Bernstein Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century. In 860 the whole region was part of the archbishopric of Salzburg. The village name Rettenbach was not mentioned yet, but the old Slavic name of the nearby hamlet Grodnau is a sign of the existence of a nearby castle, identifiable with castle Bernstein.
Since 1199 the castle was part of Hungary. It is not exactly known when the castle was handed over to Frederick II, Duke of Austria, and how long it was his property; but in 1236 Béla IV of Hungary conquered the castle. Some years later (in 1260) he gave it to count Henry II of Güssing.
In 1336 the counts of Güssing and Bernstein were defeated by the Hungarian King Charles Robert of Anjou, and the castle of Bernstein became part of the Hungarian Kingdom. In 1388 the castle was given to the Kanizsai family. In 1482 it became property of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary for a short time; in 1487 Hans von Königsberg received the castle from Emperor Frederick III.
In 1529 the Turks besieged the castle, but they were not able to capture it. Another unsuccessful siege by the Turks followed in 1532. On that occasion the ring of bastions was erected in order to change the castle into a refuge.
In 1604 castle Bernstein was unsuccessfully besieged for weeks by a combined army consisting of Hungarians, Turks, and Tatars under the leadership of Stephen Bocskay. Due to an explosion of the gunpowder storeroom, in 1617 Ludwig Königsberg ordered the rebuilding of the Gothic inner part of the castle in Baroque style. The keep and towers were eliminated. A short time later (1644) Ehrenreich Christoph Königsberg sold the sovereignty and the castle to Count Ádám Batthyány. In 1864 Gustav Batthyány sell the castle to his manciple Edward O'Egan, whose heirs finally sold the castle to Eduard von Almásy. His family currently owns the castle. In 1953 a part of the castle was turned into a hotel and restaurant.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.