WALK 7: Walking and cycling along the Route of the Former Kraków Fortress

The fortifications that together make up the Kraków Fortress are quite a dainty treat for adventure hunters. From 1795 to 1918 Kraków lay just 7km (5 miles) from the border with Russia, which in the mid-19th-century prompted the Austrians to rebuild the defence system and turn the city into a huge fortress. The original defence line ran along today’s Aleje Trzech Wieszczów (all that is left of them is Fort “Kleparz”). However, developing technology, and especially the increasing range of cannons, quickly made such fortifications useless. It became necessary to develop a ring ofdefensive structures around the city.

The more modern strongholds lying further away from the city feature concrete ceilings, while armoured towers and domes began springing up around the city after 1878. Just before the First World War, the outer ring of the Kraków Fortress had a diameter of around 60km (40 miles) and encompassed 34 forts, some for the use of theinfantry, others heavily armoured. Some of them yielded to destruction in the 20th century, yet the remaining ones are testimony to the size of the enterprise and the craftsmanship of the builders. Around 180 different defence structures have survived. In reaching them you are helped by the yellow-black-yellow trail in the colours of the Habsburg dynasty, marking the route of the former Kraków Fortress. Although intended for walkers and cyclists, it also serves motorised tourists along major stretches, as a majority of the sites can be accessed along waymarked access roads.

The first section runs from Fort Mogiła (near the Wanda Mound) to Salwator district and connects the structures situated in the northern part of the city. The other runs on the right-bank of the Vistula, leading from Lasówka Fort to the ruins of Bodzów Fort. It brings together the fortifications of southern Kraków, to continue along the ramparts of Ludwinówand reach St Benedict Fort on top of the Krzemionki limestone ridge. The course of the trail usually follows formerroads used for transporting provisions to individual elements of the fortress. Many of its sections have been adapted to become part of Kraków’s network of streets and suburban roads.

Following redevelopment, the forts today play a variety of roles, for example, Skała Fort hosts an astronomical observatory, Olszanica (West of Las Wolski Woods) and Grębałów (in ul. Kocmyrzowska) operate asequestrian centres, and Fort Zielonki has been turned into a hotel. There are shooting rangesoperating here and by the Węgrzce Fort (next to the road connecting the city to Kielce). A number of not-too-distant structures in Nowa Huta have survived in quite good condition. These are Batowice Fort in os. Złotego Wieku, Mistrzejowice Fort in os. Piastów, Krzesławice Fort (a martyrdom site from the Second World War), and the aforementioned GrębałówFort. Hardly anyone today remembers that the brick constructions surrounding the Kościuszko Mound, used by RMF FM Radio, are also a former fort.

A handful of forts worthy of attention lie in the southern part of the city: Prokocim, Rajsko (offering a panorama of Kraków), Skotniki, and one of the oldest – the St Benedict artillery fort atop Lasota Hill (Krzemionki), which is a unique example of defensive architecture.

Date: 2013-06-06 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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