Mar 12

Azov Fortress (Cetatea Azov)

There are many touristic attractions throughout Eastern Europe worth mentioning, but all will be tackled in due time. For the time being we will focus our attention towards Russia, and more precisely, towards a town situated 16 kilometers off the coast of the Azov Sea. The name of the town is actually Azov, due to its close proximity to the mentioned sea.

What is it that makes this town enter our list of ‘places you ought to visit’? Probably it has something to do with its historical background. Many peoples have settled on this land and each had had its influence on the way in which the landscape changed throughout the years.

Azov Fortress

But the ones who we are going to mention in this particular article are the Ottomans, due to the fact that their control over the area in the latter years of the 15th century (1471) had led to the appearance of an imposing fortress, the Azov Fortress. This is actually the touristic attraction on which this article revolves.

The construction was erected with the purpose of hindering the Don Cossacks from invading the Ottoman Empire and from gaining control over the Black Sea, which represented an important trading instrument.

Of course, this particular aspect did not impede the former from attempting to attain their goal and that is to crush the Turks and gain control over the area. Thus, the fortress was the main target due to the fact that it was a well fortified construction in which the rivals could resist for time on end against their attackers. Azov Fortress witnessed a great number of battles and if you are interested in finding out more about the turnout of each of the mentioned clashes, you should definitely look into the subject. But for the time being, we will turn to the reasons for which you should definitely visit this less known part of Russia.

Azov

There is no doubt that Russia has many tourist attractions and that most of them are located in Moscow and Sankt Petersburg, but a tourist interested in comprehending the entire history of a given country and in visiting even the most secluded places in order to gain insight into the development of a specific place, will not think twice before embarking in a ‘quest of discovery’.

To put it in simpler words, the fortress had changed many hands throughout time, only to be ceded to the Russian government at the end of the 18th century when the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji was signed (the peace treaty signed at the end of the first Russo-Turkish Wars in 1774).

The Old Fortress of Azov

But enough about historical facts. Tourists will be pleased to hear that the climate of the region is characterized by mild precipitations and that the weather is relatively good. Even if the time of the year in which they decide to travel to Azov is relevant, the temperature is not the same as in other parts of Russia. The summers are very warm and while winters are cold, they are by no means comparable to the other areas where extremely low temperatures recorded.

Many legends revolve around the fortress and more particularly around the cellar, where it is said that the Ottoman Empire used to preserve its outstanding riches.

In the 20th century, the fortress was declared a cultural monument and the City Council took all the measures to preserve the remnants of the glorious past, especially since the construction was such an artful depiction of military engineering development. Thus, the fortress, with the cellar, gates, walls and ditches that had survived the passage of time, was declared a monument and restoration was initiated. The goal was to preserve the ancient structure for the posterity.

The Entrance Gate- Azov

The cellar was reconditioned and passed on into the patrimony of the historical museum. When Azov celebrated its 900th birthday, the City Council organized a special event in which all the important battles of Azov were reenacted with the help of an exhibition organized by the Russian artist Arseny Chernyshov.

The authenticity of the exhibition was remarkable and the fact that the fortress was preserved so well until this day it can only mean one thing: that tourists are given the possibility to indulge themselves with a piece of historical recollection. So do not hesitate to visit this unique monument.

Sep 21

Golubac Fortress (Cetatea Golubac)

The Golubac Fortress is an important tourist attraction located in Serbia. The history behind the edifice together with the impressive natural surrounding have contributed extensively to the way in which the fortress has established itself as a valuable touristic site located in Serbia.

The position it occupies offers a breathtaking view of the Danube River, but the moment it was constructed, the only thing that mattered was the strategic position it held. Built around the 14th century, the fortress is situated in the southern part of the Danube, at approximately 4 kilometers of the town of Golubac.

http://www.suvenirisrbije.com

The edifice was constructed in three stages – one dedicated to each of the 3 parts which form the Golubac Fortress, and contains 10 towers and 2 portcullises.

