Castle of the Princes de Mérode, also called as 'old castle', has been the home of the House of Merode since more than five centuries. The central keep or Donjon was built in local brown stone in the 14th-century. It probably replaced an older fortress on the same spot. Other parts of the building date from the 16th century. The castle was adapted, extended and restorated several times. From the 16th century onwards it was transformed into a more luxurious noble dwelling and gradually lost its fortified character. Several restorations in the 19th century gave it back a more romantic medieval appearance.
The sumptuous interiors contain fine furniture, paintings, tapestries, and objects collected by the Merode family throughout the centuries. The most important rooms like the entrance hall, the knights hall, the large drawing room, the dining room and the chapel can be visited during the 'Kasteelfeesten' in the first weekend of July.
An English landscape park of 12 hectares surrounds the castle. The ponds in the park are connected with the moat of the castle. Across the Nete river there is a larger formal park (60 hectares) in the French tradition with a rectangular pond forming a large perspective. It was commissioned by Fieldmarshall Jean-Philippe-Eugène de Mérode-Westerloo at the beginning of the 18th century and was inspired by Versailles.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.