered dangerous it was demolished at the mature age of two months, because some boards fell of it. It was rebuilt in autumn.
 

2. The Mundaneum, the weirdest museum in Mons. It contains the remains of a vast collection of newspapers, posters, catalogues and curiosities gathered in the early 20th century by the Belgian philanthropist Paul Otlet. For years it lay forgotten in a Brussels underground car park until it was snapped up by Mons, housed in an empty department store and rebranded as the world’s first Internet.3. Opening ceremony on 24 January. There were dancing robots, eight Finnish hot tubs, a re-enactment of the Woodstock festival and 18,000 people dressed in shiny aluminium ponchos.4. The Museum of Fine Arts. The museum itself, designed by renowned Victor Horta is worth a visit. The collection is remarcable for a smallish town like Mons. 

 

The Lakes of
the Water of Time??????

After lunch we headed for les Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure, whatever such a poetic name may mean. A great view, some snack and some beers welcomed us at the top of a lookout tower.Check-in at Golden Lake Village were we did not have to re-pack out baggages the next morning.
No time for a nap. A barbecue dinner at “Crocodile Café” was waiting. The feeling got relaxed after the busy hunt for culture.However, after the BBQ, the peace loving me was swindled to a laser war game in a dark multi-storey labyrinth. I didn’t tell anyone about the skill to kill by bare hands as result of military training. Had I used all my ammunition... I would have abandoned my gun ran.
Didn’t do so bad, though. Was the third baddest. Even shot one of our own. Sorry, Adelstein.

 

Sports activities for us
sporty journalists

On Wednesday morning the choises for activities were numerous at AQUACENTER + sailing, kayak, paddle, at NATURA PARC (tyrolean traverse, accrobranch) + bicycle, at SPIN (wire water-skiing) and at SEGWAY RELAXATION (Red Crocodile + Aquacenter).
Correct me if I’m wrong, Troy Hawks, but I believe you were the only one to go spinning.
Some of us went on naval warfare on kayaks. Prety fierce it had been judged by the soked look of theirs. Anothetr bunch circled the lake on bike.
Probably the best beer in the worldIt wasn’t Carlsberg even though they’ve advertised so. Some 20 km south-west from the lakes, at Brasserie des Fagnes we swallowed info of making beer, tasty lunch and the best beer I’ve ever tasted. They even gave each of us a 7,5 l bottle for the road.

 

Back to the lakes and extraordinary
GA at Auditorium

SCIJ is not an enterprise and the assemblies tend to last long.Barry Moore kept the minutes. CLICK HERE!Shower, dress-up and make-upcan be done in half an hour

The ladies looked gorgeous and the gents O.K. when we enteredthe garden of l’hostellerie Dispa.After a relaxed aperitif in the garden we entered the charming and cosy restaurant. The indescribable food (we couldn’t guess what it was) was simply delicious. It doesn’t happen often that we spoiled journalists applause the chef out of his kitchen.As a tradition we all tried to make fools of ourselves on the disco dance floor like there was a prize for it. They shoot horses, don’t they (Jane Fonda).

 

Taking in the atmosphere of war,
almost smelling gun-powder

We propably woke the rossignols up, when our alarm clocks made their noise at a unholy time the next morning. At 7.30 we were already on the bus munching paper bag breakfast.
At Bastogne War Museum one can feel the war. When watching a certain exhibit, a boy, a young teacher or a German or an American soldier tell in turns the situation and his/her feelings.
Feeling personaly how it feels to sit in a cafe, when gunfire begins outside. To crouch in a dimly lit, overcrowded air raid shelter listening and feeling the tremble of bombs blasting outside. To hide in a trench when hell suddenly breaks loose all around.
George Clooney look-alike owns a distillery

Well, it may have Richard Gere. Anyway, we had an aperitif, a lunch, a baggage of information in a tastefully decorated restaurant.
The ladies downloaded in their heart every word that came from the mouth of that too good-looking a guy to own a midsized distillery.
I Finland these owners of private distilleries don’t smell of expensive after-shave and haven’t greyed charmingly. Their premises are usually deep in a forest, where they just lay there by the juniper. While the moon is bright. Watch them jugs a-filling. In the pale moonlight. (Bob Dylan)

 

Interesting museum of the industrial
revolution and the cost of it.

