Sunday, 28 August 2016

The forts

Today I decided to take the car south and find some different countryside.  I was getting tired of motorways and changed the gps setting to ’fastest route’ in the hope it would take me via some quiet rural roads.  Well that worked and I found myself going through small Belgium villages and narrow lanes. 

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Eventually I reached more hilly terrain covered in forest.  Apparently I must have crossed the border into France as I came upon a small French town within a star fort.  I had no idea of the name of the village. However after a considerable amount of internet searching I’ve now identified it as Rocroi.  I even managed to nick an aerial photo from here

star fort

Back in the 14th Century what is now Belgium and Holland belonged to Spain. In 1552 the Holy Roman Emperor ordered a fort be built on his side (Belgium side) of the border.  King Henry II of France then ordered the construction of a fort southwest at Rocroi.  During this period the principle infantry formation was a square of men armed with pikes.  The arrowhead shape of the star fort broke up the continuity of and attacking square.  As artillery became more powerful and accurate fortification were constructed from earth which was better at absorbing the energy from incoming cannon balls.

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Buildings inside the fort have obviously changed over the centuries.  This next photo appears to be of some type of former local government building on one side of the main square.

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Walking the perimeter of the fort was hot work so I treated myself to a cold drink at the Hotel du Commerce

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Time to go back to Belgium…. 

More rural roads found me in Namur which the the provincial capital of southern Belgium. The city is strategically positioned at the confluence of the rivers Sambre and Meuse where it dominates the east-west and the north-south routes through the Ardennes.   As usual, I was looking for some high ground and noticed the fort towering over the city.  OK, it was a hot day but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to walk up one of the approaches to the fort.

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The fort

As I was crossing the bridge I noticed the half turret building on the northern bank.

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The current fort is actually Namur Citadel. I was very hot and sweaty by the time I reached the summit and once there it became very apparent the citadel had been constructed in a compartmentalized design with layered defensive positions.

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The citadel was expanded and strengthened over the centuries but after the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870’s it was disestablished.  Belgium had declared itself neutral and realised that neutrality needed to be protected.  Being a strategic location Namur was strengthened by the construction of a ring of forts just outside artillery range of the city.  Despite all this work (and expense) the ring of forts and citadel fell very quickly to the invading Germans in both world wars.  There are good views of the surrounding area from the citadel.

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Back down in the city and very hot I went looking for something to drink along with a look at the local architecture.

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Two cokes and a large bottle of water later I was on my way back to my hotel in Charlerio.

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