Belvedere Castle stands on a hill at the south of Weimar and is surrounded by 43 hectares of parkland. Duke Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach had a Baroque summer residence including an orangery, pleasure garden and labyrinth built here between 1724 and 1748. Since 1923, Belvedere Castle has been used as a museum of 18th century crafts.
The castle, which originally served as a hunting lodge, is surrounded by stables with the knights' quarters at the side, giving it the typical atmosphere of an absolutist estate of the time. After the death of Ernst August in 1748, the parks began to run wild. They were restored to their former glory only when Duchess Anna Amalia took up the residence every summer. Duke Carl August, who came to power in 1775, pursued botanical studies at Belvedere together with Goethe. By 1820, a botanical garden had been created to keep approximately 7900 plant species from Germany and abroad. In 1811, Carl August left Belvedere Castle and Park to his son Carl Friedrich and the latter’s wife, the Russian Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. The later duke had a so-called Russian garden laid for his wife at the west of the castle. The park had by now gone to rack and ruin, and between 1815 and 1830 it was transformed into a country park in post-classical, romantic style with meandering paths and numerous ornamental park constructions. Grand Duke Carl Alexander, whose reign commenced in 1853, had the castle, park and orangery carefully preserved and maintained. The park was reconstructed between 1974 and 1978 and the Russian Garden between 1978 and 1982. Reconstruction and restoration work on the orangery complex began in 1998 and will be completed step by step over the next few years.
The exhibits on display in the crafts museum in Belvedere Castle harmonize with the castle’s interior. The museum focuses on porcelain and glass from the ducal household. The collection includes court accessories along with French and German furniture dated back to the 18th century. The tour begins on the ground floor with Oriental porcelain, Thuringian earthenware and portraits of the owner and his family. Early Meissen porcelain and Thuringian dishes and figures are on display on the upper floor. The museum collection also focuses on products from the royal porcelain factory in Berlin, the Fürstenberg factory in the Duchy of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and the imperial factory in St. Petersburg. Most of these items arrived in Weimar because of the ducal family’s dynastic connections. An exhibition on the ground floor of the West Pavilion sheds light on architecture and garden culture in Duke Ernst August’s day. In the East Pavilion, 18th century weapons which belonged to the ducal family bring the history of court hunting to life.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.