Nidau Castle is the landmark of the city, today housing cantonal administration and the museum. The museum has an interesting exhibit on the Jura water correction.
The first wooden castle on the site was built in 1140, followed by a second one in 1180. The presence of the Nidau castle is first evidenced by a deed dated 30 August 1196, issued by Count Ulrich III of Neuchâtel. The first stone castle was built in the early 13th century. It has a square building of about 11.2 m on each side with walls. The main tower was about 40m tall. The three round towers and the ring wall were probably built in the 13th century. It was surrounded by a moat and by the Zihl river. It was built by either Count Ulrich III or his son, Rudolf I of Nidau. The town of Nidau was founded south of the castle by 1338.
The last count of Nidau, Rudolf IV died in 1375 in a battle in the Gugler War. The next owner of the castle was the Prince-Bishop of Basel, Johann von Venningen. However, he was defeated in 1376 and the Counts of Kyburg acquired the castle. In 1379, Count Rudolf von Kyburg sold the castle and town to the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs then gave the castle as a fief to Enguerrand de Coucy, the former commander of the Guglers, in 1387. During the Sempach War, in May 1388, Swiss Confederation forces from Bern and Solothurn attacked and besieged the town and castle for seven weeks before taking Nidau. The castle was heavily damaged and the Swiss forces suffered heavy losses in the battle. Following the war, the town and castle were awarded to Bern in the peace settlement.
For the next four centuries it was the seat of the Nidau bailiwick. A new gatehouse was built in 1546. Several of the towers were rebuilt in 1587. During the 17th century a residential wing was added to the old main tower. Other ancillary buildings, stables, servants' apartments and a fountain were also added.
After the 1798 French invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic the old bailiwick was Nidau was dissolved. In 1803, the Act of Mediation created the district of Nidau and the castle became the seat of the Oberamtmann of the district. The moat was filled in and portions of the ring wall were demolished. With the Jura water correction projects of 1868, the water level in the river and Lake Biel dropped and the castle was no longer surrounded by water. During the 20th century the castle has been renovated and repaired several times.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.