Fort Ehrenbreitstein, Koblenz
Even if you are not interested in (or don’t have time to visit) any of the museums or sights of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, it is worth crossing the Rhine simply to enjoy the wonderful views and prettily planted park here, the Festungspark. What is more, admission to this is free, so there is no need to buy a combined cable car / fortress ticket if this is your sole aim in crossing.
The park is quite extensive and was replanted a few years ago for the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Garden Show) held in Koblenz that year (for which, incidentally, the cable car was constructed). In the past this area had been left open to form a natural fire break as part of the fortress’s defence system. I am not sure how much of the garden show’s planting schemes have been retained and how much has since been modified, but what we found here included both formal beds (planted very attractively in shades of purple and white) and banks of wild flowers. The latter are concentrated at the further end of the park as you walk towards the wooden viewing platform that should certainly be your main aim. This is cleverly constructed as a sort of triangular ramp rising both upwards and outwards so that at the top you are jutting out ten metres over the cliff’s edge, above the Rhine valley. Even though you will have had great views from the cable car, here you are a little further south and get a different angle on the sights and a clearer view of Koblenz itself.
If you have children with you I’m sure it would be worth visiting the large climbing playground within the park, but we didn’t check this out. Instead after enjoying the views and the flowers we headed into the fortress itself.
Next tip: the museums of Ehrenbreitstein
There are a number of reasons you might want to visit Ehrenbreitstein Fortress: the views, the museums, the sense of history, even the restaurant alone is a draw. I cover all of these aspects in several tips, but first, some general information and history.
Ehrenbreitstein marks the northernmost point of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The bulk of the fortress we see today was built between 1817 and 1828 by the Prussians, as part of a fortification system to guard the middle Rhine area from French invasions. An earlier fortress on this site had in fact been destroyed by the French in 1801, and there have been fortifications of some sort on this strategic spot, overlooking the confluence of Rhine and Moselle, since the Bronze Age – archaeological excavations in the area around the fortress have recently uncovered trenches and wooden palisades which were probably made 5,000 years ago to protect the northern plateau of a settlement here. In the 3rd – 5th centuries AD the Romans had a fort here, and the archbishops of Trier expanded a small medieval castle on the site, and later, in the 16th century, developed it into a fortress strong enough to withstand the new gunpowder weapons. This enabled them to defend the Rhine-Moselle confluence with one of the most sophisticated fortress complexes of its time. The multiple defensive barriers (walls and moats) that you pass through to reach the core of the fortress are a legacy of that time.
Ehrenbreitstein stood firm under siege for decades. But in 1794, French revolutionary troops conquered Koblenz. In the years that followed they besieged Ehrenbreitstein three times without success, but finally as the century drew to a close a one-year siege forced the starving defenders of the fortress to finally hand it over to French troops in 1799. They blew it up two years later, and for 16 years its ruins were used only by local butchers grazing their cattle. Although the Prussians eventually rebuilt it, it was never again attacked. After the First World War it was occupied in turn by the US and French armies, and after WW2 again by the French. Since then it has served as refugee camp, residential housing and youth hostel (the latter is still there), before being developed as a museum. It underwent a major restoration 2007-11.
If you are particularly interested in the history of the fortress you can explore with the aid of an audio guide. This follows a route entitled "Stations of the Fortress history" which traces "5,000 years of Ehrenbreitstein" through 40 different points such as the fortress’s cannons, the gun-smithy, guardhouse, prison cells, and right up to the highest point of the fortress, the flag tower.
Otherwise you can simply wander and soak up the atmosphere, as we did. I should add that although we had two leaflets, each with a map, we found the layout a little confusing and several times went round in a circle when searching for a specific building or sight, owing in part to the thickness of the walls we walked through and the twists in the passages.
Unfortunately for so major an attraction the website (linked below) appears at first sight to be only available in German. This is a shame, as it is packed with information, and also misleading. While searching for alternative sources of information I found myself directed here, to an English language area of the website, and thus discovered, in tiny print near its foot on the right side, the links I had previously missed – not only to English but to French and Dutch also. The English-language content is limited to the history of the fortress and a couple of downloadable brochures. The audio guide is however available in English and French in addition to German.
The fortress is open 10.00-18.00 in summer (April-October) and 10.00-17.00 in winter. According to the website it is closed only on 24th and 31st December, but I can’t help speculating that it is also closed on the 25th.
