hidden europe 9

There's nothing in Ponetovice!

by Nicky Gardner


The true story of how a small town in the Czech Republic confronted the normality of everyday life and made a spring Saturday very special.

Most Czech schoolboys of a certain age have heard of Ponetovice. Those of a scholarly disposition know it as one of the villages east of the south Moravian town of Brno which were the setting for the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Those with less of an affection for the grand schemes of emperors might well know Ponetovice for the prowess of its present-day billiards team. With just 312 inhabitants, Pon?tovice features little in guidebooks and plays host to no more than a few dozen visitors annually. Mostly those who do come to Ponetovice are military historians wanting to walk the meadows along the tiny Rícka stream where Napoleon's forces were encamped on the eve of the battle that so profoundly reshaped the map of Europe.

The afternoon Ryanair flight from London usually makes a sharp turn over the small town that gave its name to the 1805 battle before descending to the west to land on runway 28 at Brno's small municipal airport. In Slavkov, onetime Austerlitz, tourists stalk the elegant corridors of the town's château, where Napoleon spent a few days after thrashing the combined Russian and Austrian armies on the hills above Ponetovice. At the actual site of the battle, there is a hideous memorial. It is some ten kilometres west of Slavkov, perched atop a ridge, with fine views down over the Rícka valley and Ponetovice.

Ponetovice is, in short, unremarkable.

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