Levoča town has a historic center with a well preserved town wall, a Renaissance church with the highest wooden altar in World, carved by Master Paul of Levoča, and many other Renaissance buildings. Levoča is part of the UNESCO to World Heritage List of Levoča, Spiš Castle and the associated cultural monuments.
Levoča was inhabited as early as the Stone Age. In the 11th century, this region was conquered and, subsequently, became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and remained such until 1918. After the Mongol invasions of 1241/1242, the area was also settled by Germans. The town became the capital of the Association of Spiš Germans, with a form of self-rule within the Kingdom of Hungary. The oldest written reference to the city of Levoča dates back to 1249. In 1317, Levoča received the status of a royal town. In 1321 a wide storing right was granted enticing merchants, craftsmen and mine owners to settle in this town.
In the 15th century the town, located on an intersection of trade routes between Poland and Hungary, became a rich center of commerce. It exported iron, copper, furs, leather, corn, and wine. At the same time the town became an important cultural centre. The English humanist Leonard Cox taught around 1520 in a school in Levoča. The bookseller Brewer from Wittenberg transformed his bookstore in a prolific printing plant, that lasted for 150 years. Finally, one of the best-known medieval woodcarvers Master Paul of Levoča settled here.
The town kept this cultural and economic status until the end of 16th century, in spite of two damaging fires: the first in 1550 destroyed nearly all of the Gothic architecture and another in 1599. In this period of prosperity several churches were built and the town had a school, library, pharmacy, and physicians. There was a printing press as early as 1624. Levoča was a center of the Protestant Reformation in Northern Hungary. The town started to decline during the anti-Habsburg uprisings in the 17th century.
The old town is picturesquely sited and still surrounded by most of its ancient walls. The town square boasts three major monuments; the quaint Old Town Hall (15th-17th century) which now contains a museum, the domed Evangelical Lutheran Church (1837) and the 14th century Roman Catholic Church of St. James. It houses a magnificently carved and painted wooden Gothic altar, the largest in Europe, (18.62 m in height), created by Master Paul around 1520. The square is very well preserved and contains a number of striking buildings which were the townhouses of the local nobility in the late Middle Ages. Also notable in the square is the wrought iron 'Cage of Shame', dating back to the 17th century, used for public punishment of miscreants. A plaque on one of the houses records the printing and publication in the town of the most famous work of Comenius, the Orbis Pictus. Other buildings on the square house a historical museum and a museum dedicated to the work of Master Paul.
Behind the square on Kláštorská Street are the 14th-century church and remains of the old monastery of the Minorites, now incorporated into a Church grammar school. Nearby is the town's Polish Gate, a Gothic construction of the 15th century.References:
Varberg Fortress was built in 1287-1300 by count Jacob Nielsen as protection against his Danish king, who had declared him an outlaw after the murder of King Eric V of Denmark. Jacob had close connections with king Eric II of Norway and as a result got substantial Norwegian assistance with the construction. The fortress, as well as half the county, became Norwegian in 1305.
King Eric's grand daughter, Ingeborg Håkansdotter, inherited the area from her father, King Haakon V of Norway. She and her husband, Eric, Duke of Södermanland, established a semi-independent state out of their Norwegian, Swedish and Danish counties until the death of Erik. They spent considerable time at the fortress. Their son, King Magnus IV of Sweden (Magnus VII of Norway), spent much time at the fortress as well.
The fortress was augmented during the late 16th and early 17th century on order by King Christian IV of Denmark. However, after the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645 the fortress became Swedish. It was used as a military installation until 1830 and as a prison from the end of the 17th Century until 1931.
It is currently used as a museum and bed and breakfast as well as private accommodation. The moat of the fortress is said to be inhabited by a small lake monster. In August 2006, a couple of witnesses claimed to have seen the monster emerge from the dark water and devour a duck. The creature is described as brown, hairless and with a 40 cm long tail.