Fortress Belt of Amsterdam (World Heritage)

Fortress Belt of Amsterdam

The approximately 135 km long defensive structure, built between 1883 and 1920, stretches around Amsterdam. It consists of several forts, dams, canals and locks. The ingenious system was based on the idea of ​​flooding the foreland in the event of a war in order to make Amsterdam as an island impregnable.

Fortress Belt of Amsterdam: Facts

Official title: Fortress belt of Amsterdam
Cultural monument: a 135 km long line of defense in an arc 15 to 20 km around Amsterdam with 42 forts, numerous dykes, dams and locks, with the help of which the foreland could be submerged in two days in an attack on the Dutch capital, fortifications such as vesting Naarden, Fort Edam, Westbatterij Muiden, Fort Spijkerboor, Fort Pennigsveer and Fort Pampus
Continent: Europe
Country: Netherlands, North Holland
Location: in a semicircle around Amsterdam from Edam (north of Amsterdam) via Markenbinnen, Hoofddorp, Drecht, Nigtevecht, Weesp, Muiden and Dierendam (south-east of Amsterdam)
Appointment: 1996
Meaning: largest known “ring defense system” and the only defensive belt from the 19th / 20th centuries. Century, who used the control of the water for defense purposes

Fortress Belt of Amsterdam: History

1874 Adoption of a fortress law as the basis for the construction of the “Stelling van Amsterdam”
1880 Construction of Fort Ijmuiden
1883 Construction of Fort Abcoude
1914 Construction of Fort Spijkerboor
1917-22 Incorporation into Vesting Holland
until 1963 Part of the war or defense ministry
1996 Establishment of the “Stelling van Amsterdam” foundation for the maintenance of the defense system

“Lying in front of the pampus”

She had lived in three forts of the fortification belt around Amsterdam and looked after everything, and when the now 66-year-old Mrs. Prijs-Doesburg was questioned by the Volkskrant in August 1996, she said: “How proud I was to be Stelling van Amsterdam has been declared a World Heritage Site. “Taking a roll from the corner of her mouth, she continued:” Now my life is round and I can die contentedly. ”

At first glance, the defense structure protecting the Dutch capital looks like a collection of dams and dykes on the edge of pastures where cows graze. Only on closer inspection can locks, pumping stations and forts surrounded by moats be made out. Like those in Spaarndam, they are connected by vaulted walkways covered in lush greenery. It is hard to believe that these idyllic-looking complexes should together form an impregnable bulwark against enemy attacks.

Without the numerous pumping stations, the final dam of the Zuiderzee or the windmills in Kinderdijk-Elshout, which are also ennobled as World Heritage, our neighbors would not only stand with their feet but even with their necks in the water: Schiphol International Airport would be 4.40 meters and the Vondelpark in the water Heart of Amsterdam at least 2.45 meters below normal Amsterdam level. But it is precisely the water, which permanently threatens the settlement of the “Low Lands”, that over the centuries should become part of an ingenious defense strategy.

The idea of ​​defending the land below sea level by flooding was already felt by the army of the Sun King Louis XIV. It faced flooded cities such as Leiden and Delft during its campaign in the late 17th century. For the residents, piercing the dikes seemed the only way to save them from enslavement by the French ruler. Almost a century and a half after that invasion, the decision was made to build the so-called “Nieuwe Hollandsche Waterlinie”. The Stelling van Amsterdam, drawn in a semicircle around Amsterdam, was a cleverly devised facility in itself – even if the military strategists of the late 19th century saw the emerging development of defense technology,

If you stay in Muiden today and look out over the water, you might see the “Green Dragon”, the royal yacht, cruising through the waves, but above all an island-shaped structure with a “camel hump” made of concrete, surrounded by a green wreath and under the The waterline is surrounded by basalt blocks: Fort Pampus, “guardian” of the entrance to Amsterdam and outpost of the defense belt of Amsterdam.

Here, on a shoal, many Dutch merchant ships that returned from the East Indian colonies were stranded in the golden age. This was not at all unfair to the seafarers, since the traders and landlords of the nearby Muiden meanwhile provided wine and good food. Quite a few women in the town went on board and stayed until the ship was lifted by so-called “camels” – today tugs would be called for help – and pulled into deep water. “To lie in front of the pampus” – still today a phrase in the sense of “looked too deeply into the glass and incapacitated” – probably had its good sides back then.

According to areacodesexplorer, the military facilities have long been put to peaceful use: on Pampus people are practicing climbing, in Fort Kwakel the billiard ball rolls from gang to gang under the clouds of mist of avid smokers, in Fort Benoorden Purmerend the restaurant “La Ciboulette” invites, Fort Markenbinnen serves as a training project for the long-term unemployed. “Bike tours along the line of fire” are particularly attractive: the guns are silent, the sluices remain closed, the dikes are intact, and the foreland of the forts is not flooded, so you can calmly follow the old connecting routes, called Genie and Fortweg, can cycle.

Fortress Belt of Amsterdam