In the 19th century Wallonia became the most industrialised area in the world. This was basted on its coalmines. Between 1822 and 1829 the Boringe area, west oft Mons produces more coal than France and Germany together.
The grim downsides of coal mining became familiar to us in « le Bois du Cazier », a former mining site turned into an interactive museum.
On 8th August 1956, as a result of human error, a fire rapidly spread to the whole mine. A total of 262 men, of 12 different nationalities (including 136 Italians and 95 Belgians) lost their lives, leaving hundreds of widows and orphans. This resulted in an end to Italian immigration into Belgium and stricter regulations on safety at work.

 

From victory to victory
We advance in the footsteps of Napoleon’s troops. A victory is 20 km ahead. On the way we stopped at “General Gérard “, a centre dedicated to the last victory of Napoleon, when the defeated Prussians retreated in some disorder.
Also Wellington’s troops had to retreat. 

In “Château de la Paix” in Fleurus we admired the bed and the room, where Napoleon spent his last night after his latest victory.
There’s been much debate on the reasons why Napoleon delayed the start of fighting at the Battle of Waterloo on the morning of 18 June for several hours. Was it a flue, a headache after celebrating the victory, haemorrhoids making riding painful? Official reason is that he waited for the ground to dry after the previous night’s rain.
Anyway, I was almost late for the show. First buying more clothes in the village, then queuing to the show area, then queuing for tickets to buy food and drink and then queuing for food and drink.

It’s the final countdown (Europa)Because of the delay the Prussians had time to reorganize and come to help Wellington’s groups, and together they forced the French to retreat in confusion.
However, Marshal Davout had 117,000 men near Paris ready to turn back the 116,000 men of the Allies. Davout was defeated at the Battle of Issy and negotiations for surrender had begun.

On arriving at Paris three days after Waterloo, Napoleon still clung to the hope of a concerted national resistance; but the temper of the legislative chambers, and of the public generally, did not favour his view.
On July 15 Napoleon rode to surrender himself to the British squadron at Rochefort.
We were fooled to believe that we saw the final Waterloo. However, what we saw was Napoleon’s last victory. The defeat was to be shown the next day to new 130,000 spectators.


What if...
What would follow if history could be upgraded according to this victory? Would we all speak broken French instead of English, as Renaud Richebé speculated? I don’t think so. The 250,000 Frenchmen faced a coalition of about 850,000 soldiers on four fronts. Also, the 168,000 Russian didn’t reach Waterloo until the game was over. Had they been on time...

Waterloo and Napoleon live onA monumental 360° panoramic painting of the Battle in a rotunda called “Panorama de la Bataille de Waterloo” with noises of battle gives a living impression of the horrors went on at the area 200 years ago.
A vision of the landscape is reached from the top of “Butte du Lion”, a large conical artificial hill beside the rotunda. King William I of the Netherlands ordered its construction in 1820. It commemorates the location on the battlefield of Waterloo where a musket ball hit the shoulder of his son William II of the Netherlands (the Prince of Orange) and knocked him from his horse during the battle. What a memorial for one wound! He commanded the Dutch-Belgian forces under Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, but although “not deficient in personal courage”, it is believed that his inexperience was responsible for errors, which cost the lives of many men.
“Parissien” describes him as a short and skinny and indecisive youth (and later in life a notoriously dull drunk) invariably known as “Silly Billy”.


So, that was it

Nothing more to queue back to the village and the bus. It was a pleasant 20 km drive sharing the 0,75 l bottle of brown “Super des Fagnes” with Barry Moore.
After a great dinner we sniffed cocoa powder, and most of us went to bed.
As always, there were some who wouldn't leave to the land of Nod, but stayed up drinking beer and playing pool and table football. Thanks guys for that.
The last night we spent in the too-fine-for-us “Hotel Brussels” on Waterloo Street.

Two Roi de Rome Pistols, Napolen's gift to his son, sold at Sotheby's in July 2015 for 1.33 million €.

Full size Napoleon dress. Well, he was rather small.
At ebay 40-80 €.

Original medal of a wounded grenadier sold for 3800€.
Copies are more affordable

Tens of designs of diffeding quality  and differing prices with Duke of Wellington at ebay and Amazon.