Zvíkov, often called 'the king of Czech castles', is located at the junction of the Vltava and Otava rivers. It stands on a difficult-to-access and steep promontory above the confluence of the Vltava and Otava rivers. The castle is one of the most important early-Gothic castles in Czech lands.
The area was inhabited as early as prehistoric times, when the Celts built a fort here in the 1st century AD. The current castle was built in the first half of the 13th century, most probably on the orders of King Přemysl Otakar I, but the exact date is not known. The first written mention of the castle comes from year 1234 and owned by the Kings of Bohemia.
Originally a small complex, the castle was continuously extended until 1278. After the Přemyslid dynasty died out in 1306, Zvíkov became property of the Rožmberk family. After 1337 the settlement under the castle has been fortified, as a part of thorough repairs. Its fortifications were so strong that even the Hussites, during the Hussite Wars, besieged it for four months in 1429, but found it a tough nut to crack and failed to take it. To protect against heavy artillery its walls were further strengthened.
Although Emperor Charles IV placed it on a list of royal castles not to be pawned, his successors ignored his decree and by 1431 it was in the possession of the Rožmberk dynasty. At the start of Thirty Years' War Zvíkov was owned by a rebellious Protestant nobleman whose garrison of 140 men successfully defended the castle against 4,000 Habsburg troops in 1618. The defendants agreed to capitulate to the Emperor's forces only in October 1622. Subsequently, it was looted and devastated. During the 1640s the Švanberks modified the palace and extended it in Renaissance style.
After the damaged inflicted by the war, Zvíkov was restored, but its glory was long gone and the castle served only for farming purposes. A fire accelerated the deterioration of its buildings in 1751. Thus a once-important seat of Czech kings it had become an almost ruin by the 1840s, at which time the Schwarzenbergs, owners of the ruin, invested huge sums in a thorough reconstruction, which restored the heart of the castle to its former glory.
At the end of 17th century it ceased to have military value and was used as granary. The decline continued and in 1751 fire damaged a large part of the palace. In 1780 the chapel was deconsecrated. The facade of the palace collapsed in 1829 and between 1880 and 1902 the castle was reconstructed, only to be confiscated by the state in 1947.
The Orlík Dam, which was built between 1954 and 1962 and named after Orlík Castle, deluged the castle downtown and made Zvíkov easily accessible. Major restorations between 1970 and 1980 concentrated on the palace.
The oldest part of Zvíkov is a massive prismatic residential tower named Hlízová with palace buildings built on its sides. During the reign of Ottokar II of Bohemia, a palace named Královský (King's Own) was built and this ground plan has been preserved until today. The new palace was built in lavish style and its parts were connected by monumental arcade.
After 1473, Bohuslav of Svamberk commissioned mural decorations in the Chapel of St. Wenceslaus, which belongs to the masterpieces of early-gothic Czech architecture. The walls display the patron saints of Bohemia, the Virgin Mary the Protector, the Suffering Christ and the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus. The fortification was extended with Hláska, large 32-metre high tower on the south side. The castle has two gates.
The castle has its own ghost, Zvíkov's imp, and had inspired several painters and writers like the theatrical comedy Zvíkovský rarášek by Ladislav Stroupežnický. Today, Zvíkov (opened from Spring to Autumn) is hiking attraction and serves as a place of art exhibitions and stage plays.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.