Warsaw

Modlin Fortress

  ul. gen. Józefa Bema 500, Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki ,   No District         28 Sep 2020
Situated in the town of Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, 30km north-west of Warsaw, is the 19th century Modlin Fortress (Twierdza Modlin), with a collection of barracks, which in total amount to 2,250m - the longest building in Europe. It is here at the meeting point of two rivers, the Narew and VistulaNapoleon in 1806 ordered the creation of a defensive point (he is rumoured to have designed one of the first buildings). The complex was later expanded by Tsarist Russian troops and later again by Polish troops, and indeed, was also used by the Germans. During the Russian tenure, from 1880 onwards, the main fort at Modlin became part of a larger defensive project, consisting of two defensive rings, one smaller inner circle consisting of 8 fortlets, 7-10km from the main fort, and the outer ring made up of 14 fortlets, 8-12km away. The entire defensive complex eventually became redundant as military technology and strategies evolved in the 20th century.

The fortress saw major action in the Battle of Modlin, during the 1939 Defensive War after Nazi Germany invaded Poland. 24,000 troops held out from 13-29 September and were one of the last to capitulate. Post-war, the fortress was used by the Polish military, but now the fort has been sold to developers who plan to create a 'town within a town' with a shopping centre, among other things, planned to be here in the future. Now is the perfect time to visit before it changes beyond recognition!

Despite this, parts of the fortress are still open to tourists and you can visit individually or join a group. Either way, for history buffs and Urbexers, and even for kids, this is a great place to visit. Although entry onto the terrain is free, if you wish to explore certain areas, you will need to pay, depending on what you wish to see. The underground basements are open Mon-Fri 12:00-16:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-17:00 (5zł), the museum of the September campaign is open Tue-Fri 13:00-18:00 & Sat-Sun 10:00-18:00 (closed Mon), and finally, the viewing tower, open Mon-Fri 10:00-16:00 & Sat-Sun 10:00-18:00 (10/5zł).
 
Baśka Murmańska and her fellow troops in Modlin Fortress!

If you plan to go to Modlin with the kids, they can hunt for polar bears (what?!), but relax, it's not the way you think. To keep the younglings' interest, a no. of small polar bear statuettes have been placed around key sites of the fortress along a playful/educational trail in honour of 'Baśka Murmańska' (Baśka from Murmańsk), a polar bear that served in the Polish Army (those familiar with the story of Wojtek the Bear will be surprised to know he was the 2nd bear to serve in the Polish Armed Forces)! This all sounds bizarre, so it's time for a quick history lesson. Baśka was a polar bear that was bought at a market in 1919 by a Polish officer cadet (Walenty Karaś) while stationed in north-western Russia as Poland's 'Blue Army', together with the British, were aiding the whites against the Bolshevik forces following the revolution of 1917. Walenty intended to woo a local girl with his gift, only for Baśka to kill a dog...which belonged to a British General. The Polish Murmansk battalion commander Major Julian Skokowski ordered that the bear was to join their unit, eventually being tamed/trained to join the machine gun unit. It's as crazy as it sounds. The unit, and the bear, were eventually shipped back to Poland to Szczecin, but not before a stop off in Edinburgh (making Wojtek the Bear the 2nd Polish bear to have visited Scotland as a soldier of the Polish Army!). Once back in Poland, the bear was stationed in Modlin Fortress with her unit, however, a few months later, she escaped and swam across the river and was tragically killed by a local who wished to give her fur to his wife! If all this history (bears or no bears) doesn't impress you enough to want to learn more about Modlin Fortress and its historical connections, nothing will...

The easiest way to get there is to take the Koleje Mazowieckie 'RL' train, which leave once an hour throughout the day from 04:00, from Warsaw Central Train Station to Modlin, from where the fort is just a 10 minute walk to the west along the river. Please note: opening times may vary, check their website for details.

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