Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Festung Konigstein

Just a few miles from Dresden, Festung Konistein dominates the river Elbe and the surrounding area. Napoleon visited and inspected the castle in 1813, but as far as I know it played no active part in the Napoleonic Wars

The fortress was considered to be impossible to capture, and indeed no one seems to have attempted to do so. It is first mentioned in 1250 and since then has served as a monastery and a prison, as well as its primary function as a military stronghold and final refuge for the Kings of Saxony.

We were dropped off here whilst the coach and our guide went off to recce the next battlefield. To be honest we were not unhappy to visit the fortress, which is a favourite tourist attraction.

We did not have a guided tour, but were left to explore as we wished. There is a museum which has many items connected with the garrison, including artillery uniforms of the Napoleonic period.

But the most interesting part of our visit was walking the ramparts. It covers a large area and we only just had enough time to walk around the wall in the two hours we were allowed there.

During the First and Second World Wars the fortress was a POW for senior allied officers. At this spot there is a description of the escape of the French general Henri Giraud, who apparently climbed down the wall at this point!

The river Elbe at this point is wide and impressive. It made me realise what a major military obstacle it must have been in the Napoleonic period, and what a major task it must have been to cross if the bridges had been destroyed.

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