Norman Wolfer
Special to The Union

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July 6, 2013
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A walk through history: The Spandauer Zitadella (Spandau Citadel/Fortress)

Leaving the car at the public parking on the Am Juliusturm street, my wife and I started our walk into the medieval past.

The Spandau Citadel was first constructed in the 1500s and restored a couple of times since then. One of Europe’s best maintained historical treasures, the wide, cobbled way to the fortress, over what used to be where the draw-bridge was, certainly gave the feeling of antiquity. The Citadel is located in Spandau, one of the oldest sections of the international city of Berlin, Germany.

Although there are many worthy historical tourist destinations in Berlin, this is one of the most interesting and intriguing. Spandau was first mentioned in 1197, and the construction of the Citadel was started in 1559. It was instrumental in the defense of the area now known as Berlin for many years, including during World War II.

In 1806, Napoleon conquered the fortress and it was nearly destroyed. It was then reconstructed based on the Italian design, which left no blind corners for enemies to take advantage of. A view from above shows how the fortress was completely surrounded by water. Effectively, it was a moat that was further completed by the no-longer present drawbridge.

My wife was born in Spandau, which gave this excursion a special meaning for us. Many believe, in error, the historical site was used after World War II for the incarceration of some of the Nazi war criminals. In 1935, a gas laboratory was installed for military research with nerve gas. Toward the end of the war, the Citadel was, once again, used as a defense outpost in the Battle of Berlin, where it was besieged by Russian troops.

On our visit to the tourist attraction, the main part of the grounds were taken over by a Renaissance celebration. The vendors and volunteers were all dressed in the historically accurate dress of the Renaissance era. There was food prepared in the fashion and with recipes of the age, and shops set up to show the handcrafts of the age (from blacksmith forges to foot-powered lathes, etc). There were even staged sword fights and battles with fire-breathing dragons.

At the same time the Renaissance festival was taking place, within some of the buildings that composed the Citadel, there was a World War II display. It graphically reflected the difficult times the Germans experienced as a result of the war. Since Berlin was the seat of the government, nowhere was there more destruction and suffering.

The display included hundreds of pictures. There were some that showed the plight of the people. Others gave evidence of the determination of the remaining government and military to prevent looting.

This sign says, “Looters will be shot!”

To see the history of the magnificent city of Berlin, both from the Renaissance era to the destruction from the war, was awe-inspiring. Berlin is now the largest German City (second most populace) and the seventh most populated city in Europe. The remarkable condition of the Citadel, which has withstood so many battles over the years, is nothing less than incredible. If you are visiting Germany or Berlin in your travels, it is worth the minimal effort to look up the Spandau Citadel (Spandauer Zitadella) and take the time to experience a great piece of history. Even without the festivities we experienced, the Citadel as a museum is worth the $6 entrance fee ($3.25 for seniors and handicapped). It is located at Am Juliusturm 64, 13599 Berlin and is easy to reach by car or public transportation.

Grass Valley resident Norm Wolfer writes about his travels at normwolfer.blogspot.com.


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The Union Updated Jul 6, 2013 12:02AM Published Jul 6, 2013 12:02AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.