In previous articles we’ve focused on South of Constanta City, now is time to explore the system of bunkers and pillboxes located on the Vadu beach, in North side of Constanta County.
Here we go, on the road again! Constanta – Mamaia – Navodari – Corbu – Vadu… we’re in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately I am not alone in this journey, Gabi, a good friend and a Constanta’s history and architecture aficionado, knows the area and has information on the existing bunkers. We walk through the village, apparently deserted (probably the guys were on the local tavern and women were on the Church).
The only interesting thing in town, the former industrial giant Intreprinderea de Metale Rare (Rare Metals Company) is also deserted. Once a factory of national interest, guarded by the army, a company equipped with hi-tech machines imported from Canada. Now, just another ruin. This factory has a sinister history. It was built under the supervision of Securitate (the equivalent of KGB in communist Romania) and put into operation in 1984. Purpose of the existence this factory was extracting rare metals needed for the nuclear reactors at Cernavoda Power Plant. Those were nationalist communist years, the Romanian industry had to produce everything from coal to personal computers, some worse quality than others. But on IMR Vadu they but made no compromise on quality. They’ve imported from Canada the highest performance machines (because Canada was also the supplier of CANDU technology for the Nuclear Powerplant in Cernavoda).
The factory was to extract rare metals from Chituc Sands, a deadly area. Literally! In the ’50s it was found that soldiers serving as border guards in Chituc Sands we’re getting sick suddenly and had symptoms similar to those working on the uranium mines in Apuseni Mountains. The construction coordinator of the Rare Metals Company (IMR), the engineer Stefan Manole (very experienced men, who worked as chief engineer in Bicaz Dam and Iron Gates II Dam) died of metastatic cancer, a year after starting working on IMR. They run a lot of tests under the supervision of Securitate, but the results are still classified as state secret.
After 1990, Rare Metals Company falls into the hands of Stefan Craciunescu, a former Securitate officer and was re-named Prosidex SRL. Former IMR equipment, imported for several million dollars with only 6-7 years ago were decommissioned and sold for scrap. Of the thousands of workers of IMR, it remained only 40 employees, and the purpose of activity became… limestone processing. Finally, in 2003, the factory was permanently closed and got totally robbed. Now a ruin with a baleful look. But not the former IMR is our expeditions’ target. So, let’s continue our journey to the beach of Vadu!
Wherever you look, there is no living soul around. Just emptiness and silence. A place of unreal serenity, just a few kilometers from the madness of Mamaia. Road narrows, it’s room just for a car, there are small “niches” on the right, in which to retire in case you meet another vehicle. Finally we turn to a sandy road and head to the beach. Voila! The Chituc Sands, and we don’t have a gamma analyzer to measure radioactivity. We’ll rely on GGBE – “goddess of the German bunkers explorers” to protect us 😀
And indeed, the goddess is generous today and brings up the first pillbox! It is a modified, Tobruk-type construction, 5 x 5 m. The tobruk was fitted with a MG hid in a rotating turret, facing to the East and covering the North of Vadu Beach.
To the West, on the opposite side of the building, lays the entrance, protected by a “fence” of concrete. Perhaps the access was possible with a ladder that could be folded inside. The interior of the pillbox is “paved” with PET bottles. I could even say that the pillbox is used as a deposit for the garbage they’ve collected on the beach.
As we’ve expected, there was no metallic object surviving, except for the doors frames and the ventilation system flanges. A 4 m long corridor links with two small chambers, located on the right (S-E) side of the corridor. The ceiling is “armored” with that kind of metal panel specific to the German WW2 bunkers.
The first room, small as a solitary confinement cell, has no “hot spot”, except for a ventilation duct flange which is connected outside to an exhaust. A massive door, sent to be melted decades ago used to seal the room. Nothing else “to report”.
We continue to the end of the corridor, and then got into the Tobruk’s room. Thousand of PET bottles like waves on the floor transformed walking into a difficult sailing.
The MG was mounted in a rotating turret and was sliding on a metal frame that it is still there. Probably the same type of weapon as for the Tobruk from the Navy Headquarters.
Before proceeding to the next objective, here it is a 360° view of the surroundings, right form the roof of the casemate. This wilderness has its charm, an impression of “completely remote”. Looks just like civilization is million miles away.
(rotate images < > using mouse, scroll for zoom)
We leave for another Tobruk site, heading to a bunker identical to the one we’ve just explored. Only that the gods were so benevolent, that “en route” we discovered a bunch o’ bunkers build during WW2. Sometimes the journey is much more interesting than the destination.
