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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jul 12

Hohensalzburg Castle (Castelul Hohensalzburg)

The Hohensalzburg Castle is located in Salzburg, Austria. Constructed on the Festungsberg Mountain in the 12 century by the order of the archbishops of Salzburg, the castle is known at present as the most important landmark of the Austrian city.

The archbishops have seen to the permanent preservation and improvement of the edifice as the centuries went by and because of this, we have today the possibility to gaze on one of the most imposing castle in all of Central Europe.

The castle measures 250 m in length and 120 m in height, being one of the largest medieval castles on the European continent.

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Construction

The construction work began in 1077 and it was designed solely for defensive purposes. This was obvious from the original plan which consisted solely of an outer wall made out of wood. At the time of the Roman Empire, the archbishops began to expand the castle, having in mind the protection of their riches.

Political interests played an important role in the development of the castle, as the archbishops in power had to take into consideration that their enemies might strike them when they least expected. So an accurately constructed fortification was the key in these matters.

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The situation in which the Hohensalzburg Castle was sieged was singular in all of its history. This occurred in 1525, during the Peasants’ War, when workmen (miners, farmers) as well as other townsmen wanted to overturn the power of Prince/Archbishop Matthaus Lang. But they failed in their attemp as the castle could not be taken.

During the Thirty Years’ War, the castle underwent considerable modifications as it was further strenghtened so as to better serve its defense purpose.

Beginning from the late 19th century, Hohensalzburg was subjected to several restoration works and step by step transformed into an important tourist attraction.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the castle was used as a jail in which prisoners of WWI (mostly Italians) and Nazi activists were kept locked.

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Structure

The castle is equipped with a courtyard and is consists of multiple wings. It is impossible to accurately describe the various rooms in just a few words as the description would not do them justice. But this article will give insight into some of the chambers located in Hohensalzburg Castle.

In the latter years of the 15th century, the third floor of the Castle was constructed and it consisted of beautiful apartments rooms which were meant for celebrations and official events. The archbishops found accomodation at the first floor, so by no means were they to dwell at the third floor.

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Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach wanted to enlarge the construction even more so he had 4 colossal columns added on the right sight of the castle and used them in the construction of a veranda.  The majority of the rooms had the ceiling in the shape of a sunken panel, divided into squares. In the middle of each of the squares, the architects added gilded buttons, which were meant recall of the sky dotted with shining stars.

The Golden Hall, as this room is named, has a long beam sustaining the ceiling. The reason for which this precise detail is mentioned is that the beam traverses the entire length of the ceiling, measuring 17 m, but more importantly it has several coats of arms painted on it. The escutcheons belong to the Holy Roman Empire, to the Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach, as well as to the most dominant German cities and dioceses that were in one way or another linked to Salzburg.

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Golden Chamber

There is one room which stands out from all the others: the Golden Chamber – and this is due to the splendid furnishes that are found here. On both sides of the room, near the walls, one can find benches artistically adorned with elements pertaining to the natural world, more precisely to the plant and animal life. Thus we can find grapes, shrubbery, vines, as well as details from the fauna.

Initially, the benches were sheltered either by leather or by different types of fabrics, but these coverings have not lived to see our time.  The walls also used to be decorated with leather drapery, but the interesting part was that the leather was covered in gold. However, this as well, did not manage to survive the passage of time.

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Bedchamber

The bedchamber is the most intimate room of a dwelling; this is an accurate statement regardless of the century in which it is uttered. So the bedchamber in the Hohensalzburg Castle is the most intimate room of the fortress.

Unfortunately, the original elements which constituted this room were subsituted in time by more contemporary ones. But there is a reminder of the glorious past: the plastering on the wall which is richly adorned, thus emphasizing the status of the person dwelling in that particular room. The superior part still bears the original elements of decoration: golden buttons and emblems, but the inferior part is unembellished. It is improbably that this was left as such, so the only valid explanation is that this particular segment had velvet, leather or some sort of textile emboidery on it that did not survived to our days.

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So the answer to the question: ‘Why is this a must-see tourist attraction?’ is obvious. The Castle reigns over the city from its high position on the Festungsberg Mountain, offering a breathtaking view of Salzburg.

The castle bear historical and cultural significance, giving tourists the opportunity to retrieve to a certain extent the past. More so, there is a museum located within the castle which is opened for visitations all year long. This is equipped with audio guides in the most widely used languages so you will have to problem comprehending that which is explained to you.