Historic Travel-The German Corner

Monday morning found us at a historic point but also a strategic location known as the German Corner where the Moselle River meets the mighty Rhine at the city of Koblenz. The city is defined by two objects, the large statue of Kiser Wilhelm I which is located at the point where the two rivers meet and across the river high on the bluff is Ebrenbreitstein Fortress. The city itself was established 2,000 years ago by the Teutonic Knights. The oldest building still standing (this area was destroyed twice by the French and in both World Wars) is the Basilica of St. Castor dating to 836. Because of its location was the town became a major hub and trading center for the Rhineland region.

Wilhelm I is an important figure in German history in that he is responsible for uniting Germany into the country as we now know it. Though the German region is much older than the U.S. the country of Germany is actually younger. Before Wilhelm I, the region was a bunch of united principalities. Wilhelm was king of Prussia before becoming Kiser of Germany. It was in 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War that Wilhelm I was able to pull all the German regions together under his authority. It will be his grandson Wilhelm II, who will take Germany into WWI.

The much larger structure is across the Rhine standing 400 feet above the city is the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, the second largest fortress in the world. Because of its strategic position above the river, the Romans originally built a fortification on the spot. Later in the 16th Century the Prussians did, but it was destroyed by Napoleon. Finally to never get invaded again the current fortress was built in 1828. It is very impressive. It is impossible to take from the river side so invaders would have to attack across an open field against a fortified position with high brick walls. Dirt and grass were planted on top of the walls to absorb any cannon balls and all the walls were built at angles to help reflect any shells. If for any reason an army could overtake the first wall the Germans could pull back and destroy the bridges into the secondary fort. Any army entering the courtyard would find themselves sitting ducks from multiply positions from gun and cannon fire. If the two main structures in the center were taken, again they could fall back to the main keep again surrounded by large walls. It may have seemed impenetrable, so much in fact that it would never be attached. The French did occupy it after WWI but did not want to destroy it because of its historical value. The Nazi’s did use it during WWII but had to clear out before the Americans showed up.

One nice thing about the fort is that you no longer have to hike to the top, there is a tram that takes you from Koblenz.

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