By the 1970s many of them were simply left to rot and decay, especially the smaller infantry and artillery Forts and magazines built around 1897 in the third concentric ring outside the boundaries of what was termed by the late nineteenth century Wieki Krakow ( Greater Krakow ).
The Forts wear a melancholy aspect of neflect today though for their time they were according to Ostrowski in his Cracow one of the most unique example of extensive military fortifications ring this Fortress City that lay just a few kilometres from the Russian Empire to the north and West.
Nostalgia for the Austro-Hungarian Empire was obviously not encouraged by the Communists but the Rada Miejska of Krakow too has taken scant interest in the fate of any of the Forts other than those connected with Kosciuszko Kopiec, a bastion of Polish national revival as Krakow became "the Piedmont of Poland".
Though the initial second ring of Fortresses were built after the demise of the Free Republic of Krakow for internal repressive purposes, it is often forgotten that Polish freedom fighters such as Pilsudski were generally far more pro-Habsburg than often known, though for tactical reasons.
That's why Pilsudski's troops were allowed full freedom to perform military manouevres on the Blonia Meadow which lies just below the Koscuiszko Kopiec and which has a Museum devoted to Pildudski's Legions. But the neglect of the other parts is a serious dereliction of cultural responsibility by the Polish state.
It is as if the British state allowed Norman Castles to fall to pieces simply because they were "alien" impositions. The fact is that Norman Castles, no matter their oppressive functions after 1066, are architecturally a part of the history of England and thus protected by groups like English Heritage.
Franz Joseph I ( 1848-1916 ) had never envisaged that the Austro-Hungarian Empire could conceivably be dissolved shortly after his death and so the Fortress Krakow, though never actually used, is an important reminder of the illusory and transitory nature of all Imperial Power.
The neglect of the Austrian Forts in outlying areas could have been excusable by the lack of funds as Poland emerged from 50 years of Communism but the sheer lack of effort or concern on behalf of the Rada Miejska is a sign of a lack of willpower. The neglect of Fort Sw Benedikt on Lasota Hill above Podgorze has been one such example.
Advertised as a "Pearl of Podgorze" on the tourist noticeboard in Plac Niepodglosci, the Rada Miejska foolishly believed that spending money on a trendy Concrete Tunnel by the pseudo-artist Miroslaw Balka was more important that renovating the "Pearl of Podgorze" and making use of the building for the public in Krakow.
Unlike Kosciuszko Kopiec, the collapse of which was treated as a national emergency in 2005 by President Alexander Kwasniewski, the fate of two key forts, that of Fort Luneta Warszawska and Sw Benedikt Fort, has not even been discussed or debated. Fort Nowy Kleparz is used as a Disco Bar and a Car Park.
The condition of Fort Luneta Warszawa is even more disturbing. Part 3 of the Twierdzy Krakow book series makes it clear that its condition is listed as "Zly", this is very bad and it a major Fort just opposite the road dividing it from the Rakowice Cementary. Signs say "work in Progress". No workers have been there for years.
Built in the 1850s Fort Luneta Warszawska is as important a part of Krakow's history as the Barbikan near the Florianska Gate, the walls having been demolished not as is often thought by the Austrians but by the Poles during the era of the Free Republic. The same fate of neflect is evident with Sw Benedikt.
Left to rot behind rusting iron gates, creating a Museum here and restoring the building would have been a better use of money that the recent craze for Art Boom projects and placing plastic trash around Krakow's dignified historical streets. Meanwhile nothing has been done to renovate and open up Fort 31.
Sw Benedikt is a unique military fortification built between 1853-1856 by the architect Feliks Ksietarski. a "Maximillian Tower" that Podgorze Council correct describes as "the only type of fortification in Poland and one of the few in Europe". No funds have to date been allocated for its enhanced status as a part of Poland's history in culture.
The Fort does exude a somewhat foreboding psychical ambience as do many corners of forgotten Podgorze which might come from the fact that Jews from Amon Goeth's Plaszow Concentration Camp were transported along the railway line to the north of Krakow near Fort Nowy Kleparz.
Both Fort Nowy Kleparz and Fort Luneta Warsawska were prominent artillery forts used first in the 1850s for repressing any internal uprisings from within the city as had happenened under Eduard Dembinski in 1846 and whose rebellion was swiftly crushed outside Podgorze by a few hundred Austrian troops.
