Due to its strategic location, the castle hill in Rofaza has been settled since antiquity. It was an Illyrian stronghold until it was captured by the Romans in 167 BC. The 19th-century German author and explorer Johann Georg von Hahn suggested that the ancient and medieval city of Shkodër was located immediately south of the Rozafa hill, between the hill and the confluence of Buna and Drin. The fortifications, as they have been preserved to date, are mostly of Venetian origin. The castle has been the site of several famous sieges, including the siege of Shkodra by the Ottomans in 1478 and the siege of Shkodra by the Montenegrins in 1912. The castle and its surroundings form an Archaeological Park of Albania.
The castle comprises of three main courtyards, making it easily navigable. Once you enter the fortified 15th-century main entrance, you come to a first courtyard, where the 4th-century tract of the Illyrian wall, the oldest structure in the castle grounds, is found. Along the first courtyard, you’ll also find medieval ruins of cisterns, the towers of the Balshaj, and the former Venetian residences.
In the second courtyard are the ruins of the Church of St. Stephen, which is now a mosque, and is certainly deserving some special attention. Originally the church was built in the romantic style commonly found between the 13th and 15th centuries, and was later transformed into the Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, between the 16th and 19th centuries. During this time, the Catholic population abandoned the castle, as the space came to be used as a military base.
Today, the ruins of this church-mosque, which was ultimately abandoned in 1865, symbolize the passage of history that ran through Albania. The third and final courtyard of the castle holds a three-story Venetian building, known as the “Capitol”, which served as the residence of the Venetian ruler. Inside this building, the Castle of Shkodra Museum tells of the 4000-year-old castle, including the most renowned medieval families of the city. Information about the castle is provided in Albanian and English.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.