The castle of Freÿr with its gardens form one of the most magnificent natural sites in Belgium. It has been classified as one of Wallonia's major heritage sites.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, Freÿr was a keep given in fief by the Count of Namur to Jean de Rochefort Orjol in 1378. His granddaughter Marie married Jacques de Beaufort in 1410. Their descendants have kept the estate until the present. The keep was destroyed in 1554 by the French during the wars against Emperor Charles V. The oldest part of the current castle, the east wing, was built in 1571 and is one of the first examples of the 'Renaissance Mosane' style.
During the 17th century the house was enlarged by the addition of three wings, forming a square with the original wing. Around 1760 the south wing was pulled down and replaced by a wrought iron gate reminiscent of Jean Lamour's masterpiece in Nancy, closing the inner yard to give the castle its current appearance.
The castle is representative of the interior of a nobleman's summer residence of the 18th century. It features many original elements such as the impressive main hall with wall paintings by Frans Snyders and a ceiling covered by Louis XV frescoes, or the chapel with its Regency wooden panelling and its Baroque altar.
The rooms contain the ancient furniture of the Dukes of Beaufort-Spontin as well as traces of history left by royal guests (Louis XIV of France, Archduchess Maria-Christina, eldest child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, King Stanislas I), and the living memory of 20 generations, among which is a delightful children's coach (18th century) that won the first prize at Paris World Exhibition (1889).
At Freÿr the Coffee Treaty or Treaty of Freÿr (1675) between France and Spain was signed, and the Treaty of the Borders between France and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège (1772) was negotiated. At this time Louis XIV stayed here as the guest of Jeanne d'Harscamp, Dowager Duchess of Beaufort-Spontin.
Designed in the style of André Le Nôtre in 1760 by Canon Guillaume de Beaufort-Spontin and enlarged by his brother Philippe in 1770, the gardens are set on walled terraces on the left bank of the Meuse. They offer views towards the woods to the north and towards the Meuse to the east, and their peace and serenity contrast with the naked rockface on the far bank.
Ponds and fountains babble on the lower level where orange trees spread their delicate perfume. Most of them are 350 years old. The trees came to Freÿr in the first part of the 18th century from Lunéville, the residence of the Duke of Lorraine. They are the oldest trees in cases in Europe. The wooden cases are still built according to the original design. The oldest orangery of the Low Countries (early 18th century) combines elegance and simplicity.
The upper level is covered by hedge mazes (6 km) that unveil their mysteries one by one: a set of patterns inspired by card game figures, a theme also present in the terra cotta statues made by Cyfflé.
At the very top of the gardens, the Rococo pavilion commands the view on the Meuse and seduces by its delicate stucco decoration, based on the theme of fertility with cornucopia and Tritons.
The right bank of the Meuse is dominated by cliffs (more than 100 m high), from which one has an exceptional view of the estate.
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.