Sunday, 14 June 2009


Map of the city and the outworks

We arrived in Badajoz late in the afternoon, and drove straight to the area of the main breach, which is now a pretty little park. As we left the coach it was quite hard to realise that this was the site of the horrific storming on 6 April 1812.

We gathered at the foot of the breach, and Julia (our guest speaker) outlined the events of that fateful night. The walls are certainly impressive, indeed quite overpowering as you stand below and strain your neck to gaze up at them.

Badajoz from across the river

Julia (right in blue trousers) briefs the tour in the park at the foot of the walls

The attractive park built at the site of the storming

Up close to these massive city walls it was hard to imagine how anyone could climb them, let alone fight their way through in the face of a determined defence.

My favourite painting of the storm, despite the obvious attempt to add glamour for me it captures the strength of the defences and the determination to overcome them.

The castle from the garden. These walls were scaled and the castle taken by force

After a short time spent inspecting the walls, it was back to the coach and we drove into the city and parked near the same spot, but inside the city. Huge stone steps led up to the ramparts. We were impressed by how wide they were, you could easily drive a car along them. They are now covered in rubbish, and even used needles left by the local junkies. Very, very sad and really depressing to see such disregard for such an important site.

Not a very good photograph of the walls, but it was the only one I took standing below, and it has special memories for me.

The northwest wall of Badajoz looking east towards the castle. The road has been built between the town and the river Guadianna.

The ramparts of the walls, now very overgrown and covered with rubbish and even discarded syringes. Not a place you would want to visit on your own after dark

I felt that our visit to Badajoz was cut short, and I suspect that it was because we were running late. On the other hand, I might be wrong. Perhaps Captain P had covered all the ground intended, and just wanted to get his tour to the hotel. Its one of the big disadvantages of any, even the best, coach tour that your time at each location is governed by the requirements of the tour rather than your own inclination to remain and look around more. It was a feeling which I had more than once during this tour.

It was getting dark as we arrived at the hotel. Holts only use the better hotels and arrival and departure is usually a very smooth operation - but not this time. It appears that the hotel was in the process of closing down at the end of their tourist season. The hotel felt very cold and there were long delays at the reception. There were also soon complaints about lack of hot water. I have to admit that these problems were quickly overcome by Captain P. It was a small thing, and highlights how well the administration of the whole tour was handled that this is the only example I can remember.

Despite these delays booking in, we had two hours before our evening meal. My fellow tourists were more interested in baths, dinner and getting the heating sorted out than they were in exploring Badajoz. Indeed even Jan seemed more interested in creature comforts. However knowing that we were to leave first thing next morning, I wanted to explore Badajoz a little more.

Leaving Jan to enjoy the comforts of the hotel, I walked the short distance to the city. The hotel was on the other side of the river, and it was dark as I crossed the wide bridge overlooked by the castle and city walls.

I had heard that Badajoz had a reputation as a sad and depressing place. I am not usually receptive to such feelings, but I must admit that it was depressing as I walked the dark and almost empty streets. I made my way to the main plaza and the cathedral, glad to find bright lights and crowds of people. I explored some of the narrow dark streets, and made my way towards the greater darkness near the city walls. It was very easy to imagine what tit must have been like when the town was sacked after the siege. However remembering the discarded syringes on the ramparts I felt quite uncomfortable, even threatened, and made my way back to the hotel - a little sheepishly!

The road bridge over the river Guadiana looking bright and pretty, not at all like it was when I crossed it that evening in 1971

The same bridge during the siege in 1812

This photographs perfectly captures the mean streets of Badajoz near the city walls. You can imagine what it was like exploring along on a dark night!

I have since read that Badajoz is a depressing place where memories of the tragedies of a century and a half ago seem to linger in the old streets. And of course there were more tragedies to follow during the Spanish Civil War. I can only agree with this description, though whether it was due to my being tired after a busy day or not I am not really sure.

I feel quite sad that this is my lasting memory of Badajoz. I would not wish to put anyone off visiting the town, for it is well worth a visit. And indeed I actually feel that this type of memory is perfectly right for the scene of such horror and destruction, both in the Napoleonic Wars and later in the Spanish Civil War.

It is also true that of all the battlefields I have visited, this is one that I have never had any inclination to return to. I feel that Holts were probably right in the short amount of time they allocated to view the walls, and that there was not much more to see which would make a longer visit worth while.


  1. Another v interesting post. I mentioned your site to my father but being a complete luddite he doesn't have a computer so I will have show him your reports when he is next staying. He has been to Badajoz a couple of times and on both occasions he similarly said it had an unattractive feel to it. Perhaps there are places affected by their sad history.

    It doesn't surprise me one bit the majority were more interested in their baths and pre-dinner drinks. One hotel they stayed in whilst doing the Pyrennies campaign was so cold they threatened to break up the furniture unless the le patron built a decent fire to warm everyone up. I would have laughed more if they were locked up in the local clink for the night.


  2. Hi guy

    Its interesting that your dad had similar "vibes" when he visited Badajoz. I was not sure whether it was just the mood I was in, though I did not really think that was the reason.

    I think many of our fellow tourists were more interested in the "Holts experience" rather than necessarily keen napoleonic history buffs. The company is well known for having a lot of return clients, which says a lot for the standard of their tours. Personally I found it could be a little superficial at times and I was left wanting to spend a little longer and "get my feet dirty". But there is no doubt that they provided just what the majority of the tour wanted.


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