Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Pratzenberg

Austerlitz is blessed with three easy to find locations which give excellent views of the battlefield. Zurlan hill was Napoleon’s command post for the early part of the battle, and is the easiest to find. Nearby The Santon is easy to locate, though slightly more difficult to get to. The third is Pratzenberg. I had expected a long dominating ridge, but from the French position is looks quite flat. However the monument can be seen from any part of the battlefield.
The allied attacks on Telnitz and Sokolnitz came from Pratzenberg. It now contains a large monument to the battle, a small museum and a large car park. The immediate area has been landscaped, but does not alter the battlefield in the same way that The Lion monument does at Waterloo.
We were unable to hire bikes here to explore the battlefield, but fortunately it is not too large to cover on foot. Parking is not difficult in any of the villages, but we often used the car park at Pratzenberg because it is central and we wanted to follow the route of the allied attacks on Telnitz and Sokolnitz on foot. There are also convenient tracks leading to both Stare Vinorady (where the battle with the Russian Guard took place) and Augezd (where the French artillery fired on the retreating allied army as it tried to cross the frozen ponds).
Each day we visited the nearby motorway service station to get a supply of fresh rolls, fruit and a bottle of wine for our picnic lunch. We carried our rations in our haversacks, as we tramped the battlefield. We also had a folder with maps and photocopies, plus a couple of reference books. We would then drive to Pratzenberg and plan our tour for the day. We only used the car once or twice, mostly we explored on foot. The bemused car park attendant seemed quite surprised to see us turning up day after day. But he spoke no English, and we had to make do with an exchange of smiles.
Our first visit to Austerlitz had been memorable for such terrible weather. Heavy rain throughout both days that we spent here. We returned to our hotel in Brunn each night covered in mud and dripping water all over the carpets. This time we had warm, sunny days with a slight breeze. Ideal for walking and very pleasant to have our lunch gazing over sections of the battlefield and reading accounts of the battle.

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