Nestled at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains in the picturesque town of Sinaia, Peleș Castle is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture, considered by many one of the most stunning castles in Europe.
When King Carol I of Romania (1839–1914) visited the location on which the beautiful castle now stands, he was amazed by the stunning scenery of the Carpathian Mountains that surround it. The construction of Peleș Castle was commissioned by King Carol, and on August 22, 1873, the foundations were laid in the form of a hunting house and a summer retreat for the Romanian royal family. The castle was designed by the German architect Johannes Schultz in a Neorenaissance style that combined numerous features of classic European styles. Construction saw a slight slowdown during the Romanian War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1877–78, but soon afterwards the plans grew in size and construction was quite rapid. Completed in 1883, the castle served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947.
After King Michael I's forced abdication in 1947, the Communist regime seized all royal property, including the Peleș Estate. The castle was opened as a tourist attraction for a short time. It also served as a recreation and resting place for Romanian cultural personalities. The castle was declared a museum in 1953. Nicolae Ceaușescu closed the entire estate between 1975 and 1990, during the last years of the Communist regime.
After the December 1989 Revolution, Peleş and Pelişor Castle were re-established as heritage sites and opened to the public.
By form and function, Peleş is a palace, but it is consistently called a castle. Its architectural style is a romantically inspired blend Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival similar to Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. A Saxon influence can be observed in the interior courtyard facades, which have allegorical hand-painted murals and ornate fachwerk similar to that seen in northern European alpine architecture.
Peleş Castle has a 3,200-square-metre floor plan with over 170 rooms, many with dedicated themes from world cultures. The furniture in the Music Room is carved of teak, a gift to King Carol I from the Maharajah of Kapurtala in India, while handmade silk embroideries adorn the ceiling and walls of the Turkish Salon. The ceiling paintings and decorative frescoes in the Theater Hall were designed by the renowned Austrian artists Gustav Klimt and Frantz Matsch.Over 4,000 European and Oriental pieces dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries are on display in the armories. Peleș Castle shelters a painting collection of almost 2,000 pieces.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.