Histourism: The pyramid of Austerlitz and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug

Today I cycled from Utrecht towards my hometown, Amersfoort, which is a distance of about 20 km. I wanted to do some historical sightseeing and relax in the sun in the dunes (dunes? Dunes!) where my parents used to take me when I was young.

It was a bit wet out, but happily the sun came out in the afternoon. My first stop was Slot Zeist, which they call “the Versailles of the north” because of the layout of its gardens. Then I cycled to the Pyramid of Austerlitz, which was constructed in 1804 by Auguste de Marmont, one of Napoleon’s generals during the French occupation of The Netherlands. An enormous French-Batavian army was stationed there; their army settlement was so big that it eventually became the village of Austerlitz. The troops were bored, however, having been trained as a well-oiled fighting machine but left to wait for the English; and so within a month they constructed this pyramid. Marmont had seen the pyramids in Egypt and was inspired. There are plaques on the sides which commemorate Napoleon’s greatest achievements. Napoleon’s brother, Lodewijk, who was king of the Netherlands from 1806-10, named it the Pyramid of Austerlitz after a battleground in modern day Czech Republic, where Napoleon had been victorious in the past. When I got on my bike to continue my adventure I discovered that I had a flat tire. Luckily my dad, who lives in Amersfoort, was kind enough to drive up there and help me mend my bike! From the Pyramid I went on to the Soesterduinen, one of my favourite nature reserves in The Netherlands. I used to come here a lot when I was a child. It’s a gorgeous rough landscape with dunes and pines, and when autumn sets in purple heather blooms everywhere. Just amazing! It’s one of the most beautiful places in the country, and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits The Netherlands.

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