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820 hits since 19 Sep 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 4:08 a.m. PST

I just landed in Prague to start an 8 day SYW battlefield trip with the Cultural Experience. We will be visiting Soor, Prague, Kolin, Chotusice and Lobositz. Plus Czech door and Beer! First time I have taken a trip like this. Had a nightmare set of connections due to the Hurricane in New York City. I thought perhaps I would leave a summary of each day and my thoughts about the trip in case others are interested.

Regards from Silesia.

Green Tiger19 Sep 2018 4:50 a.m. PST

Have fun!

de Ligne Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Sep 2018 5:00 a.m. PST

I look forward to reading them.

mollinary19 Sep 2018 5:04 a.m. PST

Good luck! I am sure you will have a wonderful and informative time. I did the tour they did last year covering Frederick the Great in Poland, and it was splendid. By the way, if you are in Silesia, you are in the wrong country!

DinOfBattle219 Sep 2018 5:21 a.m. PST

Please keep us updated! Have a great time

21eRegt19 Sep 2018 5:46 a.m. PST

I'm jealous. Please continue and give us all a vicarious experience.

JimDuncanUK19 Sep 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

Beer is usually cheaper in the little pubs in the side streets.

Texas Jack19 Sep 2018 11:44 a.m. PST

Wow,that´s a great trip! If you get down to South Bohemia stop by for a beer. thumbs up

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2018 8:59 a.m. PST

Yes updates, share. So we can avoid your mistakes when going there… And make our own.

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2018 1:08 p.m. PST

Day 1 was the arrival in Prague and our forced march via motor coach to HRadec Králové known more historically as Koingrattz which will serve as our base of operations for the next few days. The hotel is comfortable and appropriately outfitted with all the necessities. We have excellent tour guides in Major General John Drewienkiewicz and our local guides Helena and Marek attending to our every need. MG D provides the the historical content and overall color of the tour while Helena and Marek have been ensuring we experience the Czech culture, way of life and history.

The group is comprised mostly of men although there are also a couple women in attendance. Of the group, roughly 20 or so, 8 of us are wargamers.

We finished day 1 with a nice reception dinner and an introductory talk from the General.

Day 2: Chotusitz
Breakfast at 7:30 sharp – something for everyone, eggs, breads, cereals, yogurts etc…

About an hour ride to the battlefield. We had to make a circuitous route around the battlefield as there is a active military runway smack dab in the center of the battlefield. Started with the Austrian line working our way clockwise south and then west around to Frederick's position and then lastly down to Leopold's line and the village itself. Overall impressions – the field and the length of the lines were much larger than I had expected given the numbers of troops involved on each side. I'm left with the impression that most of the fighting was done by Leopold's command and the Cavalry which came with Frederick. The casualties Frederick's infantry suffered compared to the size of his command makes me believe that they were not very heavily engaged and that Leopold had done most of the work to blunt the Austrian attack. There are no monuments, no signs, no regimental markers so having an expert guide already familiar with the ground and the series of secondary roads you need to traverse between spots is very helpful. A side benefit of accompanying an organized tour vs on your own is quite often access to things the regular joe won't see. Today, such was the opportunity to actually go inside the church, St. Jakob, who's tower Frederick climbed to survey the battlefield. Nice Bonus!

The evening finished with a nice walk through Hradec Králové to dinner. Excellent food and company was had. As an American, I have enjoyed not only the FTG portion of the tour and the Czech culture, food and hospitality but also the opportunity to talk wargaming with the other English and American attendees. It's been great fun so far.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow – Soor.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 11:21 a.m. PST

Rooney tours probably😋

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2018 2:23 p.m. PST

Day 2: Soor (reference Duffy Map) and the Fortress at Josefov.

Our tour started today where IR 17, right wing, second line, formed up after being surprised by the Austrian appearance on the Granner Koppe. Good view, just out of artillery range but a very open and unprotected approach towards the 16 gun Austrian battery on Granner Koppe. It easy to see why the 1st line Grenadier BNs were chewed up before they reached the battery.

