Gate to Holland, the city of Maastricht possessed great political and strategic importance.
As an enclave of the dutch Republic between the Spanish- and Austrian-Netherlands, the principality of Liege and located on the banks of the river Maas, the city has a great importance during the XVIth and XVIIIth centuries.
Many surrounding walls, ramparts, bastions and military forts make up a protection built along the wars and the years.
In addition to the famous labyrinth of marl and tuff quarries, Maastricht possesses an underground network specially made for purposes of military defence. We had the chance to explore the casemates network, indispensable element of the defensive position.
The enemy's approach underground was an attempt to powder mines placed underground to blow breached in the ring of fortifications. Counter-galleries were built to enable the defenders the enemy's approach in good time, and to render his explosive charges harmless.
As the demolition work carried out in 1868 was only superficial, the underground network remained virtually intact. One still can see examples of constructions dated from 1690 to 1822. Constructions are mainly beautiful brick barrel-vaults and walls of marlstone.
More recently, from 1941 to september 1944, most parts of the underground defence systems were used as bomb shelters. By the end of the war the system had a capacity of a 23.000 civilians. Some estimates go up to 30.000. In times of alarm for possible air attacks (mostly at night) about 10.000 to 13.000 people fled into the old, but very safe underground defence systems. Most inhabitants of Maastricht prefer the damp atmosphere of the casemates above the comfortable purpose-built concrete bomb shelters, because the old fortifications were layed out on a deeper lever in the undeground of the city (about 4 to 8 meters).
We spent a night in this about 10km long maze, trying to understand all the subtleties of the military tactics: ecoutes (specially built listening galleries), spacious caponiers, powder rooms, one-way working doors, small pits containing light mines able to collapse the galleries on the invaders...
This underground network is unfortunately not accessible anymore. A small part still can be visited as a tourist from the bastion Waldeck.
Thanks to Paul & Gonnie for their unbelievable magic keys, opening the most secret and unlikely doors of Maastricht...
Source: The fortress Maastricht, Dr. H.H.E. Wouters, DSM, 1982 - Maastricht Kazematten
Just contact the tourist information: www.vvvmaastricht.nl
hi, how do i get in. CU burnedtoast
You don't, that's the particularity of this place ;-)
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