donderdag 29 november 2012

World's Smallest Grande Armee survived the battle of the Berezina. Building the bridge was the toughest part. Here we are, still wondering if it would'nt be better to take the ferry.

The day before we had been given a course in warfare by skilled re-enactors from Borisov. The T-shirts are part of the training. The hammer is not heading for Karstens head but to the rear of the cannon.

Anyway, here's an account of the battle itself. As you will see, WSGA did not pass unnoticed.

This picture of WSGA was taken the day after the battle. Unimaginable, but the snow fell overnight. It would have been so much more beautiful if the snow had covered the battlefield. Now there was no snow, and no bridges either. But great fun anyhow! Thanks to the 8ieme de Ligne who let us 'fight' in their regiment!

vrijdag 23 november 2012

World's Smallest Grande Armee loves Orsha (Belarus) and Orsha loves WSGA!

And here's Russian Written Press reporting our retreat...

And we'll finish with this romantic scene, facing the emperor himself...

Today World's Smallest Grande Armee did in 5 minutes what took Napoleon 3 days: to safely cross the Berezina!

We are no longer on our own. We recruited a rearguard in Tolocyn. They're fine and peaceful lads still, but we're sure that playstation will turn them into monsters soon ;)

Unlike Napoleon's troops we enjoy a very comfortable winter. No snow to be seen, no cold to be felt!!! No need to turn our little Freya into a a sledge so far...

And unlike the Grande Armee we have a good meal every now and then. After we finished the horse we had a kitten for dessert. We don't recommend it. We'll try some dog next time. The meat between the ears is said to be not quite bad.

In the meantime we were almost prepared as main dish ourselves! This video proves that we sometimes go through extreme danger in our effort to copy the Grande Armee's disastrous retreat!

(Big thanks to Vlad, Dmitri and Sergei in Dorogobush and Michaelovna)

zaterdag 17 november 2012

As you may have suspected, World's Smallest Grande Armee reached Orsha, where Napoleon's soldiers received their first bread since Moscow.

Orsha is a bigger city than we had expected. A lot cleaner than most of the cities we saw in Russia. Belarus is different from Russia in many ways, but Karsten's fascination went to the traffic signs.

We're not really sure, but we think there is a certain danger for hats crossing the road here. And this one might be a warning for cannonballs striking your car. Maybe some of Napoleon's troops are still operating out here?

Anyway... we don't really use oldfashioned guns anymore. World's Smallest Grande Armee believes in progress. Let's drop the BIG ONE now!

We're in a retro mood today. Looking back at great moments in Russia. Somebody posted these nice pictures of us. We'd like to share them. Thanks for reading this blog and if you want to react, just post a small message on

vrijdag 16 november 2012

We had just passed the border of Belarus when a white car stopped and the vodka was handed over. "Welcome in Belarus, boys!" said Andrey, Max for the friends. His friend, also called Andrey, gave us sandwiches. Next day they were there again with soup... and more vodka!
Thank you Smolbattle!!

This picture is a few days old. Posing with a Russian fireman whom we accidentally had mistaken for a policeman. Photo's from our new location, Belarus, will soon follow....

donderdag 15 november 2012

World's Smallest Grande Armee reached Belarus!!! We are now in Orsha and very happy to be here, for our dearest beloved girlfriend and wife and belgian supporters have joined us for a few days. In the meantime, REN TV in Smolensk made another reportage about us, this time an interview on the road between Smolensk and Krasnii, almost on the exact spot where Marshall Ney's army was blasted away, leaving Ney only about 800 valiant soldiers after his heroic action towards the Dnjepr. 
So far for history... If you want to enjoy the reportage: here it is! Sorry... no subtitles provided.

maandag 12 november 2012

Our last day in Russia! Belarus, we hope you will be as exciting and fantastic as Russia!!!

