The earliest official mention of building a fortress in Waldau comes from a chronicle dating to 1258. The name of the castle derives from the Baltic Prussian language, where it meant 'to own'. And in fact, the surrounding lands belonged to two Prussian landowners: Brulant and Diabel, who were called 'tenants' or 'dukes'. In 1264, the dukes were obliged by the Teutonic Knights to set up an inn, in which Teutonic knights, clergymen and soldiers would stay. There, travelling merchants would spend time discussing the ups and downs of commerce over a pint of barley beer or a bottle of cider.
When the lands of Nadrovia and Sudovia had been occupied by the tribe of Yotvingians, the border between the Monastic State of the Teutonic Order and Lithuania moved eastwards. As a result, the fortress of Waldau ceased to serve a defensive role. In 1457 the old building was converted into a residential castle, which from then on served as a summer residence of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. When the Order was secularized in 1525, the castle turned into a seat for the administrative authorities in the district of Waldau. In 1858 an agricultural school was established in the castle. Afterwards the castle was completely redesigned and changed into a popular school for teachers.
The history of Waldau Castle contains one event which, on the initiative of local people, was commemorated in 1997 by placing a plaque on the walls of the castle. On 17th (27th) May 1697, the castle hosted Russian emissaries, headed by Admiral Franc Jakovlewitz Lefort (1656 - 1699). The Tsar's chronicler wrote on that day: 'Tsar Peter I arrived on this day to enquire about the well being of the emissaries and to finally confirm the meeting ceremony with Kurfürst (The Prince Elector of the German Reich). In the evening, Tsar Peter I left for Königsburg and the Russian emissaries set off from Waldau early morning the next day.'
Today the castle in Nizovye, despite its old age, makes a great impression on the visitors. Parts of the former castle outbuildings have remained until today and the castle itself still houses an agricultural school.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.