Střekov Castle (Schreckenstein) is perched atop a cliff above the River Elbe, near the city of Ústí nad Labem. It was built in 1316 for John of Luxembourg, the father of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, to guard an important trade route to Germany. After changing hands several times, the castle was acquired by the Lobkowicz family in 1563. Its strategic importance led to occupations by Imperial Habsburg, Saxon, and Swedish forces during the Thirty Years' War, as well as successive sieges by Austrian and Prussian armies during the Seven Years' War.
Although Střekov Castle was heavily damaged during those conflicts and abandoned as a military installation by the end of the 18th century, the 1800s saw many poets and artists visiting the castle, drawn by a new trend of interest in romantic ruins. Goethe declared the view from the castle's position above the Elbe to be the most beautiful in Central Europe, while Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser was supposedly inspired by his visit to Strěkov. The castle was confiscated by the Nazi regime and later the Communist government, but was restituted to the Lobkowicz family in the early 1990s.
Střekov Castle is divided into two sections connected by an arched bridge spanning a natural moat— an unusual style for the 14th century, when it was first built. The castle’s semiround bastions, inspired by French architecture, are possibly the first example of that type of defensive design in Bohemia. The connecting round tower, a smaller tower guarding the castle entrance, and an irregular oblong section of the castle date back to the very earliest period of construction.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.