Bielsko-Biała Castle is the oldest and largest construction of historical importance, erected in the old town of Bielsko. A legend says that in its place there used to be a settlement of robbers who attacked travelling merchants. The Opole Prince, Casimir (1229/30) of the Piasts is said to have conquered that fortalice, wiped out the robbers and had the hunting palace erected in that place, which over the years grew into a magnificent castle around which the city of Bielsko developed.
The oldest part of the Castle dates back to 14th century. Over the next centuries the Castle gradually developed and transformed. Over the centuries it performed the function of a Silesian border-stronghold, first guarding the borders of Cieszyn and Oświęcim district duchies and then in the second half of the 15th century it protected the Czech and Polish state border and from 1526 - the Austrian-Polish border.
Starting from the close of the 16th century, its defensive role was declining and the Castle gradually transformed into a nobleman’s mansion. The present appearance of the castle dates back to the last, thorough reconstruction undertaken in the second half of the 19th century, which entirely wiped out its previous characteristics of style.
During the years 1899-1973, in place of brick breast wall presently seen on the east part of the Castle, there used to be a parade of bazaars, constituting an attractive architectural foundation for the body of the Castle. The bazaars were pulled down in connection with widening of Zamkowa Street.
After World War II the Castle was taken over by the Polish State as the property left by the Germans and was facilitated as the seat of many cultural institutions. Since 1983 the Castle sole usufructary has been the national Museum in Bielsko-Biała, subordinated to Silesian local government in Katowice.
Three local branches of the The Bielsko-Biała Museum have been established since the 1970s: the Julian Fałat Museum, the Museum of Technology and Textile Industry, and the Weaver's House Museum.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.