Conceived by slave-turned-self-proclaimed-king Henri Christophe in 1805 after he had defeated the French, the Citadelle was built by 20,000 newly freed slaves. Its 40-metre high walls were built to defend against a potential return of the French army, which Haiti’s new rulers feared had ambitions to re-capture the country. Their fears were unfounded, however, and not one of the 50,000 cannonballs – still piled in pyramids today – was fired in battle.
Once inside the ramparts we weaved past burnt-orange, lichen-plastered walls and dripping drawbridges. Colossal, ghostly wood-beamed galleries and mossy stone arches towered around us. Pallid light filtered through arrow-slits, shining on to the cannons and illuminating the grotesque human faces engraved on the end of their barrels. One, decorated with the coat of arms of George I, had belonged to the Duke of Marlborough. The eerie atmosphere was intensified by a silence punctuated only by the pouring rain.
Anywhere else in the world, this phenomenal military spectacle might have been overrun with tourists. But here, even on sunny days, there are few visitors. I left in awe of the engineering as we trundled 27km southwest to Cap Haitien – the richest city in the Caribbean during the French colonial era – passing girls wearing shower caps to protect against the rain. via – The Independent