Posts Tagged ‘Fort’

VIII Fort, Kaunas Fortress, Lithuania

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Lithuania
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I came to this place with my host in Kaunas. It was a rainy day and in our walk back home we got totally soaked. I mean, really soaked. Nevertheless, it was fun. Definitely not easy to find the right access to this fort, even for my local friend Thomas. When we finally did it to the entrance, it started raining. So we stayed “indoors” for a while, for no avail. The rain never stopped and we decided to start walk back. Overall it’s not such a big deal. I am just creating this article because, well, I was there. It exist. So it deserves to be mentioned in this blog.

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Historic backround (taken from my previous entry about Fort VI):

Kaunas Fortress (Lithuanian: Kauno tvirtovė, Russian: Кοвенская крепость) is the remains of a fortress complex in Kaunas, Lithuania. It was constructed and renovated between 1882 and 1915 to protect the Russian Empire’s western borders, and was designated a “first-class” fortress in 1887. During World War I, the complex was the largest defensive structure in the entire state, occupying 65 km2 (25 sq mi).

The fortress was battle-tested in 1915 when Germany attacked the Russian Empire, and withstood eleven days of assault before capture. After World War I, the fortress’ military importance declined as advances in weaponry rendered it increasingly obsolete. It was used by various civil institutions and as a garrison.

During World War II, parts of the fortress complex were used by the governments of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for detention, interrogation, and execution. About 50,000 people were executed there, including more than 30,000 victims of the Holocaust.[3] Some sections have since been restored; the Ninth Fort houses a museum and memorial devoted to the victims of wartime mass executions. The complex is the most complete remaining example of a Russian Empire fortress.

There is much more there so if you wanna check it, here is the link:  Kaunas Fortress

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This was the best urbex site I ever visited. Not that I visited a lot, I know there are plenty of truly spectacular spots out there but I cant reach them, so I have to talk out of my own experience. And accordingly to it, this is the most impressive!

Elvas is a town within walls. Actually, it was classified as UNESCO site this year under the title Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications. And it was the chosen place to spend my birthday in 2012. The weather wasn’t promising, but I really wanted to get out of my usual routine in this day. So we spent a few days with friends in Évora (another UNESCO site, geez, this small country most be the one with higher ratio of UNESCO sites per area). And it was from there that we left for this expedition. Elvas is about 90 km from Évora, good road, easy trip. Although there is much to see and do in Elvas, we took Forte da Graça first. For a single reason: weather forecast was “promising” rain in a couple of hours and this isolated fort was the major attraction for the day, so I wanted to explore it with perfect weather conditions. The light was great, with a dark sky offering a powerful dramatic touch to any picture I would take up there.

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Getting there was a piece of cake. I was on the spot a few years ago, but by then it wasn’t possible to enter the core of the fort. And I mean, a proper fort is not a place you can trespass, not without climbing skills and equipment (neither of which I possess). But I was told that nowadays the main gate is wide open. Well, it is true. I found the main gate as promised… and a police car parked just in front of it, with two officers sitting inside. I thought to myself: “Well, I am not going to pay a fine and definitely not going to spend my birthday in jail if I just walk in”. I believe in these situations a relaxing atitude is the key for success. So we got out of our car, picked the Nikon D90 from the back seat, put my rucksack on and started waling towards the gate, expecting to hear something any moment. But they just stayed there. And, as I noticed shortly after I entered the outer ring of the fort, they left for good.

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A bit of History now. Elvas, being a border town for centuries, saw plenty of action. It was involved in endless wars between Portugal and Spain, and even in the conflict with France, when Napoleon invaded – the only occasion in which Portugal was invaded since its foundation, back in the 12th Century. It’s not surprise then, that the whole region is packed with medieval castles and modern fortresses, especially from the 17th Century, when the longest war against Spain took place.

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It was during that conflict (Restoration War 1641-1668) that the Spaniards set siege on Elvas, and occupied Graça hill, with dramatic consequences for the Portuguese. A century later, another war, the same happenings. Spanish going up Graça hill, unleashing hell to the Portuguese down in Elvas. So we thought “enough is enough”. In 1763 – a year after the mentioned event – the works for the building of a new fortress in Graça hill started. It was finished in 1794 and initially named after the man who reorganized the Portuguese Army and proposed its construction: Count of Lippe.

In 1801 the last war against Spain took place, and the enemy was kept away due to the newly built fort. Ten years later, the French also failed to take the fort (poor general Soult).

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In the last decades the fort was used as a military prison but it’s currently abandoned. he city of Elvas will eventually take over and requalify the structure (I can’t imagine with which money, considered the size of the fort) but the process is still going one.

Ok, enough of chitchat. Let the images talk!

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No need for coordinates for this one. It’s pretty obvious, Google it, Google Earth around Elvas, ask in the town for directions, whatever.