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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Fort Eben - Emael Belgium, WW

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39 1 0
Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List WW > Europe
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 4.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 195 feet
Elevation Gain 185 feet
Accumulated Gain 350 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.47
Interest Historic
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39  2013-05-26 kingsnake
Author kingsnake
author avatar Guides 83
Routes 182
Photos 7,946
Trips 637 map ( 5,893 miles )
Age 57 Male Gender
Location Sunnyslope, PHX
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep
Sun  10:17pm - 10:46am
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The Strongest Fort in Europe?
by kingsnake

Likely In-Season!
History
In the late 1930s, Fort Eben-Emael was considered the strongest fort in Europe. It was one of four major forts of the Liege defense system meant to deter German land attacks across the River Meuse ("Maas" in Dutch). IN May, 1940, the Germans had other ideas, dropping paratroops on the bridges and Fort Eben-Emael. (The fort was essentially captured by a German fallschirmjäger platoon.) The bridges mostly captured -- bar one destroyed by a Victoria Cross-decorated RAF bomber crew -- and their defending fort neutralized, the German blitz was able to easily cross the river to exploit the tank country on the other side.


Warning
Being that this is an 70+ year old WWII battlefield, and they are still finding WWI shells a hundred years later, be careful about picking up any metallic objects you may find: You don't want to blow off any hands or feet.

Overview
You can hike the fortress perimeter any day of the year. You may even hike up above the fort, despite warning signs to the contrary. (At least according to our tour guide.) However, access to the inside of the subterranean fort is only allowed one weekend per month. See the fort's website at http://www.fort-eben-emael.be/en/ . There is a fee to enter, but not to walk around the outside. Unlike muh of Europe, parking is free.

Hike
The perimeter hike starts at the parking area by the fort's entrance. If it is a tour weekend, get there early as it will be packed by 1100, when the tours start. Check out the memorials outside the entrance, then start clockwise, to the northeast, along a paved path. As elsewhere in Belgium and the Netherlands, watch out for bikes. In .25 miles, you will come to the most accessible perimeter bunker. After .75 miles you will reach the Albert Canal.

Turn right, passing to the right of the gate. For the next 1.5 miles, you will travel along the German-facing canal side of the fort. If the weather is rainy, the paved path will be muddy. Note the several bunkers along the cliff face. You may also see an ocean-going ship transitioning between the River Meuse and the Albert Canal. When you reach the cable-stayed bridge, turn right across the parking area.

At this point you have a choice: Turn right up the stair trail, or continue up the brick road. The stair trail ends at a fence; if you decide to jump the fence and continue, you will end up atop the road as it exits the woods. If you instead go up the road, you are committed as the cliff the road winds up is vertical. At the top of the road, there is an observation point; a little past that. the road exits the woods. You have gone about 3.0 miles.

Walk a half mile across the fields to a small cross-topped hill on your right. There is a "summit" log / geocache at the top of the 30-foot hill.

After the hill wind down the road into the village of Eben-Emael. Turn right at the first intersection, going .30 miles back to the fort's parking area.

Tour
After your hike, on tour days, enter the fort, buy a ticket, and put in another mile or two, and several hundred feet AEG -- the stairs and ladders are steep -- touring the inside of the fort. Note that tours take about two hours.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2013-06-03 kingsnake

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Review
    Fort Eben - Emael Belgium
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was our second trip here, our previous one being when I visited my then girlfriend, now wife, when she still lived in the Netherands, back in 2001. This time, I figured we could hit this on our way back from Brussels to Amsterdam. For a lot of this stuff, if you are interested in history, particularly military history, and are in Europe, and want to see something outside the usual, I could then post a hike description. Thus this stop. And by good fortune, it happened to be the one weekend a month the inner fort was open for tours. :y:

    I did not have time to climb up on top of the fort, and wander around the woods and turrets up there, so I settled for a perimeter hike. It was yet another in a seemingly endless series of cold, windy, rainy days. In late May? What the hell!?

    You can read about the perimeter hike in the description, and the photos, so I will describe the subterranean tour portions of my hike. (My wife, despite her bad feet, was game for doing the inside. :kf: )

    While I actually saw an old hole-in-the-floor latrine, the ones for tourists are just past the ticket booth, in converted officer barracks. :D

    The tour starts at the museum / snack bar. The museum has what you would expect: weapons, medals, shells, uniforms, etc. You can go unaccompanied through the admin areas, which include barracks, power station, chapel, hospital, brig, morgue, some restored gun positions, and a number of timelines in French, Dutch and German. (Sorry, not English; if you get a tour, check to make sure your guide can at least pidgin with you.) Getting deeper into the subterrean fort requires accompaniment by a guide, both for educational purpose, and also because it is potentially dangeous due to getting lost, climbing steep stairs / ladders, and of course banging your head on heavy metallic objects. (Yes, Pam, I did. :doh: )

    You could have a hell of a game of real-life Dungeons & Dragons in there. :lol:

    One thing that came up, which I did not mention elsewhere, is fire control. I asked our guide, how they coordinated fire from the different batteries, to lay down maximum coverage in whatever German-occupied grid square they might care to neutralize. His answer was, they didn't. :o Instead, each battery was assigned as direct fire support to a division, and only the division commander could order the battery to fire, and then only at his targets. So, even if the Germans had not neutralized the fort, the Belgian general staff had effectively neutralized Fort Eben-Emael through poor tactics. [-( Privates win wars; generals lose them.

    -----

    Video: http://youtu.be/Hnv4bSwNtcA

    Permit $$
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    Directions
    Map Drive
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    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Even though the international political city of Maastricht, Netherlands, is but a few kilometers north, Eben-Emael is isolated down a single lane road, just inside Belgium. Brussels, the nearest international airport, is about 90 minutes west of the fort. Take the E40 east out of Brussels. Stay on the E40 around the north of Liege. Take the E313 north to the Bassenge / N619 exit. (Eben-Emael is a village in the municipality of Bassenge.) Proceed appx. 8.0 kilometers northeast through Bassenge to Eben-Emael. When you get to the village, follow the fortress signs.
    page created by kingsnake on Jun 03 2013 4:06 pm
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