We were driving along a Czech highway at German speed–that’s the other side of 100MPH–when we spotted these unmistakable cement silos dressed up as unmistakably grouchy French artillery. Suddenly it dawned on us that the nearby village of Slavkov U Brna had to be the former Austrian settlement of Austerlitz.
The confusion over place names was understandable, given that every village in these parts sports at least three names, depending on who most recently invaded whom. You have Polish or Czech and normally German and/or French. On top of those, the British have renamed just about everywhere on the planet to suit their Anglocentric tastes. Maps hardly ever match history books, much less road signs.
The conflict on 2 December, 1805, was called the Battle of the Three Emperors. Both Alexander I of Russia and Frances II of Austria contrived to personally show up and be thoroughly humiliated by the outmanned and outgunned French Emperor. Napoleon took unbelievable risks in his dispositions, only to watch the enemy tumble straight into all of his traps.
This particular spot saw a holding action between the French and Russians that allowed the former to maul the Austrians and knock them out of the war. Austerlitz and later Jena no doubt convinced Napoleon that he could defeat anyone anywhere. Which he of course did–until he didn’t.