Castle ruins stand dominantly on Jurassic rocks above the market town of Wellheim in the ancient Danube valley.Of its former palas and the other buildings of the main castle only parts of the exterior walls and enceinte remain. The palas was sited in the east, a balcony linking it to a residential building in the south. In the north rises the mighty, quadratic tower of the bergfried, made of rusticated ashlar blocks with channelled joints. The roughly 35-metre-high tower is topped by a later, brick, upper storey (with round arch window openings) that once had a saddle roof. The original tower was topped by crenellations, that can still be made out from the stonework. The round arched, walled up elevated entrance is on the south side. Today the castle courtyard is filled with rubble to a depth of a metre and overgrown; formerly the entrance was about six metres about the level of the ground. The north wall had to be rebuilt in 1935, because many of the ashlars had been removed since 1836 for use as construction material. The walls are made of double-skinned limestone masonry with mortar and rock filling.
In 1857 an entire storey of the palas had to be demolished as it was in danger of collapse.
The enceinte runs down the slope to ring the middle bailey. Here, too, there was once a smaller, quadrangular building of which only a few remnants have survived.
Below that is the lower bailey. The enceinte here appears to have been repaired several times. Outside a small tower enabled grazing fire to be brought to bear. The wall remains of the two small rooks near the gate were used as livestock sheds. Of the gateway itself only a gap in the wall remains today.
In the 15th century, a zwinger was built in front of the lower ward. Its northern point was guarded by a round tower. The local road to Gammersfeld runs along the northwestern part of the external moat today. The moat is secured on the steep eastern hillside by a retaining wall, which was reinforced on the outer side by a square flanking tower.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.