Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is surrounded by a ring of 18 fortifications built in the late 19th century. At the initiative of King Carol I, a very able military professional formed and trained in Germany, the Belgian general Henri Alexis Brialmont was instructed to design the remarkable defence complex that stretched over a circumference of 72km around the city. Is a series of 18 forts placed at a distance of 4km from each other with another 18 intermediate batteries placed in between the forts.
At the beginning of the 20th century, chemical and aeronautical advances rendered the forts obsolete a short while after their completion. Explosives and aerial bombardment made classical fortifications useless in modern warfare. In 1914, the Battle of Liege, in which the German Army broke through fortifications also designed by Brialmont with greater ease than expected, alarmed the authorities in Bucharest. The forts' artillery pieces—all top-notch Krupp cannons—were quickly dismantled and transformed into mobile artillery. Indeed, by 1916, when the German Army was approaching Bucharest, the forts had already been abandoned, and the city was taken without too much difficulty.
Today, the military has abandoned most of the forts. Stray dogs seek shelter in some of them; storage space and mushroom-growing facilities are other reported uses. The forts are now in a ruinous state, deteriorating through neglect at an alarming rate. Nothing is being done by the government of the city authorities to redress the situation although the forts would constitute a major international tourist attraction. Although the fortifications are huge structures surrounding European Union’s 6thlargest metropolis, paradoxically not many of Bucharest’s citizens are aware about their existence, a result of the last six decades of communist and post-communist low quality education and lack of interest in their own heritage.
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