Episode 1: 16 years of living together with the ghost of Napoleon 1st



I was born in Corsica at a time when by force of conviction I could only be Paoliste, that is to say fervent admirer of Pascal Paoli, this man who was head of the independent Corsican nation from 1755 until May 1769, that is to say three months before the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte in Ajaccio. This little piece of land curled up in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea with its constitution proclaimed long before that which was to preside over the destinies of America of the founding fathers or even before that born of the French revolution, had known how to fascinate great characters like Rousseau, Voltaire , Boswell or even Catherine II of Russia.

My passion for Paoli, even if it is eternal, was only my second crush, the first, born from the presence on my father's nightstand of "The Notebooks of Captain Coignet" that the whole family had read at least once awoke me to the exoticism of the voyages and adventures of the Napoleonic campaigns. Of course, the Ajaccian festivities of the bicentennial of Napoleons birth in 1969 when I was only 7 years old, had caused me my first imperial lightning, but it was when I was able to read and discover the life of this man and his unparalleled ability to sublimate the social elevator that I was conquered.


Then, little by little, during adolescence, this passion slowly declined, for no real reason, but simply because life brings us to other intellectual and spiritual horizons and my childhood passions were confined to a story of France that I no longer fully recognized as mine.

It was in October 2003, in the context of my professional activities, on the occasion of a project led with the architect Enrico Zunino in Liguria in northern Italy, that I accidentally reconnected with Napoleonic history by meeting Napoleons descendant, Charles Bonaparte. Charles created the European Federation of Napoleonic Cities the following year and later the Cultural Itinerary "Destination Napoleon", certified by the Council of Europe, now present in 13 countries from Portugal to Russia. Without a moment's hesitation, from the start I took part in this modern European adventure which allowed me to follow in the footsteps of Napoleon. It is this journey over the past sixteen years that I want to tell you about in 13 episodes, including this one, each devoted to a destination. So starting from Ajaccio, I will make you discover, Jena in Germany, Borodino and Moscow in Russia, Borisov on the Berezina in present-day Belarus, Athens and Corfu in Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Waterloo and Wallonia in Belgium, Poland, Rueil-Malmaison and Autun in France and finally Vilnius in Lithuania even if this country is not yet represented in our Federation. Likewise, other countries and cities that are official members will not be illustrated here. My stories will talk about the sites of today, a little bit of their links with Napoleon but a lot of what these places whispered in my ear.


To be continued…


Travel chronicles by Jacques Mattei


To appear in this episode: Ville de Bastia - Cità di Bastia, Ville d'Ajaccio - Cità d'Aiacciu, Ville de Rueil Malmaison, Council of Europe, Iéna (Jena), Moscou (Moscow, Russia), Waterloo (Waterloo, Belgium), Autun, Go Vilnius.