The next bunker we found is a strange construction, consisting of a concrete trench and a cylinder with a heavy roof, like a massive concrete cork on top. The position is equipped with a small gun firing opening, facing the sea.
The trench is 5 m long, and its orientation is S-E – N-W, with a 2 m branch to the S-W. At the end of the trench there is the concrete cylinder, its roof is over 50 cm thick. On the floor there are two metal mountings that were probably used to anchor the machine gun carriage.
On the sea side, the dome had a firing gun window (which now is filled with cement). More bolts attached the gun carriage to the cylinder’s wall.
We leave behind the little machine gun position and head SouthWest because, not more than 50 m, we saw a new target for our journey. This time, it is a special design – an octagon (reminiscent of flak positions) that extends S-W with a alleyway, followed by a bunker with two little rooms on sides and, then, another corridor, on the other side of the bunker. Everything seems built for vehicle access, with large alleyways.
One side of the octagon is missing, and a concrete “niche” remind me of the flak from La Vii / Poarta 5. Here, however, everything is oversized, so the idea of an artillery cannon positions, with its own ammunition bunker it doesn’t seems impossible. If we consider the free side of octagon as opposite direction, it means that the cannon was facing towards the sea. And that is perfectly logical.
A dozen mounting clamps are fixed on the walls of the alleyways. We can make assumptions on their role – per instance supporting a camouflage tarpaulin. If the rest of the construction is built of reinforced concrete, the alleys sides are build of stones and mortar.
The bunker is buried in a sand dune and only a small slot allows us to take photos inside. Two branches, lays perpendicularly to the direction of the whole assembly, are seen on the first photo.
The second photo shows the same location, but from the other side of the bunker.
A new alleyway is there on the other side of the bunker, built with a curve to the South. Mounting clips on the walls here too. MA painted on the roof of the bunker is an acronym for “Ministerul Apararii” (Ministry of Defense), these buildings were at one time in the Army inventory. Now there are in the inventory of scrap metal thieves only.
Next to the gun positions there are two the ruins of two buildings, one of them might have been an annex of the gun position, as it’s covered with tar. The walls are thin, civil construction standards; on the interior nothing but two pipe flanges raising from the ground. This construction is irrelevant for our expedition.
We were just about leaving for another target in the area, when, 150 m South-West we’ve noticed another bunker. Usually, the whole area got flooded after heavy rains, so the reed is omnipresent. To get to the bunker that I saw we must work our way through reed, just like commando troops.
Finally, the “new” bunker reveals to us. Surprise, surprise – it seems to be similar to the artillery bunker we’ve just visited. Even the MA inscription is there.
On the inside – a small corridor with two branches left and right. The room on the right (North-West) it proves to be a simple 2 x 2 meter space, but, the one on the left side of the corridor is more complex. First sight – it had a air-tight door. Obviously, now the door is missing, but the frame itself is a rarity in a country where burglary is the national sport.
Two pipe stubs remained embedded in the concrete wall. I’ve saw these pipes virtually on every bunker I’ve explored, but their role is to get, it just might have been protection tubes for the electrical cables.
Lots of scrawls on the the walls of the room, as years pass, these “cave drawings” gather some historical importance themselves: “Nelu 1975” or “195” 😆
The ceiling is coated with that metallic shield specific to the German bunkers. A flange hangs the South-West wall it corresponds with another flange, located on the corridor wall. The latter was covered with a piece of metal and a gasket. Either the Germans were doing improvisations or Romanian Army used the bunker after the war.
On the North-East wall there is another flange, whose pipe corresponds to a nozzle located outside the bunker. This model is different from the standard exhaust pipe of every WW2 Axis bunker. The diameter is larger, it has 8 screws (instead of 4) and is partially conical. On the outside, the exhaust fan is missing and there is no pipe end visible there. Fact is that the use of those pipes was not to exhaust cordite vapors, as there is no firing opening anywhere; so the role of the duct systems should have been air ventilation and heating (stove).
The other side of the bunker is identical to the octagonal position we’ve previously explored, but it’s positioned in the mirror. The corridor linking the bunker to the gun position is no longer visible, being buried under the sand. “The niche” of the octagon was probably a storage space were shells to be loaded were stored. This is now broken to pieces by the “scrap seekers” looking for the metallic reinforcement.
We leave the bunker behind and head towards a Tobruk position whose existence was known for us before we’ve descent in situ. Fortunately, the weather was dry the past few days, so we could make a way to the bunker. Even if it means to go around puddles as wide as a small lake and walk our way through the reed.
