Neuf-Brisach, France



In 1697 the Treaty of Rijswijk stated that the town of Breisach was to be taken from France and handed over to Austria. Breisach was a fortified town situated on the RIGHT bank of the river Rhine. Of course the French weren't happy about this as it made France vulnerable to attack. So, King Louis XIV ordered Vauban to correct this vulnerability. Under Vauban's direction, a whole new fortress (with a brand new town plopped in the center) was built from scratch on the LEFT side of the river Rhine. The name of this new place? The not very creative name of Neuf-Brisach (or Neu Breisach in German, meaning new Breisach).

Neuf-Brisach was built a half-mile from the left bank of the river Rhine. Why not on the left bank of the Rhine? Ironically, years earlier Vauban was the one responsible for upgrading Breisach's fortifications and thus knew it would be fruitless to build directly on the left bank as Breisach sat on higher ground on the right side meaning it would retain superiority. Upon completion Neuf-Brisach was regarded as the strongest fortress in Europe.

I'm disappointed in the visit to Neuf-Brisach because many of the layers of fortifications have been allowed to succumb to vegetation overgrowth. It makes me think the locals have no clue as to what they have. Be sure to click here to see an aerial view of the octagon-shaped fortress. The town has a spiffy museum devoted mostly to Vauban and World War II. The Nazis occupied the fort during the war until it was liberated by Americans (note the concrete pillbox guarding one of the town's entrances).