A few weeks ago I was in Leipzig for the weekend, attending Wave Gotic Treffen, an alternative music festival covering Darkwave, EBM and of course Gothic music in its various incarnations. This trip had been arranged by my girlfriend Emma almost this time last year, so I had been saving up my pennies for quite some time to be able to go.
Leipzig is celebrating several anniversaries this year. It is the 22nd Treffen festival, the Richard Wagner Festival (200 years since Wagner’s birth) and finally ‘of course’ the battle of Leipzig in 1813, otherwise known as the ‘Battle of Nations’, celebrating the 200th anniversary of this famous battle.
So while I was in Leipzig, I was going to make the most of it! Thankfully Emma was most understanding and was happy for us to do some tourism. We had time to check out two museums, not exactly wargaming related, namely the Leipzig museum of Egyptology (well worth the visit) and the Museum in the Corner, or Stazi museum, which showed the extent the former East German state tried to control its citizens.
Our first Napoleonic themed destination was Dölitz, where there was a medieval festival. We walked round the fair and enjoyed the sights. I knew little about Dölitz at the time, but saw the information signs in German (my German is very limited!). Dölitz was a small fortified house/castle occupied by Polish troops and held an important position on the extreme right flank of the battle. It also holds a large selection of miniature soldiers depicting scenes from the battle. Sadly this was closed at the time of the fair! Dammit!!!
Next on our itinerary was the monument to the battle, or the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. Built for the 100th anniversary of the battle, this is the largest war monument in Europe. It is truly a Teutonic masterpiece, full of statues with a distinctly mediaeval theme. What the architecture had to do with the battle is another matter! I guess I was expecting muskets or something… The museum was fairly small but still very interesting – it even had Poniatowski’s saddle and a display with toy soldiers showing a small section of the battle. I quickly identified the models as Airfix 20mm, which only proved to my girlfriend how much of a ‘sad’ wargamer I was.
So we climbed… and climbed and climbed. All 485 steps from the very bottom of the monument right to the top. Now I have heard about Leipzig, and the 600,000 men on both sides involved, but never appreciated the vast scale of it – until I reached the top of the monument and looked out on a clear day over the battlefield. Breathtaking! Armed with a small postcard I’d bought in the gift shop, showing the positions of the various forces I could trace with my mind’s eye the various units from where they started and as the battle progressed. It is well worth the trip and the climb if you are in the Leipzig area.