Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

So where is the Trafalgar which gave its name to the Battle of Trafalgar? And where is the Blenheim after which Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is supposedly named? We look at a few European place names which feature larger-than-life in the historical record.

article summary —

Our mental maps of Europe are shaped as much by history as by geography — and sometimes the two don’t quite agree. The Monmouth Rebellion had nothing to do with the people of Monmouth. The burghers of the town in the Wye Valley slept peacefully in their beds while Protestant troublemakers were stirring up rebellion in Lyme Regis.

One can so easily slip up on these important matters. The Battle of Austerlitz was not fought on the streets of Paris, despite the French capital claiming some association with Austerlitz in the name of one of its main railway termini. Yet you’ll not find another Austerlitz on the modern map of Europe. The place in Moravia where in 1805 Napoleon’s forces beat the combined armies of Russia and Austria is today called Slavkov u Brna.

It is not just in France that railway stations are named after battles. In London, Waterloo station takes its name from the Battle of Waterloo. Everyone knows that. But you need Liverpool connections to know that an area on the coast just north of the Merseyside city is called Waterloo. There, too, is a railway station called Waterloo — so raising the issue as to whether one could possibly buy a train ticket from Waterloo to Waterloo.


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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 48.