This past, bound by it’s geographically and strategically position bequeathed numerous strongholds.
Today, you will be surprised by the number of ruins still visible that are witness to this glorious past. Ramstein castle at Baerenthal is one of which has reopened after many years of closure. Partially restored for security measures, the visit follows a series of information boards which retrace its 700 year history. Once at the top of the castle, there is an orientation table presenting a 360° panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Of all the fortresses, the most imposing and majestic is at Bitche: the Citadel. Its past is merged in local history and the heart of a great architectural heritage. Everything starts from here and leads to here; the roads converge and stop at the foot of its walls.
Up until 1302, the County of Bitche was owned by the Dukes of Lorraine. They founded the 12th century Cistercian abbey at Sturzelbronn, a stone throw away, as well as a hunting castle called “Castrum Bytis”.
Bitche castle, built by Evrard II was originally on the grounds where the citadel now is, but it was destroyed by its successors and a feudal fortress was built that answered to the needs at that time.
In 1633, the 30 Year War brought the Swedish to the county. Kaltenhausen and Rohr at the foot of the fortress were burnt down and destroyed but the castle resisted. The reconstruction took decades and was constantly interrupted by the Franco Lorraine conflicts that ravaged the region.
In 1680, the town was annexed by France, and Vauban, in charge of building a new castle at Bitche, surrounded Kaltenhausen and Rohr with ramparts and combined it with the fortress, creating a stronghold that became known as Bitche.
The rock on which the citadel was built, admirably placed in the centre of this natural hollow which forms the neighbouring low Vosges, was a natural advantage point.
Although at only 366m altitude, approximately 80m above the town and 10km from the German border, it represented a strategic observation post.
Dismantled and rebuilt many times, Bitche citadel became famous in 1870 when Commander Teyssier bravely resisted enemy attack two months after the Armistice. Visitors can relive this heroic resistance during the 1870 -1871 War while watching several films throughout the underground quarters of the citadel.
The visit finishes in the chapel museum where you can see a relief plan and the architectural history of the site.
The period between the two World Wars was particularly noted in this area by the construction of the Maginot Line.
The backbone of this line of defence was made up of a number of permanent fortifications. The most important of which were incredible underground fortresses with only their scattered observation post and the turrets visible.
The Simserhof at Siersthal is considered to be one of the four main forts on the Maginot Line. The building of this fort started in 1929 before even the parliament had made a decision concerning the finance of the Line.
The Simserhof resisted heroically, protecting the smaller forts around Bitche for several weeks. They laid down their arms under orders from the French government on the 30th June 1940, five days after the cease fire.
Today you can visit Simserhof and have an impressive vision on life on the Maginot Line. A three hour visit associates the authenticity of the site with a modern cinematography tour.