2nd stop, Move north some distance behind C13's position. More woods now then then but easy to see some of the folds that the Cavalry used to shield their approach. The steepness of the northern edge cannot be overstated and is much more dramatic live than is conveyed by the Duffy map.

Stop 3. Granner Koppe probably where Austrian IR 47 is marked. Confirmed great line of fire for the Austrian guns and the steepness of the the norther edge again but this time from the Austrian POV. The hill is so convex and falls off so steeply that you cannot see the floor of the valley. I understand why the Austrian Cavalry was a little shocked and caught flat footed by the charge of the Prussian Cavalry. First, it's just not typical cavalry terrain. One of our English Wargamers said offhandedly – You can charge, but that's going to be a -3, if that gives you a different view of our impression. Secondly, the Austrian cavalry could not have counter charged if they wanted to. They would have been sitting on their horse's ass vertically trying to descend the hill.

Stop 4. Southern Austrian Artilley Battery. After some comfortable bushwhacking we located the second Austrian massed battery position. Again great lines of sight and fire all the way to Frederick's Camp.

Thus Soor was complete. For some reason I found Soor more enjoyable as a battlefield. I felt like we were on the real ground and you could visualize the battle from the sights more so that Chotusitz – IMHO. Interesting note, Frederick surprised again, saved by the sheer speed he can assemble and maneuver his army and the ability of Prussian units to soak up casualties.

Wargaming note: we all conclude our tables need more changes in elevation. Even relatively minor dips and undulations can provide cover. Consider how you can improve your table to better include the important effects of terrain in your battles. By the way, our assent up Granner Koppe's souther side was no easy climb as well. Moderately steep but slow going due to the poorly plowed nature of the field. Mind you, would not stop Infantry or Cavalry but enough to slow it down for sure. Again, just another aspect of terrain, Normally a plowed field is treated as easy going – just saying that it may not be so and treating it as such may again help to add depth and realism to your games.

The day was completed by a visit to Fortress Josefov. Neat Vabaun style fortress. Huge and looking pretty original. Had an excellent demonstration and talk from two Austrian Artilley re-enactors. Interesting conversation piece at dinner – the size of one of the display guns. General consensus was it was a 6lb gun. As an American, most of our artillery perspective is driven by the civil war where the standard gun is the 12lber in a manageable size. A 6lber would look like a scale model of a 12. This 6lber was huge in every way. The barrel was longer and thicker than an ACW 12lb Napoleon or Parrot and the carriage was immense. Double trail with wide beams. Now, I knew that artillery was larger and heavier the farther you go back but for its size I would have said it was a 9 or 12 pounder of the era. Again, the advantage of a live experience. It just helped to solidify the reason these guns were immovable once deployed and why the tend to get lost when overrun vs limbered and retreated. I suspect that for a European, this will be less of a revelation as your history is older and you probably are more accustomed to the development of artillery over the ages.

Tomorrow: Back to Prague now after a quick stop at some 1866 sites.

Garde de Paris Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2018 10:47 a.m. PST

Can you ask someone it "Hadec Kralove" means queen's castle?

Pronouced Hra" Dets Kral' o vay?


mollinary22 Sep 2018 12:34 p.m. PST

If you believe Wikipedia, and in this case I do, Hradec Kralove does mean ‘Queen's Castle' or in German ‘Konigingratz'. It appears to have been eventually shortened to ‘Koniggratz' changing the meaning somewhat! Any one have any other sources?

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2018 1:14 p.m. PST

Yes. The original name, Koniggratz means King's Gift. The town was the the King's gift to his queen and the place that the older Czech Queens retired to. Hradec Králové was derived from there as Queen's Castle when the names changed. Per what we learned from our Czech guides the other day.

Texas Jack23 Sep 2018 2:27 a.m. PST

@ Garde de Paris

Your pronunciation looks good. The important thing to remember with Czech pronunciation is that the emphasis is always, without exception, on the first syllable.

