Sunday, 5 June 2011

No attacking this place

The town of Naarden, about 30 min east of Amsterdam by train, isn't a very big town, about 800 m by 1,000 m. But it has stood for centuries at a critical crossroads on the Amsterdam-Utrecht road, and served as a major part of the defense of Amsterdam. Unlike so many other towns that removed or built over their medieval defenses, Naarden preserved them, and now the entire town is virtually a museum, as you can clearly see in this satellite image of town from Google Earth...
Double moated and heavily fortified.
...and it has the national fortification museum on one of the preserved defensive ramparts (the one at the 7:30 position in the above photo). This is a great museum, where you can see the history of fortification design, lots of old cannon, and read about the defense of Amsterdam.
Three cannon in this direction. Standing on top of the gunpowder store

Highly protected

Cannon from the 1800

Cannon on top of the bastion. 5 on the top
Each bastion had 14 cannon inside tunnels underground, plus 6 more above ground firing to the sides, plus 5 on the top firing to the front, and 3 mortar hiding in a trench firing to the front. That's a lot of firepower. The bastions themselves had underground bunkers and tunnels.
2 m thick walls
Under each 60 m long side of the point were listening tunnels...
Long and dark
...which were quiet and had holes in the roof leading to caps that enabled you to hear if anyone was trying to paddle across the canal.
Listening holes along the tunnel
We took a little boat around the moat with a really nice and knowledgeable guide who gave us a view and description of the outsides of the fortifications.
5 cannon pointed at you 
As the cannon got bigger, they had to move the holes up 
Guy on top of bastion. Very tall to get over
As I mentioned, Naarden did not get rid of any of its fortifications or its old buildings. They are now "something". Some are restaurants. Some are shops. Some are even houses.
1877 gate. Now tourist info office and gift shop 
1875 former barracks on a ravelin. Now an art gallery. 
Left to right: Beauty salon, clothing boutique x 2, office 
The arsenal. Now a "shopping centre" 
Killer bathroom boutique
If it were Calgary, we would have condemned them all, torn them down and built condos.

The rest of the town is very pretty, and really nice to walk around.
The one canal inside the walls 
The main drag 
The church in the centre of town 
Inside the church. Couldn't see more as there was a photo show on 
City hall. Built in the 1630's
A quiet garden
Naarden is an outstanding daytrip form Amsterdam, being just 30 min away by trains that run twice an hour (and cost about €4.50 one way). Don't make our mistake when visiting, however. We rented bikes at the Naarden-Bussum train station. This isn't necessary and is actually quite a hassle. Naarden is only about 6 min by bicycle from the station, and once in the town, a bike is a hinderance. You can walk the top of the ramparts but can't cycle them, as there's a lot of steep ups and downs, stairs and no paved paths. It takes only 10 min to walk from one side of the town to the other.

No, don't rent a bike if all your are going to do is vist Naarden. Walk the 20 min to town; it's easy to find. Turn left coming out of the station, and stay left paralleling the tracks on the bike route for about 10 min. Turn right at the end of the long straight canal like pool, cross the main road and bear right. In 5 min walk you will see the fortifications.

On the other hand, if you do rent a bike, get there early enough to ride the 6 or so km up to Muiden (near Weesp) and go see Muiderslot, a very cool moated castle I have seen in movies but did not have time to visit.

By the way, Naarden's fortifications were never tested. They were built as a result of the Spanish war in 1572 when the Spanish massacred all the adults in town. They kicked a lot of people out over the centuries but were never attacked. The fort was active until 1920 when it was made obsolete with munitions that could penetrate ground and then blow up. In WW2, Allied bombers used the rather distinctive fortification shape as a navigation aid.

Naarden was also one end of the Dutch Water Line. This was a series of defenses first built in the 1630's that could flood a whole lot of the country and make the important places effectively an island. The line proved its value less than forty years after its construction during the Franco-Dutch War of 1672 when it stopped the armies of Louis XIV from conquering the Dutch Republic. It was ready for use until finally being dismantled in 1963, and upgraded on 3 separate occasions, including just after Napoleon's defeat, and just after WW2.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

That is so cool!!