Belgium // Brussels //

Around Brussels: Waterloo

Brussels lies at the centre of Brabant, one of Belgium’s nine provinces. The Flemings claim the lion’s share of the province with their Vlaams Brabant (Flemish Brabant) actually encircling the capital – a noticeably narrow corridor of Flemish-speaking communities runs round the southern edge of Brussels. WATERLOO is easily the most popular attraction in Brabant Wallon (French-speaking Brabant) and is best seen on a day-trip from the capital. A run-of-the-mill suburb about 18km south of the centre of Brussels, the town has a resonance far beyond its size. On June 18, 1815, at this small crossroads town on what was once the main route to Brussels from France, Wellington masterminded the battle that put an end to the imperial ambitions of Napoleon. The battle turned out to have far more significance than even its generals realized, for not only was this the last throw of the dice for the formidable army born of the French Revolution, but it also marked the end of France’s prolonged attempts to dominate Europe militarily.

Nevertheless, the historic importance of Waterloo has not saved the battlefield from interference – a motorway cuts right across it – and if you do visit you’ll need a lively imagination to picture what happened and where – unless, that is, you’re around to see the large-scale re-enactment which takes place every five years in June; the next one is scheduled for 2015. Scattered round the battlefield are several monuments and memorials, the most satisfying of which is the Butte de Lion, a huge earth mound that’s part viewpoint and part commemoration. The battlefield is 3km south of the centre of Waterloo, where the Musée Wellington is easily the pick of several Waterloo museums.

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