The Staraya Ladoga village used to be a prosperous trading outpost in the 8th and 9th centuries. A multi-ethnic settlement, it was dominated by Scandinavians who were called by the name of Rus and for that reason is sometimes called the first capital of Russia. The village was referred in 862 for the first time in ancient annals concerning calling of three Varangian Rurick brothers as crisis managers for the Russia Land, in connection with extensiveness of its territory and absence of any order. Those annals informed that elder brother, who has wooden settlement here and became the ruler of Russian Lands.
The site for the building the fortress is very convenient indeed. There was the main trade waterway from Varangians to Greeks by the river of Volkhov and so there were great possibilities to make big profit of that. The sea of Ladoga is only 15 km away. This place was the capital of Russia for a short time, but soon Rurick moved the capital to Novgorod by political reasons.
In 1114 the first stone fortress in Russia was erected by the Novgorod posadnik Pavel and Ladoga became a large trading city. In 1164 a Swedish army with 55 vessels appeared under the walls of the fortress. They undertook fierce storm but were defeated and forced to escape. In Ladoga Lake they were intercepted by the Novgorod militia and were beaten hard in addition. In 1313 Swedes seized and burned the Ladoga fortress at last, but could not stay here for very long and were forced to escape again. In 1338 the fortress was stormed unsuccessfully by Swedes again. In the 15th century the fortress was totally reconstructed in connection with quick fire-arms developments.
In Time of Troubles (1610) Swedes again grasped the fortress for 6 years. In 1701 there was the last unsuccessful storm of Ladoga by the Swedish army. In 1704 the whole local administration and trading were moved to the small town Novaya Ladoga near the Ladoga Lake under Peter's I order. This was the beginning of fading the ancient city. With the construction of railway in 1860 the trading transportations over the river of Volkhov were in practice stopped. Nowadays Staraya Ladoga is the little and fading village.
Today curtain walls, defensive towers and two of six churches still remain. There are two museums in the fortress with a small entrance fee.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.