The historical background of the fortress is definitely worth looking into. Even before the stronghold was erected, the site  was inhabited by Romans. The Middle Ages were a tumultuous period in the history of the fortress as it became the battlefield of many wars, the most frequented oponents being the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. In time, the fortress had changed many masters, having been owned by Turks, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Serbians and Austrians.

http://www.likesbooks.com

At present, Golubac is visited by tourists coming from all over the world. It is situated right near the Romanian border and it marks the entrance to the Derdap National Park. The historical past of the fortress is actually shrouded in mystery. Even if there is certain evidence about the development and evolution of the fortress, there are still certain details which remain unknown even to this day. For instance, it is ambiguous who the founders of the edifice are. Should the construction of the fortress be attached to the Serbian or to the Hungarian population? And how many towers were there originally? These are only two of the questions which might never find their answer.

The exact moment when the construction work began cannot accurately be established, but the first time the fortress was mentioned was in 1335 when it is said to have been occupied by the Hungarian military.

http://www.balkantravellers.com

Golubac Fortress has experienced certain modifications throughout time. For instance, the towers were actually constructed as squares which meant only one thing: that at the time when the fortress was built, and for years to come after that, the battlefield was conquered with swords. Only when the firearm was invented, did the structural design of the edifice shifted. The towers were ‘upgraded’ so to speak in order to contain within their walls cannons, but more importantly, there were alterations conducted to the walls in order to allow the combatants to fire at their opponents.

Nine towers measure 20-25 meters in height, while the tenth, the cannon tower, is the shortest of them all and it has been created with the purpose of controlling the traffic on the Danube River. The oldest tower of the fortress has been nicknamed ‘Hat Tower’ consists of an octagonal base. The towers vary in terms of the shape they have at the base. While the second tower to the west is circular, the third is square, as well as the fourth and the fifth.

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One of the towers, the 4th one, contains an Orthodox chapel within its walls.  The interesting thing about this is that the chapel seems to have been erected the same time as the tower, not that it had been constructed at a later date. As time went by and as the fortress fell prey to the decaying process that naturally instills itself with the passage of time, restoration work was initiated with the purpose of enforcing the structure. As a result, some of the towers had had their square base improved.

Golubac Fortress bears a significant value not only to the Serbian history, but to the historical past of the world as important battles have been carried out here. Due to the historical events it had witnessed throughout time, the Golubac Fortress had been recognized as a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance back in 1979, becoming a protected monument under the State of Serbia.

Aug 30

Kamyanets-Podilsky (Orasul Kamyanets-Podilsky)

Whenever a majestic town, monument or item necessitates an accurate description, words seem to fail us. Because there are certain things that cannot be put into words, either because the striking beauty of that specific thing cannot find its way into our vocabulary, or because the way in which something presents itself before us instills a certain feeling, a certain emotion which cannot be expressed.

This is the situation one will find himself/herself in if ever visiting the town Kamyanets-Podilsky. The Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrayinka had find the perfect simile to describe the ancient fortress that reigns over the city with the same name : “a stone flower on the rock,” thus alluding to the position the citadel occupies but also to the immense beauty of the edifice which seems to have sprung from the ground.

http://ua-traveling.com

The Kamyanets-Podilsky fortress had been constructed in the 12th century, but the original edifice was not preserved as such, but was enhanced in time, having eventually been trasformed into the impressive stronghold that appears before us today. Thus it can accurately be said that the keep evolved in the same way as society. Imediately as a new form of defence mechanism was developed, the fortress was equiped with it.

What is it that draws us near to Kamyanets-Podilsky? Could it be the mysterious feel of it, as if something hidden to the eye dwells beneath the shadows of the fortified walls of the citadel or does it have something to do with the sensation one gets, that of transcending the present, and traveling back in time and space? It is as if entering a different world and it is precisely this aspect that attracts tourists from all over the world. The medieval town is endowed with an ancient Roman bridge which has been constructed more than 200 years ago, a Gothic city hall, towers and various churches. There is one tower which might capture your attention, probably because you have never seen such a turret anywhere else in the world. This fortification is adorned with the sculptural representation of the Virgo, which is placed right at the top of the tower.

http://www.drokpa.com

 

