If walls could talk, the Imperial hunting lodge of Eckartsau would tell many gripping stories about the final days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nestled in the Danube wetlands and surrounded on all sides by the expansive Schlosspark gardens, Eckartsau was the final Austrian residence of Emperor Charles I and his wife Zita from 1918 to 1919.
Under the Eckartsau dominion, extensive land and territories were acquired both to the east and west, as were castles, market towns and rights. In the 16th and 17th centuries the inhabitants of Eckartsau came and went with regularity. The magnificent appearance of the palace today can be attributed in large part to Count Franz Ferdinand von Kinsky, who purchased the property, including the Eckartsau manor, in 1720. He subsequently converted the medieval fortification to a baroque hunting lodge. Top-notch artists such as Fischer von Erlach, Daniel Gran and Lorenzo Mattielli were closely involved in the extensive redevelopment.
In 1760, Francis Stephan von Lothringen (Francis I), husband of Maria Theresa, acquired the castle. Over the years, its most prominent residents included Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the throne, as well as Austria’s last imperial couple Charles I and Zita, who spent their final days in Austria at Eckartsau before going into exile. After 1945, the Austrian National Forests (ÖBf) became the administrators of Schloss Eckartsau and in the past decades have worked extensively to restore the castle – parts of which had been in absolute desolate condition – to its former glory.
At the time Eckartsau was erected as a fortification, the castle was in the middle of the wilderness and protected by ditches. At the beginning of the 18th century, in the course of redevelopment and conversion of the castle to the baroque style, two rows of linden trees were planted to form an allée. To the east, this lane stretched into the wetlands, all the way to a mooring spot on the Danube; to the west, it led to the spot where visitors arriving by carriage could be picked up.
Around 1900, Schloss Eckartsau experienced a renewed upswing under Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who found Eckartsau to be ideal for hunting. He refurbished the desolate structure from the ground up and commissioned Anton Umlauft, then imperial and royal director of gardens, to design the landscaped gardens. An even plateau was created where ditches once prevailed; the oval form created by these earth deposits is reflected in the curved paths in the park that wind around Schloss Eckartsau. The two-row linden allée was integrated into the design as an element of order and now forms the border between the wilderness of the Danube wetlands and the cultivated landscape of the Marchfeld.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.