A major military power for many years Sweden got tired of warfare. It was able to remain neutral both in WWI and WWII. It hasn’t tossed its military away. It still has a strong military and Boden has been the fortress in the north.
Rödbergsfortet in Boden is an historic fortress, open for visitors. On our drive up to the fortress we encountered a small “platoon”. They waited for us and had their machine guns pointed at us as we came around a curve. Luckily, they were all made of metal. It made me think, we wouldn’t have lasted long if it had been an engaging enemy platoon.
A veteran officer Mr. Bernt Wikström disciplined Angelo and me from the barracks to the gun barrel on top of the mountainous fortress. He is one of 20 guides commanding groups of visitors in the summer.
The fortress has been an important part of the Swedish defense. All Swedish Kings have bestowed a visit upon the fortress since it was built. It was decided to build the fortress in 1809. But the excavation didn’t start until 1901. Because, that is what it really was. What a job, men carved the fortress out of solid rock with the bare hands, horses and some Nobel mixes.
One millimeter at a time, an Iron leaded bar was drilled through the rock with sledge hammers. When the holes were one meter deep, a prescription of dynamite would split the rock apart, and the men or horses would haul the rocks away. 1 200 hundred men worked in the summer, 900 men worked in the winter, and the pay was Euro ½ a day. It was hard earned but good money back then.
The entrance area to the fort was 18 meter deep, 10 meters wide and 100 meters long. And then they started carving out the tunnels and rooms.
We went into the fortress and saw the different rooms:
- The area for the artillery and the infantry
- The commando room
- The dining hall
- The kitchen
- The doctors and dentist office
- The hospital rooms
- The barracks for the privates and the officers
In the commando room, we checked the old manual maps for calculating how to project where the gun shells must drop. We cynically planned to fire five shells 40 km simultaneously, so the enemy wouldn’t be able to hide or make counterattacks if we would fire one by one. Then we went up to the guns, loaded the grenades, and fired twice. Playing with the real thing is different from using Ninja Turtles. We didn’t really need ear muffs, but we put them on anyway.
Two doors from the fortress top, they became harder to open. This door is nuclear-proof and you are not supposed to be able to walk in or out of this door, Bernt said. On top, we had the benefit of a sunny day. Unlike the soldiers in the fortress who sometimes didn’t see what the weather was like for two weeks. We could see Boden, some of the other fortresses in the area, and even as far as the tall iron works building in Luleå.
Bernt pointed us to another attraction we should visit when we were in Boden. In fact, he recommended two: Försvarsmuseet (The museum of defense) and Ruter Retro Café.
We marched out of the fortress and conscientiously drove down to both. We did not want to bet on whether Bernt’s suggestions were orders or not.