Next tip: the park and viewing platform
In the years after the Second World War there was an acute housing shortage in Koblenz as a result of all the destruction caused by the air raids. One solution adopted was to use parts of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress as residential housing. A small corner of the Ravelin (a pentagonal section of the main fortress wall) today presents a series of rooms restored and furnished as they would have been then, when they were home to the Suderland family. This is the section we found it hardest to locate as it is rather tucked away and not well-signposted, but it is worth doing so to see a more intimate element of the fortress’s past. And if you are “of a certain age” there could be a nostalgia element too, as you recognise long-forgotten objects from your childhood perhaps.
Above, on the roof of the Ravelin, you can see the 1950s garden belonging to this accommodation. This is complemented by the roof-top three Historischen Zeitgärten (historical time gardens), part of the archaeological museum but accessible from here, which illustrate garden design from different periods in the past: Neolithic (showing the transition from hunter-gather to farmer), Roman (with plants used by them as food or for medicinal purposes) and Medieval (again, plants that were eaten or used in medicine at that time). The poppy in my fourth photo was in the Roman garden, and shows that plants can be both useful and stunningly beautiful at the same time!
Next tip: lunch in the Restaurant Casino
In addition to visiting the fortress as a sight in its own right, focusing on its history and perhaps following the audio guide route through this, you can come for the several museums. We (Isa and I) focused on two of these, both of which reflected our interests rather well – wine and photography!
The first of these, the Haus des Genusses or House of Indulgences, tells the story of the importance of wine to the Rhineland-Palatinate region. It covers the history of wine growing here over 2,000 years and describes the differences between the soils, and consequently the wines, of the six wine-producing areas. There are some very nicely lit and consequently photogenic displays of glass bottles, and mock-ups of a vintner’s premises from, I think, the 19th century. All my photos for this tip were taken there.
The Haus der Fotografie is quite small but interesting. I liked the way it arranged the photos – not in an historical sequence but by theme, e.g. advertising, journalism or portraiture, and then within each a contrasting set of images from the past and from the present day. There is also space for temporary exhibitions and when we were there this was showing emerging new talent in German photography. I have to say that I wasn’t much taken with many of the images, apart from one guy, Eduard Zent, whose work (which featured striking portraits of people in traditional dress from around the world juxtaposed with a very modern-day object such as Nike trainers or an iPad) was on show in a separate exhibition in the fortress chapel.
The other museums, which we didn’t visit, are the Haus der Archäologie, which presents the most important archaeological finds from northern Rhineland-Palatinate, and the Landesmuseum Koblenz which presents the brands, inventors and innovations of the last 200 years, including Audi and Pfaff. Again, there are often temporary exhibitions here too – in 2015 (until 25th October) there is one devoted to 40 years of Playmobil which I understand is very good.
Next tip: some restored post-war housing
After viewing the Flower show, then it was time to see 'Ehrenbreitstein” Fortress, Europe’s second largest preserved fortress, built between 1817 and 1828 in its present-day design.
Recent archaeological findings prove an ancient settlement in this area from pre-Christian times.
The Conradiner Ehrenbert, had the Castle built around 1000 AD, and from this time on, the Castle changed hand's many times, and even was destroyed by the french in 1801.
It was 1815, when King Friedrich Wilhelm I, commanded the expansion of Koblenz to a fortified town and the largest fortifications in Europe were built.
This Fortress was meant to be demolished, luckily it never was. It is interesting to walk around, and the State Museum of Koblenz is now located here. Inside, there is a chance to see some of the archaeological finds collected from the region, and also special exhibitions. A really large cannon, the “Vogel Greif“ is on display.
There is a Memorial honouring the killed soldiers during World War's I & II, and also Youth Hostel Koblenz.
Firstly, we need to cross the Rhine River, and to do this, we hop into the new Cable Car, only built in 2011 for the Flower Show.
The cable car travels across the Rhine from Deutsches Eck up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, a distance of 850 metres, giving us wonderful view's on our trip across the River.
There are 18 gondolas, each with a 35-passenger capacity, and they were full when the flower festival was on, so I think it would be great to travel on it now!
Evidently, one of the Cabin's has a glass floor so you can look down into the Rhine as the cable car takes you across.
The Cable car is the longest in Europe outside of the Alps and the first of its kind in Germany.
Once at the top, then take time to have a look at the excellent view!
Fort Ehrenbreitstein was located on the other side of the River from the main City of Koblenz.
The Fort, sits 118 metres above the River Rhine.
