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Rakvere castle

Location: N59° 20` 52.0", E26° 21` 7.99" | Website: rakverelinnus.ee

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At the end of prehistoric times there was a wooden stronghold built to protect Estonian settlement on the present Vallimägi, at the top of 25-metre hill. The name of the stronghold was Tarvanpää ( Aurochs' Head) and it was the main stronghold in Viru county at that time. In the 13th century, the stronghold belonged to the King of Denmark. Danes replaced the wooden stronghold with the stone one and by the mid-14th century there was a Danish-built curtain wall castle on Vallimägi Hill.

After the beginning of the St. George’s Night Uprising, the landlords of Harju and Viru placed themselves under the protection of the Livonian Order, and from May 1343, Rakvere Castle belonged to the Livonian Order. The longest period was the age of the Order. At that time Rakvere Castle was extensively rebuilt. Even the semi-circular cannon tower (rondel) was built near the main gate. The age of the Order in the castle lasted until July 1558 when the Russians took over the castle without meeting any resistance because there were only 11 men able to fight in the castle at that very moment. So the bailiff of the castle took his things and fled to Tallinn. Russians built a new line of fortifications around the castle, using stones broken from the citizens’ houses and the Franciscan monastery. In 1577, the “Livonian Hannibal” Ivo Schenkenberg was taken prisoner by the Russians at Rakvere Castle. He was the man who led a small troop of Estonians against Russian army. He was taken to Pskov and brutally executed by personal orders of Tsar Ivan IV. In March 1581, the Swedish army, led by Pontus de la Gardie, took the castle back from the Russians. Swedish soldiers used 'hot cannonballs' to burn down wooden buildings inside the fortification. After some days additional forces arrived and then Russians surrendered. Twenty years later in Polish-Swedish War, the castle was partly blown up by the Polish in 1605, and later by the Swedes. During the Northern War the castle was burnt down again. So it has lain in ruins ever since. During 17th- 18th centuries the site was used as a quarry. The renovation process of the castle started only in the 20th century. Today over 60, 000 people visit the castle every year, because the museum inside offers a lot of exciting programmes which give knowledge how medieval people lived and how the world view of the people has changed through the centuries. You can get acquainted with the everyday life of a knight, ride, try your hand at shooting a bow or a crossbow, sword fight and pike battle, learn the Code of Chivalry, go through the test of courage. In addition, you can try forging, pottery, minting your own castle coins, make gold and black gunpowder, and many other things. There's an exposition of the castle's history, historical weapons, and Chamber of Torture, Hell and Chamber of Death. 

You can also look for a buried treasure in the castle and meet the ghosts, because according to the old stories, there is a lot of gold hidden in Vallimägi. It is in the 12 barrels. 8 barrels of gold are from the times of Livonian Order, 4 barrels are full of old Swedish gold. How to find it? At first, enter the iron door. Then turn right. There are several big stones. Roll them away and go straight on . Then you see the hole which leads strictly down. Go down. It is also said that there are several underground tunnels which lead people in different directions. The tunnels lead to Haljala church, Toolse castle, Porkuni and Vao manor. The last of the tunnels used to be so large that the carriage with 4 horses could travel there.

When there were archaeological diggings held in the forecourt, the local night guard told people that when he was a young boy, he walked along underground tunnel as far as he reached the sea and heard the sound of the sea waves above his head.  

See also: http://www.rakverelinnus.ee/en