Bytča Castle was originally built as a water castle by Pongrác Szentmiklósi in the 13th century and rebuilt between 1571 and 1574 in Renaissance style by Ferenc Thurzó. The Italian architect Ján Kilian of Milan was invited to oversee the construction. George Thurzo continued his father’s activities and due to him the Wedding Palace was built in 1601, which was meant to serve for the weddings of his six daughters. From more decorative details it can be concluded that the palace is the work of Italian masters who lived in Bytča. The building is embellished by rich sgraffito figural and floral ornaments around the stone windows and portal. Inside the one-story, rectangular building is a particularly interesting foyer on the ground floor and a large Wedding hall on the first floor, which was for a longtime the largest of its kind in Slovakia.
There were two pharmacies, a school, a typing office, a library and an assembly room in the castle. In the eastern part of the castle there was the so-called big hall, intended for assemblies during the reign of George Thurzo. In the northern part there was a castle treasury, which was later turned into a chapel by the Esterházy family. After the Thurzo family had died out at the beginning of the 17th century, the castle was acquired by the Esterházy family, who converted it into a farm building. In 1862, the property was bought by the Popper family of merchants, who transformed the castle into flats and the Wedding Palace into a district court. Ján Ujváry, also called Ficko, Elizabeth Báthory’s helper was also imprisoned in Bytča castle. At the beginning of the 18th century, the legendary Slovak outlaw Juraj Jánošík served as a prison officer in the castle. He helped the imprisoned Tomáš Uhorčík escape and they created a forest robber group. This is why this national heroes’s legend might have started in Bytča. Today the castle houses the State District Archive, the Wedding Palace belongs to Považské Museum in Žilina. Today the Wedding Palace is after the reconstruction and is open.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.