As Bucharest is continuously expanding its boundaries, there is however a reminder of the city’s 19th century limits in the form of a network of fortifications built by King Carol I after the Independence War, which brought the country the exit from the Ottoman Empire.

In line with the military and strategic thinking of the time, 18 forts, placed at distances of 4 kilometers each, were built. The forts were placed in a 70-kilometers ring around Bucharest and between each fort an artillery battery was set. This defensive ring of Bucharest used to stand about 7 kilometers from the city’s limits, in order to ensure increased protection in case of a siege. They were named after localities which now are very close to the city’s limits: Chitila, Mogosoaia, Otopeni, Tunari, Stefanesti, Afumati. The surface of the constructions totals over 120 hectares and some forts spread on over 11.60 hectares.

Construction works, drafted by Belgian military architect Henri Alexis Brialmont, began in 1884 and ended officially in 1895 but various other works were performed until 1903. The costs of the project also increased to what was estimated at three times the time’s annual budget of the army. The project ended up costing 111.5 million gold lei, compared to a set initial budget of 15 million.

JilavaBesides the network of tunnels, all forts were connected by a road and a railway, which today is Bucharest’s ring road DN100. Once air strikes began to be used and other military advances were made with explosives, the use of forts fell into obsolesce. To this day, most the forts continue to be abandoned. The Fort 18 in Chiajna was used as a market for pickled goods during communist times. Fort 13 Jilava (pictured, small) was turned, starting with 1907 into a military prison and was the place were political prisoners were held o executed during Communism. It still is a penitentiary today.

The landmark constructions surrounding Bucharest stand now covered with vegetation and are disintegrating but some initiatives have emerged to make the story known and restore them, perhaps with a different use.

How to get there?

The forts are close to the Bucharest ring road. The car is probably the best option, followed by walking, although it is advisable to go there with someone who knows the area.