We were heading there, as it was another part of the Flower Show which was included in our Ticket price.
To reach the Fort, we took the new aerial cable car which carried us 900 metre's from the City across the Rhine and up to the fortress.
This was the largest area of garden's to see, a whole 27 hectare site. In keeping with the history of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, a magnificent landscaped park was being created to stay for future generation's.
On walking around, we found many different experience's! Covered passageways, a woodland glade where cemetery landscapers and stonemasons were demonstrating their skills in creative grave design, many pathway's showing different theme areas. There were vegetable garden's, garden layout's that maybe would look good in your own garden, and then later, we saw Floral exhibitions in the flower halls.
The area near Fort Bleidenberg was a designed play space including a natural adventure climbing area.
Toilet's, plenty of Ice-cream vendor's, a Cafe from where we bought our lunch from, are all here.
It would be nice to return and see it after the Flower show, and see the finished product with-out the crowd's!
Ehrenbreitstein is a mighty fortress and one of the largest in the world. The archbishops of Trier lived in the fortress from 1648 till 1786 and Triers holiest relic , The Rock Christie [vetmants of christ], was kept here.
the fortress ehrenbreitstein is one of the largest in the world. it was first built in the 10th century. it was destroyed by the french in 1801 and was rebuilt by the prussians after the treaty of vienna in 1815. today the fortress houses the landsmuseum koblenz and the rhein-museum. nearby at wambachstrasse 204 is beethoven's mother's house. to get there you take a ferry for the short trip across the rhine from the altstadt then a chair lift up the hill to the fort.
One hundred and eighteen meters above the Rhine River is the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, which it its present form was built by the Prussian Army between 1817 and 1832, with huge thick walls that were evidently intended to resist artillery fire.
Anyone fascinated by Prussian militarism could theoretically take a tour of the fortress. The tours begin every hour and are in German, though groups can also arrange (in advance) to have tours in English or French. There is also a video in German, English and French which deals with 19th century military life in the Fortress.
Second photo: Ehrenbreitstein with a tourist ship in the foreground.
Third photo: Looking up at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.
Fourth photo: Side view of the fortress.
Fifth photo: In one wing of the fortress there is a youth hostel which I can't remember anything about, though I stayed there a mere forty-one years ago.
Between two massive walls of Ehrenbreitstein is a solemn German Soldiers' Memorial. It is composed of a small stone arched built into the wall with a bronze German soldier lying at rest. Around the memorial is a nice flower garden. This is a popular spot for German visitors.
Originally built in the 11th Century, Ehrenbreitstein, has been greatly expanded and modernized to its present appearance, dating from the 1800s. Most interesting to Americans might be that this fortress was the headquarters of the American Occupation Army after World War I. The fortress houses a restaurant, museum, and a huge terrace overlooking the city and the rivers.
You can get to Ehrenbreitstein by driving, by boat, or by a chairlift that only operates May through October.
The chairlift is actually called the "Sesselbahn" in German. It is located on the back side of the fortress hidden from view from the city. You can take the train to Koblenz Ehrenbreitstein station, then walk or take Bus 8 or 9 a short distance up Charlottenstrasse.
Another option is the passenger ferry (personenfahre) from the Centrum (it leaves from Konradstrasse just south of the Deutsches Eck) across the river to the park south of Ehrenbreitstein. From here it is a quick walk north on Hofstrasse to Charlottenstrasse to the chairlift.
The chairlift phone number is +49 (0) 261 73766 and it runs from Easter through October.
There are also buses running directly from the Deutches Eck to the top of the fortress.
This fort on the other Rhine side of Koblenz might be nice viewing point. Haven´t been up, only saw it from down below. It´s on the other side of the Rhine, you can reach it by ferry and lift or by car. Think the view over the city and the two rivers is quite nice from up there....
A small ferry takes you across to the other side of the Rhein where you can either walk or take the chair lift to the top of the hill where the Fortress stands. From here you can get the very best views of the Deutsches Eck.
Visiting Ehrenbreitstein should be part of every visit to Koblenz. You can even stay within the fortress premises, because it contains a very nice (wheelchair-accessible) youth hostel. You can walk up the hill from the city, but there also is a large parking lot on the plateau-like hill outside of the fort. Mobility-impaired people will even get permission to drive into the fort and to the hostel's parking lot pictured here.
Visiting hours for the installations and museums roughly from 9 AM to 5 PM. Reasonable entrance fee. Decent wheelchair access, including loos, but some steep ramps within the premises.