With such decorative elements, it is no wonder that you feel transposed into the medieval times. In fact, Kamyanets-Podilsky is among the oldest cities in Ukraine. There are no actual historical accounts which accurately retrace the formation of the fortified city. This could only mean one thing: that there was room for interpretation, based on the scarce official information found in archieves.  For instance, there is one legend which says that 4 brothers had gone hunting and that, after spotting a deer, they had followed it until reaching the site of present-day Kamyanets-Podilsky.

http://www.flickr.com

 

Legend has it that the four brothers were so mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape that they had decided to put the basis of a city in that exact location. The legend is connected to the historical past in the sense that the four characters mentioned were said to have been the nephews of the Grand Duke Olgerd of Lithuania. But if we were to analyze the accuracy of this story, we would soon discover that there are several discrepancies, and thus we can draw a line between fact and fiction. The Grand Duke was in fact a historical figure, but the archeological diggings concluded that the medieval town of Kamyanets was built much earlier, before the period in which the duke lived.

There are several other legends which circulate in respect to the foundation of the city, but none can be taken for granted entirely. It would be nice to know how did Kamyanets came into being, but maybe this lack of information is another aspect which contributes to the mystery that revolves around the town, maintaing the enigmatic, yet authentic feel it conveys.

Aug 30

Lida Castle (Castelul Lida)

Lida Castle has been constructed at the beginning of the 14th century by the order of the Grand Duke Gediminas who intended to protect his lands regardless of the price paid. His worry for a possible invasion was natural taking into account that the Teutonic Knights were looking to develop and enhance their properties.

In fact, Lida Castle is but a part in the defense mechanism developed by the duke. The system consisted of various fortifications erected in the towns of Hrodna, Medininkai, Navahrudak, Kreva and Trakai.

The castle is strategically positioned as it is naturally defended on two sides, the eastern and the western parts, by the Lida and Kamenka rivers. The stone walls of the fortifications were erected between 1323 and 1325, this timeframe also being characterized by the construction of two towers and a church.

http://infmir.ru

Despite his strong desire to defend his lands, the Grand Duke did not succeed to fulfill his goal as the castle fell under the ruling of the Teutonic Knights two times: in 1384 and then in 1392.

The history of the castle is quite tumultuous in the sense that the fortification was ravaged by the destructive forces of warfare on many occasions. Thus, it was pillaged by the Crimean Tatars in the first years of the 16th century and then later on, in the second half of the 17th century, by the Russian soldiers (during the Russo-Polish War).

Probably the most important event which was extremely detrimental to the castle consisted of the time when it was taken over by the Swedish soldiers, who had decided to destroy the two guarding towers.

Near the end of the 19th century, the Lida Castle caught fire and the result was that several dwellings were destroyed. In order to help with the rebuilding process of these lodgings, it had been agreed upon “dismantling” the western wall rock by rock. This was meant to provide easy access to the houses destroyed by fire and thus accelerate their restoration.

http://angelofdiscernment.blogspot.ro

 

After the 1900s, the scope of the fortification shifted 360°. The location was used by wandering circuses and zoos, having been transformed into an entertainment center, the fact that it represented an important historical site seemed to have gone out of everyone’s mind.

The restoration work for the castle was initiated as late as 1982 and while several sections were rebuilt, having regained their former appearance, the real renovation took place in 2010, when the castle was significantly improved.

Since it recovered its former glory, the castle has been steadily and surely transformed into a real cultural institution. There is a medieval tournament organized on an annual basis and at present, tourists can visit the museum which has been arranged inside the remaining tower of the castle.

http://www.belarus.by

It is important to accurately depict the value of this castle. As the previous paragraphs clearly underline, Lida Castle is extremely rich in historical events, everything that had happened throughout time at this site contributed to defining the Belarusian evolution, and more precisely the development of the town of Lida.

Why has this specific castle become such a renowned tourist attraction? Because the municipality knew precisely how to promote the fortification so as to allure tourists and convince them to pay Lida a visit. For instance, in the wintertime, the courtyard of the castle is modified so as to favor ice skating.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

It can be concluded that the castle incorporates both the past and the present. While the edifice in itself stands for the historical times, the events organized with regularity within the castle are representative for the present, thus attracting visitors with their entertaining activities.

At present, Lida Castle is protected by the state, having been declared an archeological monument back in 1940, and having been listed among the monuments which form the state heritage in 1953.

