It’s cold, humid, and walking around the endless, dark corridors beneath the Stevnsfort Cold War Museum is really not enticing. Yet there is a fire burning here. A fire with the voice of Tove Damholt, who is showing us around, talking about the fort, its history and the connections between things here at Stevns. The bigger picture.
Because this is not your average underground attraction at Stevns. Not by any means. Stevns is a world heritage site. Stevns has been designated by UNESCO as one of only seven sites in Denmark worthy of preservation and of historical importance to future generations. To humanity, actually
Along with the Stevns Klint cliffs, the Stevnsfortet fort is designated as a World Heritage site in Denmark. The cliff offers exceptional traces from one of the most important developments in world history, deposited in the limestone of the cliff. The traces of asteroid impacts and the subsequent mass destruction of life on the planet. Immense, incomprehensible and right in front of you.
And the Stevnsfortet fort, a well-kept secret built by the Danish armed forces in the 1950s as a fortification of the southern part of the Øresund. Carved by hand from the cliff, complete with dormitories, technological radar rooms, checkpoints and peepholes facing the water – and what seems to be endless corridors 18 metres below ground.
And to Tove Damholt, herself a geologist with a PhD, world heritage is not just a regular job. As the director of World Heritage Stevns, her formal role is to bring together stakeholders, local enthusiasts and businesses, and everyone else for the task – but it’s also much more than that. Because how do you communicate something that is at the same time both huge and important on the one hand, yet immensely concrete and specific – and tangible – on the other? And why is it that important?
Tove is on first-name terms with everyone down here. Even the retired gentlemen who were all soldiers in the Danish Defence and spent their days down here, and who continue to maintain the machines, the old guns and supplies receive a hug, a smile and a quick chat. Because that’s the way it is. World Heritage and the understanding of it is a common concern, and not something you can do alone from an office or without local support.
And it’s great to make a trip to Stevns. The drama and symbols vie for their place down here – and you can get quite close to the immense storytelling underneath it all at your very own pace. As Tove Damholt says with a twinkle in her eye, Stevns has a rather crazy package on offer.