Bezděz Castle construction began before 1264 by order of Přemysl Otakar II. It was one of the most important royal castles in the Czech lands until its destruction in the Thirty Years' War.
A year after Přemysl’s death, the castle Bezděz, which was still unfinished, became the place of imprisonment of Queen Kunhuta and her underage son Václav II (or Wenceslas II), kept under lock and key in very spartan conditions by Wenceslas's guardian Ota Braniborský, Margrave of Brandenburg, after the Battle on the Marchfeld. The boy, only 6 or 7 at the time, remained there alone when his mother escaped under a pretext and it is widely accepted that the place left its mark on him. As an adult, and ruling monarch, he returned to Bezděz to order the construction of a chapel, one of the best preserved areas of the castle today.
The castle complex was completed during the reign of Wenceslas II, who used the local forests very frequently for hunting and relaxation. It served for this purpose until the Thirty Years' War when, as part of the round of confiscations after the Battle of the White Mountain, it fell into the hands of Albrecht of Wallenstein. The famous general started turning the castle into a fortress in 1623, but then halted the construction work. In 1627 he decided that it should be rebuilt into a monastery for the Benedictines from Montserrat, who later brought a copy of the Virgin of Montserrat (the Black Madonna) in 1666, making the castle a pilgrimage site for years to come.
In 1686 Stations of the Cross were built along the path to the castle and the whole complex served for religious purposes until 1785, when the monastery was dissolved on the orders of Josef II. Pilgrimages were banned and the castle became forlorn, slowly becoming dilapidated. The Romantic Movement's passion for medieval monuments helped preserve the castle, which is a sole preserved example of an unaltered castle of the 13th century.
Parts that are accessible to visitors are the castle precincts including the royal palace, burgrave's house and the unique early Gothic Chapel. The castle tower offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. The castle’s romantic silhouette gave rise to many legends and inspired a great number of writers, artists and composers, the most famous of whom included the poet Karel Hynek Mácha and the composer Bedřich Smetana.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.