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2018 12:32 p.m. PST

Day 3: Battle of Koniggratz and back to Prague.
While certainly a bit off topic, the slight temporal detour to see Koniggratz and the small museum there was very interesting and worth a visit. I know absolutely nothing about the 1866 war so General DZ's description and knowledge serve perfectly to bring me up to speed and appreciate the context, tactical situation and resulting battle. If you are in the area, do plan a stop here. Interesting story about the Battery of the Dead right on the museum grounds. An Austrian battery trying to stop the flood of the Prussian Guards Division from steamrolling the Austrian right flank.

Trip back to Prague and relocation to our new hotel – The Green Garden. Nice hotel with comfortable rooms. Our stay should be enjoyable here. We filled the afternoon with a quick tour of Prague. First by bus and then on foot in Old Town. First impression is that there are 4 building types, Historically significant in good shape, historical but less significant in good shape, historical in complete disrepair from communist times, and Modern. Many time with these intermixed side by side. On top of those categories is a very liberal application of graffiti which many times seems out of place and IMHO lessens the beauty of Prague. It was a quick tour so I reserve final judgement until I have my last day to fully explore the city.

Hope these posts are of some interest. Sorry for any iPad typos and I am doing these at night after a few beers!

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2018 1:22 p.m. PST

Day 5: Lobositz
I think it's day 5. They are all running together at this point which I am profoundly enjoying as that means I have completely divested myself from the work which is I'm sure waiting eagerly for my return!

Awesome day today! One of the battles I have been interested in for a while now. Again, seeing the ground pays off. Here are my take aways.
* The key commanding piece of Terrain is the Homolka Berg. It's smack dab in the middle of the battlefield with the ability to command all of the ground to the front. I had pictured this more as a minor hillock. If this is your mental image too, take what you are thinking and double the height of it without making it any bigger – ie it becomes 2x higher AND 2x steeper.
* it not actually a hillock. While it's northern end is open to the pass, It's more of a high, semi-steep ridge running from the pass to the south. Meaning it feels unlikely that the Prussian Cavalry in the supporting attack would have moved around the Homolka Berg to the right. It's a steep decent down the face of that ridge. It's more likely IMHO that they came through the pass and attacked. At least something to ponder.
* Also, as opposed to the feeling I had at Chotusitz, where the lines felt like they are miles apart, the Homolka Berg and The Lobosch are actually quite close to the Austrian lines and each other. In a military sense.
* Its easy to see why the Austrian left wing didn't play much of a part. As the stream and it's marshes would have made a nice defensive barrier but also an impossible obstacle to advancing.
* We found and know where the sunken road was which contained the Croats but it's no longer sunken. The little chapel at the end of it, south of Lobositz is there. In fact, there was a nice Czech man watering the side of the shed in much the same way I imaging many Croats did while waiting there. As our bus drove by, he had an astonished look on his face. There was probably one Croat who looked much the same when the Prussian Cavalry showed up in front of them!
* So now about the famous Lobosch. My thoughts. It was hard for me to visually get a feel for this. For one, it's really tactically insignificant for the Prussians other than for the fact that the Croats are there. In our discussion at dinner, we concluded that the Prussians could have done better to
just shield their left flank rather than to pursue the Austrians in a running gun battle. It was never likely to be an Austrian Battery position so at most it would have been an annoyance. Lacy's position is also precarious at best with his back to the Elbe. If Lobositz is taken, he is cut off which means he cannot advance too far off his start position as he has to mind his own flanks. He is allowed to support the Croats only by the fact that the Prussians push them back on Lacy. Remember, by this time the available cavalry is mostly spent on both sides and the balance of the fresh Austrian infantry and Cavalry are locked behind the stream/Marsh.
*. Second problem with Lobosch. You can't really get up on it where the fighting was. The best we could do is try to appreciate it from a position on it's lower slope to the rear of Bevern's jump off point. It doesn't seem to be terraced anymore and it was hard for me to picture the fighting as it's usually talked about as " somehow going "up" the mountain when it more likely to have swept around the mountain. Perhaps the initial Prussian movement was up the southern face and then a wheel like motion to the east as they followed the Croats falling back on lacy.

