Bled Castle is built on a precipice above the city of Bled in Slovenia, overlooking Lake Bled. According to written sources, it is the oldest Slovenian castle and is currently one of the most visited tourist attractions in Slovenia.
The history of the castle reaches back to 1004 when the German Emperor Henry II gave his estate at Bled to Bishop Albuin of Brixen. At that time, only a Romanesque tower protected by walls stood in the place of the present day castle. The first castle was built in approximately 1011 but the Bishops of Brixen never resided there. This is precisely why the castle has no luxurious halls as the greater emphasis was placed on the defence system.
In the late Middle Ages more towers were built and the fortifications system was improved. Can you imagine entering through the outer walls with the Gothic arch and walking over the drawbridge above the moat. Today, the moat is filled with earth, but the sight is still able to stir up your imagination.
The distinctive feature of the castle is its double structure – the fortified centre part was intended for the residence of feudal lords, whilst the outer part with walls and buildings was intended for the residence of servants. In 1511 the castle was heavily damaged by the earthquake. Later on, the castle was restored and given its present appearance. The castle buildings are decorated with coats-of-arms painted in the fresco technique or carved in stone.
The most interesting of all the preserved buildings is most certainly the Gothic chapel on the upper coutyard, which was consecrated to the Bishops St. Albuin and St. Ingenium. It was built in the 16th century, and was renovated in the Baroque style around 1700, when it was also painted with illusionist frescoes. Next to the altar there are paintings of the donors of the Bled estate, the German Emperor Henry II and his wife Kunigunda. Their portraits can also be seen in the Church of the Assumption on the Bled Island.
The Bled Castle is now arranged as an exhibition area. Display rooms next to the chapel present the ancient history of Bled from the first excavations, and the castle in individual stages of its historical development with furniture, characteristic of those times. Although these pieces are not originally from the Bled Castle, they are important as an illustration of the style of living in the historical periods presented.
During the warm months, the castle courtyard hosts numerous cultural events, from which the Medieval Days, when knights present the medieval life to visitors, are the most appreciated.References:
Varberg Fortress was built in 1287-1300 by count Jacob Nielsen as protection against his Danish king, who had declared him an outlaw after the murder of King Eric V of Denmark. Jacob had close connections with king Eric II of Norway and as a result got substantial Norwegian assistance with the construction. The fortress, as well as half the county, became Norwegian in 1305.
King Eric's grand daughter, Ingeborg Håkansdotter, inherited the area from her father, King Haakon V of Norway. She and her husband, Eric, Duke of Södermanland, established a semi-independent state out of their Norwegian, Swedish and Danish counties until the death of Erik. They spent considerable time at the fortress. Their son, King Magnus IV of Sweden (Magnus VII of Norway), spent much time at the fortress as well.
The fortress was augmented during the late 16th and early 17th century on order by King Christian IV of Denmark. However, after the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645 the fortress became Swedish. It was used as a military installation until 1830 and as a prison from the end of the 17th Century until 1931.
It is currently used as a museum and bed and breakfast as well as private accommodation. The moat of the fortress is said to be inhabited by a small lake monster. In August 2006, a couple of witnesses claimed to have seen the monster emerge from the dark water and devour a duck. The creature is described as brown, hairless and with a 40 cm long tail.