En route to Hurka Fort we passed across a valley floor where scores of pillboxes once protected the terrain – many of them still in situ. Hurka Fort was the neighbouring fort to the east of Bouda, situated near the Czech border town of Kraliky. In layout it is virtually identical to Bouda, except that the ascent from the communication passages to the artillery and infantry casemates is even longer! The main difference in history is that this fort was still in use by the Czech military as an ammunition store from 1958 until 2008. Hence some aspects of the site (eg the narrow gauge railway) remain in excellent condition whereas original features of the underground barracks in particular have been obliterated to create large storage magazines. In recent years a covered loading bay had been erected in front of the entrance to provide protection from the elements and although now removed the ridge line could still be clearly seen.
The operation of this museum was definitely a ‘one man show’ with the same guy selling tickets, conducting tours, running the bar, and selling souvenirs. We had arranged to be free to explore on our own, provided we didn’t cross any barrier chains. This fort had its original doors at the entrance point and the inclined plane was in working order (although not seen in operation). The railway track was in good order including points and a working battery loco was on site and apparently available for demonstration on special tours.
Going Up We followed the long entrance passage and after ascending, found ourselves under the artillery casemate rather than the turret. It appeared that this section was normally reserved for special tours but as there wasn’t a barrier as such most of us ascended. The climb turned out to be the longest so far – 285 steps or 52 metres. Whilst understanding the need for communication corridors to be well protected, this extreme depth still puzzles me. With the offensive weaponry of the period, surely a much lower depth would have sufficed? In addition, the stairs ascend in a single spiral in a single shaft so any penetration of the defences by shell or infantry could have dropped ordinance the full depth and caused the same damage had it been just a few metres beneath.
The sight awaiting us at the top was an extreme example of the damage caused by test firing of German shells. The massive thickness of concrete had been completely shattered and the reinforcing bar twisted into grotesque shapes. Another threat awaited us – a brown cave spider whose bite is apparently extremely painful (I looked this up on the web). Our exploration complete, we returned to the entrance building and regrouped over a beer to reflect on our exploration.