Oh – other cool note. It rained this afternoon during the tour. While that was not so fun, it did have the effect of completely shrouding the area in mist or fog which was quite thick and obscured vision. Much the way I am sure it looked like to Frederick when he showed up early in the morning. You can completely understand why he did not know exactly what was in front of him or all the Austrians were deployed.

All for now. Tomorrow is the Battle of Prague.

I know others have been here as well. What was your impression?

DHautpol24 Sep 2018 8:03 a.m. PST

Being on the tour as well, I think that Rusty is giving a first class account of the trip and I would be hard pressed to improve on his account.

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2018 3:13 p.m. PST

Day 6: The Battle of Prague
As much of the field of battle has been overcome by the modern sprawl of Prague, we started the day with a cafe Americano and a 1/2 hour presentation by the General describing the maneuvers that lead up to the battle. Then like Charles, we mounted our trusty motor coach and ventured out of Prague to inspect the lines. We took the Kaiserstrasse east to the original Austrian lines running along the ridge facing the approach of Frederick and Bevern on and opposing ridge line to the north. These are defensively good ridges with a valley, watercourse and a few intervening towns which were invested by the bothersome Croats such that the Austrian army felt perfectly safe in returning to their breakfasts and Mass only later to observe that the Prussians had commenced their trademark flanking march by circling north and then east. Reminding me of Wellington's comment -"They came on in the same old way…". As such, the Austrians using interior lines, pulled their reserves to quickly change the front and began to redeploy other units.

Question to others: at one point I had the thought go through my mind that if the units first engaged for the Austrians were reserve units establishing the new front, was the cause of their paralysis at the time of Browne's wounding due to the lack of a unified command structure? Thoughts?

From here, we traveled south to Sterbohol. Locating the site of the Cavalry Battle. We traversed the field and located the lakes. Boarding our coach again, we traveled north to Kyge where we stood at the iconic sites of Prince Henry's water crossing and the honored ground where Count Schwerin sized the flag of his regiment only to be riddled by canister, tumbling from his steed and coming to rest lifelessly on the ground. There is a monument for Schwerin and Browne at the latter.

The evening meal was scheduled for a dinner on a boat. As these tend to be a bit campy, evidenced by the flotilla of these tourist boats moored in the river, I elected to strike out on my own to experience a little of Prague off the beaten path. I had a nice Mexican meal driven by my spontaneous need for a margarita and its proximity to the hotel. This was followed up by a beer or two with some of the lads at the hotel bar.

Tomorrow is the capstone IMHO. Kolin. An iconic battle of the SYW with what looks like a still well preserved landscape. I have very high expectations for the General tomorrow as this battle was one of the major reasons for me to come on this trip.

Dispatches tomorrow from Kolin!

mollinary26 Sep 2018 3:11 a.m. PST

And then there was silence! Building up the suspense? Looking forward to reading your account of visiting Kolin, it is one of my favourite battlefields.

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2018 9:03 a.m. PST

Ah Yes, Day 7 Kolin.
A Fantastic day. You approach the battlefield as Fredrick did traveling east on the Kaiser Strasse. A flat road with clear ground to either side. To the right, you can see the slopes of Krechor hill and the village of Krechor and its church steeple. Previously, we has stopped at the initial Prussian and Austrian positions which ran north – south to the west of the final battlefield prior to — wait for it —Frederick's flank march. We stopped at the inn on the Kaiser Strasse which bills it's self as Slati Slunce but I am of the opinion that the original was north west of Chocenitz, which means this was more likely Braditz. It was good for coffee and lunch in any event.

