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Košice Underground Goes Public

The remains of the old town fortess beneath Košice's main square were opened to the public on July 17, even as construction work continues to complete the museum facilities.
When the city broke ground on Hlavná ulica to lay new gas and electrical lines in May 1996, they discovered surprisingly extensive remins of the old city. The astounded construction team stepped aside as part of the main square became a two-year archaelogical dig, revealing over 500 years of Košice history. Although only a regional crafts center in the early Middle Ages, Košice grew to be an important military fortress and a key element in the anti-Turkish defence line.


Six months ago, Košice's main street was a dug-up mess...
Matthew Evans

The remains of the old town fortess beneath Košice's main square were opened to the public on July 17, even as construction work continues to complete the museum facilities.

When the city broke ground on Hlavná ulica to lay new gas and electrical lines in May 1996, they discovered surprisingly extensive remins of the old city. The astounded construction team stepped aside as part of the main square became a two-year archaelogical dig, revealing over 500 years of Košice history. Although only a regional crafts center in the early Middle Ages, Košice grew to be an important military fortress and a key element in the anti-Turkish defence line.

The free 20-minute tour begins in a 13th century stone drainage tunnel beneath street level, which was 1.5 meters lower than today. This tunnel led beneath the south gate of the city fortification walls and drained into a moat around the city. In the 14th century, the Luxemburgers added a tower to this gate, which was one of five. Next you cross the moat just beside the 15th century arched stone bridge, which had two floors. Though impressive, it is only one section of the 23 meter-long, 3.5 meter-high bridge.


But by July, the archaeological dig had been turned into a museum.
Matthew Evans

Now outside the old city, you see a cross-section of the rounded wall of Barbakan, which is Slovak for "little fort". During the reign of Mathius Corvinus of Hungary in the late 15th century, this protrusion on the wall had three defence terraces with walls eight meters high and seven meters thick. The rest of the eight meter-high city walls were destroyed in 1827, during one of the city's rapid growth periods.

The tour snakes around to catch another glimpse of the bridge from the west and the Parkan (Hungarian for "rampart"), which was used in the 17th century as a wood shop. Along the way, you'll see the oldest chunks of the cathedral, including a couple of gargoyles. These were put here just to spice up the exhibit.

The museum entrance is on Hlavná ulica (the main square), just south of St. Elizabeth's Cathedral, where a wide stairwell leads down below the street. Tours in Slovak begin every half-hour from 11:00 to 18:00 daily, except Monday. Tours are often available in English upon request. In the future, information sheets with maps will be available in English, German, Hungarian and Slovak. A cafe/restaurant is being built at the tour entrance as well.

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