The Pyramid of Austerlitz

I've wanted to visit the Pyramid of Austerlitz for quite some time now. It's only 10 kilometres from where I live, but I wanted to go there in the form of a mini-hike through the Den Treek estate. It's a private estate made up out of heath and forest, that nonetheless has been opened to the public. It's connected to the much smaller Nimmerdor estate in the south of Amersfoort by a bridge crossing the A28/E30 motorway.

The Pyramid itself is situated to the south-west of the Den Treek estate and thus I'd be able to walk there without crossing too many highways. Yesterday I finally also had the time (and the perfect weather) to actually make the trek.

The landmark is odd to say the least. It's built out of several layers of turf and has a obelisk-shaped beacon on top of it. It was built during the Napoleonic era - when the Netherlands was governed by Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Louis acting as king - by command of a French general Auguste de Marmont who wanted to keep his soldiers occupied. The design was inspired by the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, which he witnessed back in an earlier campaign in Egypt.

Of course he didn't name it the Pyramid of Austerlitz. He named it the Pyramid of Marmont or Mount Marmont. That changed when Napoleon Bonaparte achieved a victory in the actual Austerlitz in the south of Germany. Louis Bonaparte paid tribute to his brother by renaming the nearby trading post and encampment to Austerlitz and the landmark itself to the Pyramid of Austerlitz. Much to the chagrin of Marmont.

These days, it's a curio in the Dutch landscape. We've never been a people to build such landmarks (even "our" palaces were mostly the work of Louis Bonaparte) and especially the pyramid shape is almost alien.

It does draw its fair share of families, due to the nearby luna park and restaurant. Which is exactly how I know and remember the spot. Especially the tiny train ride. I've been there a few times as a child and loved the train ride. But that's not my main memory of it. That came a few years later when I was learning about mathematics.

I had no issues with addition, subtraction, and division. All three came natural to me. Multiplication though… Oh boy, that just didn't fly with me. Which is kind of funny considering division was such an easy concept to me. I struggled with it a lot, and my mother patiently tried to explain it over and over through a collection of little math-booklets which I also liked. However, to actually get the fourth and final book about multiplication in the series, my mother wanted me to grasp the concept of multiplication first.

That took quite a while, before somehow it clicked in my brain that multiplication was - indeed - the inverse of division. I vividly remember exclaiming (without much rhyme or reason I might add) "oh, like when you ride the Pyramid train two times!" That must've confused my mother a bit, but the result was me getting the fourth booklet. Regardless, the train got stuck in my brain as the Multiplication Train thereafter.

Another stretch of land to the west of Den Treek and to the north of the Pyramid is de Leuderheide (Leusden Heath) which is a military proving ground (the French were apparently on to something). Because of it, it can still be littered with all sorts of explosives and is off-limits to the public. Around its circumference you can find signs like the one above warning people to not enter the area. Sad times. Would've loved to explore that area as well, but I'd rather keep both my legs attached.

There's also an additional warning about live exercises being conducted whenever the sign flies a "fireball" next to some red (metal) flags. I vaguely remember seeing one of those "fireballs" as a child, but I can only describe it as a ball with a pennant attached and even that is more of a guess.

While on the way toward the Pyramid I mostly hugged the highway alongside the Leusderheide, on the way home I dived into Den Treek proper. In its south is a large patch of heath, with inexplicably the road sign above planted smack in the middle of it. It says:

Wijk bij Duurstede (Hamlet near Dorestad)
4 hours going

Amersfoort (Hemur's Ford)
2 hours going

Wijkerweg (Hamlet Road)

It seems the road I was following used to be a road connecting both towns of Wijk bij Duurstede and Amersfoort. A surprising realisation, as I'm so used to the highway being the connective veins between places, I completely forgot roads like these used to be more common and more travelled in the days before Saint Asphaltum graced us with their presence and promotion of automobiles. I should check if the road towards Wijk bij Duurstede is still intact. Would be a nice follow-up trip to go there by foot.

The rest of the journey through Den Treek was real nice and relaxing. The warm sandy heath, giving way to a fragrant pine forest, making it like I was walking through a large public sauna.

About 20 kilometres into my trip I started seeing more familiar terrain and finally reached the Vogelplas (Bird Pond) and the surrounding heath with its small clumps of trees.

In the end, this was an easier trek than anticipated and I'm looking forward to extending my reach a bit. Having walked 22 kilometres in total, it's not even a full stage of the 4Days Marches but hey, not bad for a spur-of-the-moment attempt. Maybe next time I'll visit the Soesterduinen (Soest Dunes) once more.