From there, we made the assault on Krechor as the Prussians under Hulsen had done. On foot, climbing the hill slowly across a stalky field, sunflower now instead of maze, all the while keeping the steeple of Krechor church in our sights. Imagining, the desultory but disrupting fire that would have meet the ranks coming from the shaggy Croats ensconced behind the church walls and the Swedish earthworks. I made a neat POV video of this climb.

Standing at that church was somewhat of a religious experience for me. A place I would never have though I'd be able to stand. As mentioned previously as a benefit of a tour, our local guide actually got the door open for us again to see inside. From here we continued our assent of the hill to where the Oak Woods would have been. While no longer there, it's easy to see how the Croats would have sought refuge there streaming out of the village as a place of safety and also as a way for the Austrian units rushing there to anchor their right flank. Also, noteworthy. The ground to the east of Krechor actually slopes away from the village creating some dead ground which would have protected the Prussian Cavalry as it ascended the hill from the Austrian guns on the main line.

We visited the monument which sadly is in a bit of disrepair. Its plaques having been removed or damaged by thieves looking for scrape metal to sell. However, having already been on Prezerowsky hill to the west (the Austrian left) and now standing on Krechor hill I can tell you 2 things. Prezerowsky hill is considerably higher than Krechor and measurable farther from the Kaiser Strasse than Krechor hill. Meaning Manstein and Bevern's boys had a long way to go and we're probably under artillery fire for quite a while.

Kolin was very cool as the ground is easy to see with iconic landmarks and General D supplied a liberal number of accounts such that the battle was brought to life. I particularly gained some respect for Prince Mortiz who had the balls to momentarily stand up to Frederick by ordering his troops to continue forward when Frederick wanted him to simply plow up the hill. Had Moritz won that argument, Turing the Austrian flank more severely who knows what might have happened. Here is a great what if wargame scenario based on a real conflict that took place during the battle.

Dinner was had. Beer and wine was consumed and we happily retired to our garrison.

Post Script. On our way bumbling trough small villages, we saw the most remarkable medieval watch towers. One of which simply standing in someone's backyard. Could you imagine?

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2018 9:13 a.m. PST

Day 8: Prague -part duex.

Really, just a half day for the tour group before heading to the Airport including a visit to the National Gallery and the Imperial Arms Museum. The museum is small, but has some very cool items. My favorites were the Prussian Fusiler and Prussian Grenadier hats from Frederick's time. IMHO, I liked the Fusiler mitre more than the Grenadier mitre. A very nice assortment of arms and some uniform parts which could be made even more enjoyable if they put more context around the items. In any event it's well worth the visit if you are in the area.

As, I am staying another day, I left the hotel earlier than the tour and spent sometime in Prague Castle then met the group at the museum. After lunch, the group departed for the airport. I began a slow trek back through Prague exploring my way back to the hotel.

Thus ends the tale of the 8 day, of the 7 years war!

I will post one final journal entry with my impressions of the Tour as a vacation with my final thoughts.

mollinary26 Sep 2018 9:54 a.m. PST

Thanks RB, a great account!

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2018 11:19 a.m. PST

Final recap.

I thought this blog of sorts might be of use or interesting to folks who have interest in the SYW but also to others who have dreams of standing on the ground that they have read and studied so much about but never seen. Particularly my fellow Americans. Coming to Europe as an American for 8 days and trying to cover a lot of ground would be a complicated operation. Also, the availability of these types of tours seems to be a more commonly understood holiday option in the UK than in the US.

I am in no way affiliated with The Cultural Experince company or aware if there are other options so these are just my honest opinions and recommendations.

If you are so inclined, I would highly recommend both TCE and sizing the opportunity to experience a unique trip catered to our sometimes arcane interests. It's not inexpensive – in fact it is a fair sum of money particularly from the US with airfare. That being said, I think it is a fair trade for the program you get.

Having, 8 days of transportation, accommodations, food and a local guide are well worth it. Our obligation was to simply show up and enjoy.

