The Sigulda manor center began to develop in the fore-castle area of Sigulda Medieval Castle during the 17th century. There are still a few remaining 18th and 19th century buildings built during the ownership of the Von Borghs and Kropotkins. These are the Summer Castle, the New Castle, the White Castle, the vagar's (supervisor of serfs) house, the servants' house, a barn, a laundry house and a vegetable and fruit basement. The manor center is enclosed by chipped boulder walls with a splendid gate structure.
The New Castle was built during the time of Duchess Olga and Duke Dimitry Kropotkins from 1878 until 1881 using the materials from an older building which stood here during the 17th century.
The master’s house was built in neo-gothic style by Jānis Mengelis from Cēsis. The planning and the shape of the house is simple. The architectural and artistic value of the castle is achieved through the successful use of Gothic forms and the color shades from the recycled chipped boulders. Looking through any window, you will have a panoramic view of the Gauja valley including the ruins of Sigulda castle. Farther away you will see the ruins of Krimulda and Turaida. On the opposite side there is a neatly landscaped yard.
During World War I this building was destroyed. In 1922, following the agrarian reforms, New Castle became the Writers’ Castle because it was used by the Latvian Union of Writers and Journalists. The building was in unusable condition after the war so the Union had to invest a large amount of money for restoration. In the 1920’s and 30’s, full room and board was offered to writers and literary types as well as other visitors.
In 1934 the castle was acquired by the Latvian Press Society. From 1936 to 1937, major reconstruction work was done under the leadership of architect August Birkhans. Building plans were completely re-drawn. The overlook tower was heightened, the terrace around the building was expanded and a new balcony was added to the second floor. Inside, a new modern-age interior design was installed. It became the most notable example of national modern design in the Baltic region. Many famous artists of that time such as Niklāvs Strunke, Pēteris Ozoliņš, Kārlis Sūniņš, and Vilhelms Vasariņš took a part in creating it. Pictures of the castle were found in French art magazines as the press at the time would report. The Writers Castle became a popular visitor's destination after the renovation.
In 1938, the monument of Atis Kronvalds, made by Teodors Zalkalns, was unveiled at the front of the New Castle. Atis Kronvalds was a teacher and a publicist and helped initiate the second wave of the New Latvian movement.
During World War II, the New Castle was used as a headquarters for the Nord division of the German army. After the war, the USSR Council of Ministers made it a recreation house for high state officials. In 1953, the Health department of the Latvian SSR established the Sigulda rehabilitation center which was in operation until the restoration of Latvian independence.
From 1993 through 2002, the New Castle held the Sigulda City council and then, beginning in 2003, the Sigulda District Council.
Next to the New Castle there is a yellow house known as the Summer Castle. It was built at the turn of the 18th or 19th century in style of classicism. The elongated wooden house was built by a master-builder from Cēsis, a man called the last of the Livs of Vidzeme, Mārcis Sārums. Initially Kropotkin's family used the building as a personal orthodox church after the completion of the New Castle in 1881. Services were held by the orthodox priest of Ledurga parish. The building also came under reconstruction when the Writers and Journalists Union obtained ownership and remodeled it to become a boarding-house.
An art gallery was installed in the former brewery of Sigulda manor. Artist Elmārs Gaigalnieks has, over the past 12 years, created the unique technique of sand art which is in continuous development. In this special atmosphere, you can view the sand art and the three dimensional installations. There is also a unique collection of sand samples from five continents.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.