Fortress Bourtange            

Bourtange, Holland                
Southeast of Groningen, just on Holland's side of the German border, lies the teeny little town of Bourtange. The town's location along what was the only road between Germany and Groningen in the 16th century made it an important strategic location in the Dutch revolt against the Spaniards in the Eighty Years War (1568-1848). The Habsburgs had been (badly) governing the low countries since the end of the 15th century, and by 1568 the Dutch had had enough of being hugely taxed and having their Protestant tendencies squashed. William of Orange (1533-1584), a wealthy nobleman who had served the Habsburg governor of the Spanish Netherlands, led the Dutch in revolt.

The road William wished to command ran atop a ridge through the Netherlands' marshy, sandy (and what sounds quite unpleasant) Westwolde region. Groningen was held by the Spanish, whom William hoped to isolate by cutting off their only means of support. Fortress Bourtange was built from 1580 to 1593. The great showdown at Bourtange never took place, as Spain had plenty of problems demanding its attention elsewhere, leaving the Netherlands with the unhappy situation of having an absolutely gorgeous star fort with nothing to defend against with it!

The Dutch kept improving the Fortress anyway. Changes were made to the fort's surroundings so that it wouldn't sink into the marsh, and improvements in the fort's capabilities kept up with changing firepower technologies. By 1742, Fortress Bourtange had achieved its highest level of readiness for whatever came its way.

Nothing ever did. Increasing numbers of villagers took up residence in the fortress, and its garrison declined accordingly. In 1851 the Dutch government finally gave up on the fort, removing what was left of the garrison. Bourtange became just another little town, albeit one living in a really cool star fort.

A century of malaise dulled the pointy tips of the fortress, but in 1961 the decision was made to restore it to its height of starrish glory. By 1993 the restoration was complete, and today Bourtange exists as both a tourist attraction and home to some 50 permanent residents.

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Fortress Bourtange?
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Thanks to Google Maps for the image!