Skokloster Castle was built in the Baroque style between 1654 and 1676 by the wealthy military commander and count Carl Gustaf Wrangel. The castle was designed by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder. When Wrangel died, the castle passed into the hands of the Brahe family, and then, after 1930, became the property of the von Essens. In 1967 the castle and its contents were sold by the family to the Swedish government; since then it has been open as a museum.
The castle is a monument to the Swedish Age of Greatness, a period in the middle of the seventeenth century when Sweden expanded to became one of the major powers in Europe. The death of Wrangel in 1676 meant that the castle was never truly completed. The Brahe family who inherited the castle after Wrangels death, had their own family castles and did not complete the interiors. Thus the large banqueting hall remains in the same condition as the builders left it in the summer of 1676, complete with their tools. Skokloster Castle is the only building in Europe with a complete seventeenth-century building site of equal authenticity. Some rooms in the castle are unchanged since the time when the castle was first built. Others have been preserved using the same materials and building techniques as used in the 17th century.
The interiors of the castle are considered to be especially well preserved, despite being made of original material much of which is more than 300 years old and in a building without modern heating in a cold climate. It is not known exactly why the building preserves textiles and furniture so well, but it is thought to relate to the unusually slow changes in temperature during seasons.
The other, finished, parts of the castle displays the full, sumptuous splendour of the Baroque. The castle's detailed chambers are home to remarkable collections of paintings as well as furniture, textiles and silver and glass tableware. One of the most famous paintings is the 16-th century Vertumnus by Italian master Giuseppe Arcimboldo. It pictures the face of Holy roman emperor Rudolf II as the roman god of the seasons using fruits and vegetables. The painting was stolen in Prague in 17th century.
The castle armoury and library are particularly noteworthy, both founded on Wrangel's collections of weapons and books and enriched and enlarged by other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century aristocratic bequests, such as those by Carl Gustaf Bielke. The armoury contains the largest collection of personal 17th century military weapons in the world. Mostly muskets and pistols, but also swords - including Japanese samurai swords - small cannons, pikes and crossbows. The weapons collection also includes various exotic items such as a 16-century Eskimo canoe, snake skins and others. The original scale model of the castle which the architect Tessin made to show to count Wrangel is also there.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.