Haiti, an island nation that has suffered much in its existence, manages to thrive as a cultural and historical treasure trove, with its unique and varied lifestyle of its peoples, their cultures, and the deep history one can feel when they arrive.
I am speaking of the “Citadelle Laferriere” in Haiti. It was constructed starting in 1810 and finished three years later in 1813 by the first king of northern Haiti, King Henri Christophe I. Built five miles from the town of Milot up on a mountaintop (you may want to rent one of the horses available to for the trek up), one is truly impressed with the undertaking that went into just getting the materials, armaments and supplies there.
As you come upon the fortress itself, you are awestruck by the sheer magnitude of such a structure. The walls rise an amazing one hundred thirty feet from the ground and are an incredible ten feet thick. Now, I could give you a whole list of facts and figures, such as there are three hundred sixty-five cannons of various sizes, complete with a massive stockpile of cannonballs, or that it was designed to fend off a French invasion (that never came about), or the fact that not only did they have running water throughout and that every “apartment” was “air conditioned” using the water in their design. But what is really intriguing is that it could sustain five thousand people for a whole year with its larder and water supply. Should they have come under siege, I’m pretty sure they could have outlasted even the staunchest enemy.
When one walks in the many halls and rooms, your footfalls echoing in the many buildings, you get the feeling a living history has come back, wanting to show you its many stories, share with you the heartache and pain felt by the tens of thousands of laborers, so many of whom perished in the citadel’s construction and the trying times during Haiti’s struggle to be a free nation in a bygone era.
To say the view from Citadelle Laferriere is impressive would not do it justice. Situated on the pinnacle of the mountaintop, if one stood in one place and turned three hundred sixty degrees, on a clear day, you could see the highest mountain in Haiti and the Atlantic Ocean.
Do yourself a favor and put this stop on your bucket list. You won’t regret it, I can promise you.