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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 24

Brest Fortress (Fortareata Brest)

The Brest Fortress is officially known as Brest-Litovsk Fortress and it is strategically situated near the Polish border, at the site where the rivers Bug and Mukavet meet. In its early days the fortress was one of the most remarkable military citadels in all of Russia but today it has been transformed into a commemorative monument which stands for the Soviet resistance in front of the German invasion – a battle which took place on the 22nd of June, 1941.


The fortress was built between 1836 and 1842 by three military engineers Opermann, Maletzky and Feldmann, but the plan of the edifice was developed by Delovan, another military engineer, in 1836. History has it that the entire project was in effect a colossal undertaking as it meant moving a great part of the Brest town further to the east (with a couple of kilometers).


The plan was extremely bold and none considered that would ever see the light of day. The focal point of the fortification was the citadel, a construction consisting of two stories and which was designed to hold 12.000 soldiers within its walls.

The Brest Fortress underwent two consolidation works: one occurred between 1878 and 1888, and the second between 1911 and 1914. The reason for which the fortress is seen as a memorial monument is because of the will with which the people have defended their city. They have resisted in front of the German army for many weeks even if they were outnumbered and even if they had fewer weapons.


After the German invasion, nothing remained from the Brest Fortress except ruins. In 1960, the Soviet authorities have decided to erect a monument on the ruins of the fortress in order to commemorate the courageousness of the people that have fought against the Germans in that fatidic day. The construction received the title of “Hero Fortress” in 1965 and the same year the construction work for a memorial was initiated – which was completed in 1971.


Tourists who visit the fortress will also have the chance to see several monumental sculptures, which have been specially ordered for the adornment of the site. One of the most impressive ones is a massive silhouette called “Thirst” which is representative for “the thirst for life, battle and victory.”


The Brest Fortress has a stellar shape. The citadel, the epicenter of the fortification, is built out of red bricks and consists of 500 rooms. The original structure of the edifice counted 4 gates and 4 turrets, but nowadays only two gates stand their ground: the Kholm and the Terespol Gates; everything else lies in ruin.


Three fortifications enclosed the citadel. These were named after three towns: Kobrin, Terespol, and Volyn. The first one, which was shaped as a horseshoe, was the largest one and was situated to the north-east. The Terespol Fortification controlled the western part whereas the Volyn looked over the south eastern area.

The Best Fortress offers a glimpse of Europe’s historical past so if you ever get the occasion to visit this part of the world, do not miss your chance.