Waterloo, where the famous battle of 1815 was fought between Napolean and the Allied forces, is located in present day Belgium and close to Brussels. The actual battlefield is, however, a little further away from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battle has been preserved as an European heritage and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The battle in 1815 had ended on June 18 with Napolean’s defeat and is considered as one of the most significant events in the history of Europe. To commemorate this important event, each year the scene of the battle is re-enacted at this site on June 18.
The battle is re-enacted by a large group of history enthusiasts who come from diverse backgrounds and different countries. The passion for history and zeal to keep it alive, is the common thread binding most of these participants. Among them are also people who pursue it as their full time vocation. When not re-enacting events, they are engaged in researching the history and disseminating their knowledge to preservers and pursuers of history like museums, educational institutions, etc. However there are also people who participate just for the adventure and to experience something different.
Typically the actual battle of June 18, 1815 is re-enacted on the weekend closest to June 18 each year. This year the event started with a one hour light and sound show of pyrotechnic battle on June 18 from 10pm. This display was organized at the foot of the Lion Mound. Lion Mound was constructed between 1823 and 1826 as a memorial to the war. It is an artificial hill created by dumping earth from the battle site with a cast iron statue of a lion on top of the hill.
During the re-enactments, the participants live in camps called bivouacs. These camps are setup like they were way back in 1815 and the participants live a life like that of troops in those times. They try that each detail of the event is as accurate as possible. These camps are also open to the visitors who can get a feel of the life of soldier in those days. On June 19, these bivouacs were open for visitors between 10am to 5pm. In the evening between 6-7pm, a battle is re-enacted at the square of the village called Plancenoit.
The main battle of June 18, 1815 was re-enacted on the day of June 20 this year starting from 10am until noon. I had attended the event of June 20th only and have collected information of the previous two days through my online research and interactions with other visitors. It is said that about 70,000 people saw this battle re-enacted by about 3000 participants undeterred by the cold, windy and rainy weather that day. People of all ages, from toddlers in prams to seniors, were seen among the audience. We too were a big group of about 25 from Leuven and thanks to Tomas for organizing this trip.
The troops began moving to the battle site around 9-9:30am from their camps. They marched in battalions and it was nostalgic to see them dressed up in uniforms and carrying weapons like that in 19th century. It felt like a scene out of hollywood movie :). The battle was fought in the fields at the foot of Lion Mound. The audience could stand around the periphery of the battleground, or sit in the stands setup or place themselves at the slopes of the Lion Mound. Although we arrived well before 10am, the place was already full and the best spots already taken :(. Tomas and other seasoned photographers there had carried small stairs or stands to get a better alleviation.
The battle started sharp at 10am and continued until noon. I could not follow the battle exactly because I didn’t get a good spot to see and shoot the battle. What I understood was that they re-enacted a few important episodes from the real battle. Nevertheless it was action filled 2 hours both on and off the battle field. On the battle field there were gun shots, cannon fires, war cries, galloping horses, marching soldiers, smoke and fire. And off the battle field, there was the struggle to find spots and gaps to take pictures, bear the rain and the wind, and to sustain yourself and the camera in the big crowd :).
The battle ended around noon and the troops began returning to their bivouac. The Allied bivouac was about 800m from the battlefield and that of French was about 2 Kms. We took the easier choice and visited the Allied bivouac :). The scene at the bivouac was again straight out of some movie. I felt as if I was transported back in time and I am actually standing in one of the real army camps of 19th century. Rows of white tents were setup. Most of these tents were small and meant for a single person. I peeked inside one of them and saw bed made out of straw, blankets, wooden boxes, light lamps, etc. There were also tents which were used for dining and meeting place. These were much bigger with wooden chairs and tables in them. Fire was built outside these tents for cooking food.
All around there were different sights to be seen. Apart from male troops, one could see a good number of women and quite a few children. The women mostly ran the kitchen. Outside few tents one could see the troops sitting around the fire drinking tea/wine and discussing the battle. Outside some other tents, the troops were having their food. Some tents looked like board meeting rooms where strategies were being discussed. Some troops preferred solitude and some had already called the day off. Also one could see soldiers cleaning their guns and artillery.
Overall it was a delightful sight and the place was full of life. We spent about 1.5hrs in the camp and then left the place. We hiked for about 9 kms through the fields to board the train for Leuven at Lillois. Although we were quite tired and drained out by then, the hike through the beautiful fields with friends and fellow hikers was worth it. We missed the train for Leuven by a few minutes and had to wait for 1 hour for the next train.
