Cologne´s Forgotten Fortifications
Ever since Roman times, Cologne has been protected by rings of fortifications traces of which can still be seen around the city: The Roman and medieval city walls with their massive gates, and two rings of fortifications built in the 19th century when Cologne was under Prussian administration.
Some of their remains are so openly present in the city they blend into their surroundings and most people don´t really pay attention to them in their daily life any more. Others are hidden away, overgrown and known only to those with a special interest in city history. Some - most of the former city gates - are still in use by various groups so can only be accessed by members of these groups or on special occasions.
One of these occasions is the "Day of the Fortifications", "Tag der Forts", which is held once a year. On this day, guided tours to the remains of the medieval city wall and some of the remaining gates are offered as well as guided tours (some even in costume) to the fortifications of the Inner and Outer ring. It´s well worth taking part in these, taking the chance to discover yet another little known side of Cologne.
Fort IX, Cologne Westhoven - 2008
If you didn't know it you'd never guess the Prussian fort was there. From the road, the only thing you see is a locked gate and two derelict buildings obviously dating from the 20th century which were actually once repair halls for tanks and other military vehicles. Let´s take a look inside before we go on to the fort.
KB: "That was already broken before I arrived! Honest!"
We were asked not to go inside because the halls weren't safe... but the guide forgot to mention that this applies to Travel Blythes... not "also" but EXPLICITLY!
KB: "Aww, these guys only always SAY not to touch anything, because they have to - it´s not like they really MEAN it...! What happens if I turn this...?"
Actually... Seeing how dead and abandoned these places are... the displaced rock in the picture above somehow reminds me of the Jewish tradition for visitors to a grave to place a small stone on top. (When this tradition started, grave monuments were mounds of stones. Visitors to the grave added to the mound, a gesture to show that the monument would never be finished and the deceased never forgotten.)