On top of that, we were expertly guided by our host, Major General DZ. He is throughly knowledgeable, affable and at all times intent on us having a jolly time. Having been a military man himself, he brings his expertise to the battlefield. He was knowledgeable in much more than just the SYW and even treated us to a stop at an 1866 battlefield of which I knew nothing about. As a wargamer, we could also talk about how we might translate what we were seeing to the table top. I interrogated the General on many SYW tactical questions I had in my mind as I write my new SYW rules. Can't say enough good things about him.

I would also be remiss however, if I did not say that the tour was also made enjoyable by the terrific people I met in our tour group. A nice mix of Americans and Brits. Lovely people all, many wargames but more so a mix of simply historically minded people. I learned much from them and was able to broaden my world a bit. In short, lovely people and when you come down to it, this can make or break the trip.

So, all and all, I got a fair trade for my money, met some fine folks, got to geek out on Frederick the Great for 8 days, had some great food and visited a country I had never been too.

I have one minor criticism and recommendation for improvement. As a pre-read, you receive a guide book. This book is a significant vehicle used to discuss the battles with. It has two flaws. The first is that it is tape bound instead of spiral bound. My book simply degenerated in to a bunch of loose pages during the trip. Secondly, IMHO, the value of the tour could be measurably improved by a few more pages. Since you have both people who live and breath SYW and those who have a passing interest, the stories of the battles would be better told in more pages depicting the various phases. Also, the stopping points could be pre-plotted on the maps. I know this adds slightly more expense to the guide but it is just slightly more and it increase the comprehension and I believe the drama of these battle immeasurably. It would be penny wi

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2018 11:38 a.m. PST

Sorry – iPad froze and I thought I might lose the post.

Anyhow, was just saying that it would be penny wise and pound foolish to not improve the book.

One other comment. Part of the tour was also to two of the post SYW Vabaun forts created after Silesia was lost to Frederick, sorry General if I got that not quite right! The first, as mentioned in my post above was Josefstadt and the second, Theresienstadt. At Josefstadt, we explored the fort for its military significance to our trip. Unbeknownst to me, Theresienstadt was used as a concentration camp of sorts by the Nazis. I wish this had been removed from the tour. I mean no disrespect to the subject, and I felt very uneasy while in the fort, this was not the sort of history I had signed up for nor was it really a holiday subject in my mind. I know TCE has whole tours for this. I'd request that TCE stick to the topic at hand. I do want to mention that General D did offer the option to simply remain on the bus if you so desired. Many of our tour did that so I will chalk this up to my ignorance and as I said, I am not belittling or defaming this history in any way – it's just not the history I had paid to study.

So, that's all from me on sharing my experience. I hope some of you now have a better feel for what's out there. Cheers!

Holdfast Inactive Member01 Oct 2018 9:18 a.m. PST

A word on putting the viewpoints on the map.The booklet is put together several weeks before the tour.
On the day the guide has to deliver an understanding of the battle, while balancing a number of evolving factors: the traffic, the weather, the state of mind of all the 20 or so folk on the tour, all of whom have different levels of enthusiasm and background knowledge,accessibility for the large bus, overall fitness. Some flexibility is needed throughout. For instance at Kolin a stand was missed out because a gate which is usually open was locked shut and we lost time to that. At Chotusitz a stand was missed out because it was pouring with rain.
No plan for a battlefield tour survives contact with Czech dumplings I guess.

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2018 10:44 a.m. PST

The devil is in the dumplings for sure! Thank God for the antidote – Czech Beer!

All fair points. As mentioned, it was a minor inconvenience on a thoroughly enjoyable trip.

DHautpol04 Oct 2018 4:52 a.m. PST

I'm not sure that we did miss a stand at Kolin; the locked gate prevented the bus getting to the Austrian monument, it meant that we ended up having to walk up to the monument rather than riding.

Holdfast Inactive Member04 Oct 2018 9:32 a.m. PST

It was planned to have a stand due west of where the Oak wood was, but since more time was needed to get to the Victory Monument on foot and the driver was nearly out of time one stand was leapfrogged.

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