So, this was the Battle of Waterloo 2010 :). An experience which I would recommend to others as well. I am looking forward to attend it again next year and I will make sure to carry stairs for a better view and more zoom for better pictures :). However thanks to Tomas for letting us use his stairs and we did rounds on his stairs to take pictures.
I had never thought that I would cut my birthday cake this year on the Formula 2 racing tracks. Thanks to Hari for this brilliant surprise and to Ashwin, Nadia and Deepak for the warm celebration. It was really amazing cutting the cake near the tracks with cars VROOMING on the back :).
Belgium has a Formula2 circuit at Zolder besides a Formula1 circuit at Spa. Races 7 & 8 of Formula2 season this year have been scheduled at Zolder this weekend. Deepak got the info, Hari spread it around and we pitched in to go for the Race 7 today. Although I am not a fan of Formula racing, I wanted to go because I had never watched a car race in person and it would be a new subject for me to take photographs :).
Zolder is about 75kms east of Brussels and has a 4km long track. It was used for F1 racing in 70s and 80s but now it is used mostly for F2 and other racing events. The bus dropped us right at the entrance of the circuit. We could already hear the cars outside the gates and as we walked inside and towards the main stands, the loud roaring sound of the cars sent shudder into our chests. I had never experienced this before but it was cool :).
The action on the track as well as off the track was equally exciting. A lot of people came with their caravans and had camped there for the entire weekend. The cars, the trucks and the people were all amazing and fun to see. The other exciting part was to see the photography gears of people… uff! People had lenses which were no less than canon barrels :). My 18-105mm lens looked minuscule and I felt as if I have come to a war with a needle :).
Apart from F2 race there were qualifying rounds for Maserati and FIA WTCC. So there was enough to see and shoot. The weather for today was predicted to be rainy but luckily it was much better than expected. Although it rained a few times in between, it didn’t spoil the fun. We took pictures, had a picnic lunch besides the track and also cut the cake :).
I am subscribed to the promotional emails from IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited). This morning I received an email from them with the subject line “Limited offer on Airlines Tickets”. This made be curious to open the email and have a look at it. It was a surprise to see that IRCTC is offering 10% cash back on airlines tickets booked through their website. But I liked the enterprising aspect of IRCTC that although airlines are a competitor to the railways they are offering a one-stop solution to the customers.
In India the transportation – flights, trains and buses are not integrated as they are here in Europe. In India each of them compete with each other to get a larger share of the passenger traffic. Under this scenario, it is a welcome move by the IRCTC to also offer flight bookings and promotions on them.
I have been following IRCTC since they introduced the online booking of railway tickets. This made booking railway tickets a breeze unlike before where you paid hefty commission charges or queued up before the booking counters. Initially the online booking was available only for few important trains. Later it was extended to all the trains. They started with i-tickets where tickets can be booked online and are delivered by courier. Later they also offered e-tickets where tickets can be booked online and printed at home. The issue with i-tickets is that for their cancellation one will have to go the booking counter whereas e-tickets can be cancelled online.
All these has really made it convenient for millions of passengers traveling by train. I agree that their website still has a lot of scope for improvement particular with its constant server and connection errors. But given that the amount of traffic that it sustains, I feel it does a decent job.
Gradually IRCTC evolved into a railway tourism site from just an online booking site. They started offering holiday packages, railway packages, hotel bookings, etc. And now it is good to see that they are also offering flight bookings. Hats off to IRCTC :).
I took this photo in Amsterdam and it was the first photo I clicked there. I had just got out of the hotel in the morning and was waiting for my other friends to join me when I noticed this beautiful family. The little girl (with the doll in her hand) was visibly upset and her mother was trying to cheer her up. I didn’t notice what was in the packet at which the girl was looking and the lady had her hands into. May be she was pulling out some candies to cheer up her daughter. I simply love this photo and probably it’s the best photo I took in Amsterdam. I couldn’t have asked for a better start for the day :)!
I came across this band of brothers (there were 2 more who are not in this picture) somewhere between Zaventem (Brussels International Airport) and Leuven during a recent hike. We had gone for a night hike. It was 11:30pm when we met these boys. They were playing in the fields and on seeing on us ran to us. Probably they were amused on seeing a group of people, at such late hours, who didn’t appear locals. The boys got interested in my camera and wanted to see pics in it. I offered to take their photo. However it was not easy because it was already dark with only faint natural light available. The nearby street lamps didn’t help much. I had to take the pic using a slow shutter speed of 1/4s and it was difficult to keep the boys still :). But the smile, enthusiasm and the energy of the kids are worth more than a perfect click!
(PS: The lady in the picture was one of the hikers)