Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fort Mutzig, France

I'm on a hill several miles from the town of Mutzig, France and just finished a three hour tour of massive Fort Mutzig. Wow, what a place! Built between 1893-1916 by the Germans when this region was part of Germany it's a monument to the state-of-the-art military technology of that era. This underground concrete fortress housed 6,500 soldiers. Let me repeat that fact: this UNDERGROUND fortress housed 6,500 soliders! Its size (630 acres, 400,000 square feet of underground space and 22 artillery turrents) and the fact it was fully armored, ventilated and lit by electricity made this the strongest, most modern and most powerful fortress in Europe. The first photo is the entrance where the tour starts.

Soldiers slept in shifts on bunks. Straw mattresses were used and changed regularly in order to avoid parasites and mold.

One of six industrial-size kitchens.

One of four power stations.

The tour was in French but I followed along with a pamphlet in English. The were about 10 in the group and the downside to this guided tour was the idiot moron who took pictures and asked questions about absolutely everything. So, this normally two hour tour took three hours. Example: a room with glass displays showing various uniforms worn by the soldiers where most people would spend less than five minutes----this idiot moron spent 20 MINUTES snapping photos, checking out each part of every uniform--even the tour guide was rolling her eyes. It's not like you can leave the group and move along to another section because you're four floors below the surface in damp, poorly lit tunnel/corridors that go for miles in multiple directions.

This is an artillery observation point enabling troops to spot the enemy and direct cannon fire.

This is the most fascinating piece of equipment seen. Peering over a wall can get one killed by snipers so, a soldier (most definitely someone small) gets inside this steel plated cannister (note the wheels on the bottom) and is then pushed to the edge of a low wall where the soldier can peer out of the slot near the top and note enemy movements.

This is known as a shielded battery. Built in 1899, you've got 105 mm cannons including an armoured turrent. Underground are dormitories, toilets and a kitchen. It was designed for complete independence for living and battle conditions and it is not linked to any other part of the fort by a tunnel.

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