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The Carpathians Mountains and the Great War.

The Carpathian Mountains is a beautiful mountain range crossing Central and Eastern Europe from the Czech Republic to Romania via Poland and Ukraine. Similar to the Alps, it shares a past of heroism and the horrors of a humanity at war.

The Carpathian Mountains sound distant to us both historically and geographically, and yet we are wrong. Among those mountains many populations fought, Austrians, Hungarians, Slovenians, Italians, Germans, Ukrainian, Russians and many other ethnicity found their sorrow there.

Glancing over these territories, one can see immense expanses of forests and roads that cross pristine valleys. A wonderful territory both in summer and winter. The epicentre of the fighting took place in the territory that today belongs to Poland. Huge battlefields that stretched for hundreds of kilometres with an elastic front that in its maximum extent reached even Krakow.

Here, the Russians fought on one side. On the other, that melting pot of people with many different ethnical backgrounds fought for the Habsburg Empire.

That page of history that cost millions of lives is rather forgotten now, but at the time the battles of the Russian front in the Carpathian Mountains were on the front pages of all the newspapers of Europe. What we regard today the unknown Przemyśl, at the time, was the largest stronghold in Europe. It suffered one of the most terrifying sieges of the last centuries and those huge fortresses are still there even today bearing the silent testimony of history.

We may think that they are remote and abandoned places, but this is far from the truth. From Europe, these places are easily within reach by plane and a car for those wishing to see the most beautiful and remote places of those mountains, or even by public transport. The battlefields spread to all directions from the valleys of the Carpathian Mountains and touch all the cities at the foot of the mountain range on that line that runs in Poland from Krakow to Przemyśl.

The places to visit are endless. From the mountain passes where General Conrad sent hundreds of thousands of his men to the slaughterhouse during the deadly winter of 1915. Łupków and Dukla are just two of the many mountain passes where they fiercely fought. On these passages you may encounter stupendous mountains dotted with little military cemeteries immersed in silence.

The rivers, the San river, the Vistula or the Dunajec River, that run through the valleys and the surrounding plain, at the time, gave place to a terrifying front line. Today, the waters flow calmly and sometimes freeze in winter. At the time, they were dyed red countless times.

Finally, the cities that now can be reached with ease. Today, there are wonderful tourist towns to enjoy in spring or summer, but at that time, they gave place to fortresses, battles, command centres and military hospitals: Przemyśl, Gorlice, Tarnow and Kraków just to name a few.

Are you passionate about history, photography and mountains?

Do not miss the entire reportage available in every major bookstore in Italy or on line: Here They Fought! The places of the Great War, taken from the homonymous photographic exhibition.

Do you want to travel to Poland? You may find useful ideas and advice on the Travel Poland website.

Do not miss the next post dedicated to Krakow and its fortresses, the easiest to visit!

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