These forts formed part of a second ring of Fortification, the original one having been the medieval walls of which Florianska Gare and the Barbikan are remnants, as well as certain additions to the Wawel Castle in the very heart of Krakow which also was the site for an Austrian barracks and several fortified brick additions to the walls.
The second ring stretches around where the busy Aleja road now runs and down southwards towards Rondo Mogilskie where Bastion V now exists as an extant fragment excavated with a large traffic roundabout and which will be flanked by futuristic new bastions of corporate building power shoving back the Botanical Gardens and in view of Krakow's first "skyscraper", the Treimorfa Tower.
To the south the fortification system went down to the natural barrier provided by the Wisla River, across which Podgorze was reached by a railway bridge.
Montelupich Prison is another repressive Austrian building in which Jews were tortured and then ferried back to Sw Benedikt down the railway line to be summarily machine gunned dead by vodka fuelled Ukranian SS officers in 1943. Such a place would make a more fitting Museum of Remembrance than Balka's repellent concrete AUSCHWITZWIELICZKA tunnel.
The Railway network which came to Krakow in 1847, just a year before the Free Republic was destroyed and incorporated into Austrian Galicia, accounted for the location of many of the key Forts. Including the Westernmost Fort Mydlniki close to the line coming from Chrzanow and Katowice.
According to Ostrowski
"The Austrian government started an intensive fortification project, including some in the town himself ( like the Wawel Hill ) and environs. This system of forts, still partly preserved, is a rare example of military architecture from the middle of the last century ( i.e the C19th ).Defensive needs spurned another important undertaking-railway development"This is shown by the integration of the railway system with the need for modernisation of the railway infrastructure across the Habsburg Empire to get men and materiel to Fortress Krakow, what A J P Taylor termed the importance of anticipated "War by Timetable" .Hence the juxtaposition of the Lobzow Barracks next to the train station.
This Fort is in a terrible condition but all of them are important as part of a system of extensive fortification unique to nineteenth century Europe. The position of the Forts determined the history and development of Wielki Krakow as it expanded. Even today the Forts and the Szlak ( trail ) connecting them forms the current boundaries of Krakow now.
Yet though the second ring of Fortress Krakow was a repressive enterprise it has been forgotten that the third ring was built after the liberalisation of the Austrian Empire after the Ausgleich in 1867 which gave limited but substantial enough autonomy to Polish Galicia for it to fear the Tsarist Empire on its doorstep far more than Vienna.
Hence the Pilsudski Hill commemorates the independence of Poland in 1918 by having it in Lasek Wolski, an ancient royal hunting forest, where he carried out military exercises. No such respect has been according to other nearby Forts such as Klepak which lies almost ruined and full of graffiti.
Fort 31, Sw Benedikt, was in close proximity to the railway lines heading East and South towards the Forts Borek and Lapianka which again lie in terrible states of dereliction when they should be integral part of Krakow's architectural heritage and not a site for jabcok drinkers and vandals. Below is Fort Borek.
Fort Lapianka is in a worse state. Curiously because the Fort was Austrian somebody has written "Hitler" on it, perhaps a Polish neo-Fascist with a minimal number of brain cells, or someone who sees these Forts as alien 'Germanic' impositions. Who is to say ? But the ruins present a melancholy picture.
So Fortress Krakow reflected not only the railway network but also the topography of the city itself to which it in turn defined its extent and physiogamy as Forts were built near to or on Krakow hills and high points. One such example being Fort Mogila to the far north east near Kopiec Wanda, an ancient pre-historical burial mound.
The Forts running from Fort Borek eastwards and around to the Wisla south reflect the way the Forts were strung out along elevated ridges of upland with commanding views of Wieki Krakow as it developed up to the border of the unitary authority under the Rada Miejska in 1915 when Pogdgorze was finally re-incorporated.
One of the most mournful losses exists with Fort Rajsko which lies derelict. It could make with appropariate investment a wonderful wine making centre, set back into the hills like the Hungarian Pince of the Tokaj region, as the panoromic views of the city are stunning, and the leafy country lanes lovely to stroll down.
Fortress Krakow was and remains an instrinsic part of Krakow's historical fabric and it's evolution of the city during the nineteenth century. To neglect them is to neglect the history of the city. The current Rada Miejska simply does not have any visionary capacity to see the past in Krakow's present nor to preserve it for future generations.
( Below Fort Prokocim )