The town of Srebrna Gora or Silver Mountain was founded when silver extraction commenced in the region in the 14th century. After the area was occupied by Prussia, the town gained new significance when a huge fortress was built to protect the territory and specifically the Silver Mountain Pass. However this prominence was short lived as the town was almost completely destroyed in the siege of 1807. Over later years the fortress lost its military role but instead became a tourist destination. We ascended steeply about a mile to reach the hilltop castle at the centre of the pass’s defences.
Our guided tour started led by a chap dressed in the uniform of an 18th century soldier. The fort was in the middle of a 700 thousand Euro restoration although in the eyes of some of the party a 700 million Euro over-restoration. We entered into Donjon – the bastion of final defence across what would once have been a drawbridge. The largest room within has been rebuilt to host functions but would once have been the armoury, holding 6,000 rifles. We then descended a brick-lined passage within the native rock to a sally port. At the end could be seen the positions of two doors – the inner being a vertical portcullis. In normal times the gap between the two would have been packed with sandbags for additional protection. If the doors had been breached by the enemy, the passage would have been mined so access could be cut off – a principle re-used in Maginot Line forts and similar in the 1930s.
Our next stop was a deep well descending 60 metres which would have been worked by a man-wheel. Some of the many casemates held artefacts including a large collection of cannon balls and the remains of a massive grenade. In another casemate our guide gave a demonstration of flintlock firing which produced a significant blast wave as well as testing the integrity of our ear drums.