And while we still have the luxury of a computer and internet (not quite so sure to be found in Belarus) we'd like to thank our one and only sponsor, a fantastic outdoor gear shop in Antwerp: K2 (De Kampeerder). Good stuff, excellent service, negociable prices!

For those of you who understand Russian, here's two articles about our passage in Smolensk. Can't read it? Like the pictures...
Дорогие друзья!
Завтра закачивается наше прекрасное путешествие по России. 
Мы хотим поблагодарить, ВСЕХ жителей, этой замечательной страны, за теплый и радушный приём! За приятные и незабываемые встречи! За песни у костра, и, нескончаемые тосты! 
Спасибо, что ВЫ есть!  

Мы надеемся, что наше путешествие по Беларуси, будет не менее увлекательным и душевным. )

Немного фото на память ........ 

vrijdag 9 november 2012

You don't have to understand Russian to like this small reportage, made by Smolensk television Ren TV. World's Smallest Grande Armee and Freya getting slowly all the attention they don't need.

We don't understand all of it ourselves, but I should be able to translate at least my own words. When asked where my interest in Napoleon and 1812 started and why I'm doing this trip, I talk of my wife's great-great-great-great-granduncle who came to Russia with Napoleon and actually survived the whole campaign. Sorry Tine for not mentioning your name nor that of your ancestor's brother (Joseph Van de Vel).
Then I tell the reporter that our carriage is far from ordinary, since we found it in the woods and actually believe it is Napoleon's Golden Carriage (the one generations of Russian treasure hunters have been looking after in Semlevo region, where we found it). This time I do mention the name we gave to the carriage, which is Freya. 
The man helping us to load Freya in his car is Yevgueni, at who'se house in Smolensk we are staying.

Dear friends, World's smallest Grande Armee is very happy to tell that they have safely reached Smolensk! We are now no longer a duo, we've been joined by Freya, a nice four wheel drive, sadly without a motor.
Dear friends, World's smallest Grande Armee is very happy to tell that they have safely reached Smolensk! We are now no longer a duo, we've been joined by Freya, a nice four wheel drive, sadly without a motor.

After 30 minutes in the centre of Smolensk we were already spotted by the local TV
Dimi gave his first interview in Russian! Karsten corrected where necessary...

Here's a great joke. While we were entering Smolensk in the exact fashion that you can see in the photograph above, a white car stopped, a man stepped out and asked us very seriously if we knew where the psychiatric hospital was! You won't believe it... we knew exactly where it was. We passed it half an hour earlier and even wondered if we shouldn't pay a visit to the local Napoleon.

vrijdag 2 november 2012

Friday 2d of November: we're in Vyaz'ma, the biggest city we encountered since we left Moscou on foot two and a half weeks ago. 

Following the footsteps of Napoleon's Grande Armee isn't an easy task. The old Smolensk road runs through forests and fields, and with rain, frost, snow, thaw and overnight rain & frost again, it's often an impossible task. The heavy muddy soil won't quickly absorb the water of all this melting snow, turning the most innocent field into a swamp. Imagine Nappy's light artillery pushing a 200kg heavy canon through this mess. Oh you poor old boys with your empty stomachs, how doth we pity you!! The very mud we trod on is your grave, for real graves you lacked. 
Anyway... we often choose existing asphalt alternatives, heavy enough we think. But this hole in the asphalt almost became OUR grave though!

We're in good physical and mental condition, gaining forces for the real thing: the way between Vyaz'ma and Smolensk isn't exactly littered with cities and warm hotels. But we found some friends through the internetsite
We've been told they can help us realize the walk to Smolensk. We do hope so. We already met some of them at a crazy barbecue near Mozjaisk. Thanks to Alexei & wife, Igor, Igir, Ignat, Maxim & Bamks and Monsieur Jan & Sacha for your taxi services. Here's some pictures of the event. Maybe more are to be found on

And since there seems to be more pictures of Dimi than of Kartsen, here's one for his fans. Eating a horsemeat sandwich!