I wonder what image would have been in sight of a enemy soldier advancing toward the pillbox pillbox, 70 years ago, creeping to the shelter and praying not to be spotted? Probably not so much different from this. Finally, we reached the Tobruk position.
The bunker is identical with the first one we’ve explored, but we have big hopes to find a cleaner construction, less polluted by “civilization”, the Tobruk is isolated in the middle of the field (swamp), and much difficult to access. From afar the signs are good – there is graffiti in sight.
The pillbox proved to be clean, no PET bottles or other packages, but what a horror… Everything was vandalized in a most barbaric manner, the door frames were cut off with a torch and pulled out of concrete. Even part of the metal roof panels were stolen.
The concrete, itself, tens of cm thick, was hammered down just to get to the metallic reinforcement. Even ventilation system flanges were cut off with a torch. Dementia has reached unprecedented levels.
I have to admit, the experience of exploring these pillboxes left me with a bitter taste. How low these people can go now? (and no, this is not a case of Limbo Rock, “how low can you go”). This is serious. The lack of reaction from the State’s institutions is horrific. What’s next, to steal metal from the cooling systems of the reactors of Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant?
I always tried to avoid leaving any trace of my visits to these historic sites. I have never taken any object as a souvenir, especially because I didn’t wanted to alter the “scene”. And others come with a sledgehammer and poop a big shit on the Romanian history. After all, maybe this is exactly what this nation deserve.
Let get back to our journey through the second Tobruk of Vadu, Constanta – at the end of the corridor, on the right, there is the room of the rotating MG turret.
A romantic sunset, a beautiful sight through the firing slot of a bunker whose purpose was to cut down lifes… No, these buildings should not be worshiped, these were constructions of death, but these constructions should be respected as history evidence and analyzed in every detail. If we put them under the sledgehammer, we’ll end up as with a scriptical-only history, with no artifacts and no relevant places.
OK, time to go. A look back to the exit of pillbox – the air look pretty hazy in XXI-th century Romania…
We leave “the lugubrious” Chituc Sands behind, with a load of interesting photos, some answers and a bunch of questions. Lots of new information, at some point we hope to put pieces together and get answers.
Oh, right, we just can’t leave it this way, something special for you, a view of the sunset from the Tobruk’s turret.
Back on track, time to put some distance between us and Vadu and his radioactive stories. Odd enough, from car’s speer, the ruins of the former Rare Metals Company IMR, looks like the remains of Chernobyl reactor 4 and … Stop! I saw a bunker somewhere on the left side of the road. The adventure goes on!
It is a pillbox-type bunker, just like the ones located under Casino promenade, equipped with two firing slots, directed towards N-E and S-W. We proceed to analyze the building: this is the firing slot directed towards North-East.
A look at the median of the firing slots, I can not specify whether a third firing slot exists under the earth bank, I’d rather bet on a negative response.
The second photo shows the firing slot oriented towards S-W. The pillbox was fitted with the same type of guns as the bunker under the Casino promenade (armored plates and guns embrasures are identical), perhaps Skoda ZB guns.
The bunker is completely sealed, there is no access inside. That does not mean we will not capture images from inside the bunker. Looking back, I realize that I took pictures inside of all the bunkers I’ve presented, although, at that time, taking pictures from inside there it looked impossible. This time we’ll use the “Aedificium patented technology” of shooting through the firing slot.
The first pictures made through the S-W gun slot reveals an enclosure where time stood still. Spider webs covered with dust, a sign this bunker was not visited for decades. Flanges, remnants of the periscope, clamps and metal supports hang on the walls, the same “landscape” as the pillbox under the Casino.
There are some differences though. The roof is covered with that metal coating specifically to the German WW2 bunkers (the Casino pillbox have “bald” ceiling) with a bit of originality: the pieces are intertwined vice versa than standards – the narrow strips are placed over the wide bands. Even the walls of the right holes are lined with these panels.A door is positioned to N-W axis, perpendicularly to the road.
The door has gone away long time ago, the frame remained in place.
We focus now on the N-E firing slot, trying to get pictures from a different angle. And we succeed. Beyond the door is a small corridor which follow to the exit, now buried under the ground bank.
On the outside, the bunker’s ceiling holds the periscope housing, in a pretty good preservation grade. I noticed number 24 stamped on the casing and a small lubrication orifice.
This is where our expedition on Vadu cames to an end. We conclude the presentation with a series of pictures illustrative for this area – ruins of the former IMR and the Vadu beach. A wild area, a solitary sanctuary of untamed beauty.
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