The dominating feature of the Benešov nad Ploučnicí town is actually two castles from the 13th century, the Lower and Upper castles. There is a permanent exhibition of Chinese art and day and night tours are available as well as social meetings.
The history of the castle started in the 13th century when a settlement of tradesmen and shopkeepers began under the castle Ostrý. The people were satisfied there, the settlement grew and one day in 1392 Jan from Michalovice named the settlement a town. The son of the owner, Hynek Berka from Dubá, was a hussite antagonist and in 1422 he called together a congress of the antihussite catholic nobility from Northern Bohemia. The Hussites didn´t hesitate to besiege Benešov many times over the next few years.
Since, the town was protected only by a simple wall, a moat and a mound, it was rapidly plundered and burnt out. Then in 1515 the Salhausen family from Míšeň bought the castle. That was the beginning of the rise of the town. The castle was rebuilt and sold many times. In 1945 it became a possession of the state and then in 1956 it was declared a castle of the 1st category. Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed by fire in 1969. It took a couple of years before it was reopened to the public.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.