Tuesday, 25 June 2013

ravelin or navi knows best

Although I really appreciate GPS (a navigational system) for never saying, “Why do you want to go there?” though turning really bossy and panicky if one strays from the direct route and sometimes betraying a twisted sense of humour, maybe sometimes the question should be asked. On the way back from one of the few errands that I need to drive to accomplish, I decided to find out what Fort Biehler exactly was. I had spied this turret from the Autobahn every time I passed that way but it turned out it was not part of the fort at all, but a much older watchtower (Warte) of the village of Erbenheim, the landmark built in 1497. It difficult to find the right angle and distance to take a picture of the tower, which had little contrast against the overcast skies but some thoughtful person put a miniature model in his garden, though the actual tower was facing just beyond.
The fort, I found out after a long walk through the neighbourhood and the forest was an inaccessible ruin, cordoned off behind a security fence in a training groud used by the German and America military for exercises and there was not much to see of the foundations itself.
Completed in the last decades of the 1800s, Fort Biehler was part of a massive ensemble of defensive constructs known as Fortress Mainz, this area being where the Palatinate's possessions slipped south of the Rhein and into Hessian holdings, named in honour of the chief of the Prussian corps of engineers and architect, General Hans Alexis von Biehler, who designed many such structures, including the citadel at Spandau and was nearly as prolific as his French rival, Marquis de Vauban, whom we've chased around during our travels as well.
In accordance with the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, Fortress Mainz was defanged and the fort was used to garrison French forces before eventually being cannibalised for building material in the 1930s. With sweeping views of Wiesbaden and Mainz from this area, it was easy to imagine the vantage such a fortification had and I'm glad that GPS devices are not overly opinionated or timid about exploring.