The Battle of Austerlitz began 200 years ago on December 2nd after weeks of maneuvering. Its reenactment will begin this Saturday at 1 pm and run until 2:30. You can catch a bus from Brno to the battlefield, and tickets are for sale through Ticketstream.
If you want to get a good idea of a battle, yet avoid having to walk up hill and down through farmers' fields full of corn leftovers, there's nothing like a novelist to help fill in the details, real and imagined. I remember learning the statistics of Austerlitz in AP European, but War and Peace shaped it into a story that I could actually hold onto in my mind, and the book is the lens I view the battle through today. The way Tolstoy told it, Austerlitz seemed the culmination of fruitless politics, of enthusiasm trumping experience for the Russians and the Austrians. When I first read the book I remember wondering how such massive endeavors could be so misguided. I also remember recognizing the indifferent sky, the same one that Prince Andrei looks up into as he lies on the battlefield, expecting to die.
I had seen it too, playing against a 6’4” girl linebacker in the one high school powder puff game I ever limped out of. We were crouched facing each other, she softly growling while I pondered the differences between running football patterns with my cousins and playing against embittered seniors currently experiencing the best years of their lives. Then I looked up and saw the sky and realized how beautiful it was, so beautiful and so uncaring. When the whistle blew I took off my flag and handed it to the giantess before she could get too excited. “Nice day isn’t it, pity it didn’t rain,” I said before I left the field.
A few hundred kilometers southeast of Prague today, troops have started gathering to reenact the battle of the three emperors.* There will be many thousands of people getting a first hand look at the muddy fields of Moravia mixed with snow, and I wonder if any one of them will mark the day by looking up at the sky to quote Tolstoy and Prince Andrei and say: “all is vanity, all is a cheat, except that infinite sky.“
*Napoleon, Francis of Austria and Alexander of Russia.
2 hours ago