Aug 01

The Mir Castle (Castelul Mir)

The Mir Castle is located in the Belarusian city, Mir, and it is a unique monument which harmoniously comprises architectural elements of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Due to its distinctive architecture, as well as to the historical past (having witnessed various military confrontations), the Mir Castle is listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Program.

The architectural design conveyed to the castle is the result of the different stages of construction to which the citadel was subjected. The edifice began being built in the final years of the 15th century and followed the Gothic structural design. But in the second half of the 16th century the castle came under the hands of Mikołaj Radziwiłł, who added the finishing touches to the castle.

http://www.belarus.by

 

The initial architectural style was not extended to include the final work, Radziwiłł turning to the Renaissance style instead. This project consisted of building a 3-storey palace in the north-eastern part of the castle, right near the walls. The façade of the citadel was adorned by means of balconies, porches, and porticoes done in marble, granite and sandstone.

But the citadel was later on left to chance for almost a century, time in which it underwent a decaying process. Substantial damage was further inflicted during the Napoleonic era, but there came a time when restoration was possible – in the latter part of the 19th century.

http://www.ermaktravel.com

 

But the newly refurbished castle endured damaging experiences during World War II when the Nazis occupied the region and used the castle for accommodation purposes. In such a tumultuous period, when the nation was driven by war, you can only imagine that the residents of the castle did not care much about preserving the castle. Consequently, the interior was badly affected.

In terms of structure, it is worth mentioning that the edifice was surrounded by walls which comprised defense towers in each corner and a trench filled with water as a means to protect the castle. In order to beautify the site, an Italian garden was organized to the north and an artificial lake, opposed it to the south.

http://www.data.minsk.by

 

At present, tourists can gaze on one of the most beautiful castles found on the European continent. Due to the impressive restoration work conducted, the castle was reopened for visitations in the last month of 2010. But even so, the works has not ceased. There are several projects underway which aim at restoring the Italian garden, as well as the English park. It is estimated that the finishing touches will take place as late as 2013. It is admirable that the officials have realized the importance of the edifice and have initiated this elaborate plan to refurbish the castle because by doing so, they preserve alive a portion of the past.

Tourists should know that it is not difficult to reach this site. Mir Castle is located within 90 km of Minsk which basically means that you can find accommodation in the capital city of Belarus and you can take a one-day trip to Mir in order to visit the citadel.

Apr 18

Trascau Fortress (Cetatea Trascau)

Those interested in historical facts would definitely want to visit Trascau Fortress. This is a medieval fortification, built somewhere around 1296 by the sub-voivode Thoroczkay. The construction also goes by the name Coltesti Fortress, especially since it is located in Coltesti Village, from Alba County. This was built for defense purposes, as well as a refuge in times of turmoil when the region was pillaged by Tatar armies.

http://www.panoramio.com

The fortress had been devastated by enemies once before, so the people of Trascau decided to rebuilt the citadel on a hilltop – the location being chosen in purpose on a steep calcareous rock so as to make it harder for invaders to take control of it.

History

The fortress had been confiscated by Matei Corvin in 1470 and left in the care of the Transylvania Voivodeship, but after 40 years it returns to the Thoroczkay (Trascau) family. The fortress suffered immense damage in 1514 when the peasants led by Gheorghe Doja pillaged the citadel. But the Austrian Imperial Army, led by General Tiege, was the one to devastate the fortress almost in its entirety in 1713. The armed confrontation was a consequence of the fact that the Thoroczkay noblemen refused to join Transylvania and the Habsburg Empire.

http://cartitaplimbareata.ro

At present, only two towers and a significant part of the lateral walls are preserved. However, on the northern tower (which exceeds 20 meters in height) visitors can still read the inscription which attributes the construction of the fort to the Thoroczkay family.

Trascau Fortress has been recorded among the Historical Monuments of Alba County, a list issued by the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Cults in 2004.

http://goia-bogdan.blogspot.com

Even if the keep has not maintained its original structure, tourists can still make out the towering edifice. The ruins of Trascau Fortress and the overall scenery will transpose any visitor to those historical times. One cannot help but feel respect and admiration for the historical past written in the walls of the fortification.