Palanok Castle in Mukachevo is a powerful fortress, which has repeatedly withstood long sieges. Now the castle hosts the museum of Transcarpathian history and ethnography, and elaborated excursions are held there.
Palanok Castle is built on the 68-meter-high hill with steep slopes, which rises lonely above the city. The hill is a perfect location for a defensive building, and that is why first fortifications appeared here back in the ancient times. The first written mention of Mukachevo Castle is found in the Hungarian chronicle, the Gesta Hungarorum (Latin for «The Deeds of the Hungarians») and dates to the 11th century. The chronicle tells that seeking new lands the united tribes of Ugrians crossed the Carpathian Mountains and established their state, the Kingdom of Hungary.
Mukachevo Castle was one of the key strongholds that Ugrians had to conguer on their way. Having captured Mukachevo Castle, the Ugrians fortified it, turning the place into an impregnable fortress. Neither troops of Polovets khan Kutesk nor hordes of Batu Khan ever managed to capture the castle.
The history of buildings that have survived to our days begins in 1396, when the Lithuanian Prince Fedir Koriatovych, who was a member of the Gedymin dynasty, became the owner of Mukachevo. First, the Prince owned lands of Podillia, but after conclusion of the Union of Krewo in 1386 that united the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with Poland, he joined the opposing coalition, and due to its defeat, he had to leave Podillia. The Prince moved to Hungary and handed his possessions in the Western Ukraine to the Hungarian king, and received land in the Transcarpathian area instead. Having settled in Mukachevo, Fedir Koriatovych reconstructed the castle, transforming it from a battle station into the princely residence. On the top of the Zamkova (Castle) Hill, he built a large palace, encircled by defensive walls with 14 towers. The foot of the mountain was protected by a moat filled with Avater, and the palisade made of oakwood, known as «palanok», hence the name of the castle.
In 1633, Mukachevo Castle was purchased by Dierd (George) Rakotsi I (Rakoczi) with the right of inheritance. Standing for the independence of Hungary, he formed an alliance with France and Sweden, through which he managed to get back almost all off Hungarian lands in 1643. However, under the pressure of the Ottoman Empire he retreated, confined to signing of Lynzer peace treaty, under which he received the title of the imperial prince. Together with his wife Zhuzhana Lorantfi, Prince Rakotsi expanded Mukachevo Castle greatly. The reconstructed palace of Koriatovych Palace became to be called «Upper Castle», and near its foot, there were additional fortification, the Medium and Lower Castles in two terraces. Every part of the castle was fortified by powerful bastions, had a gate leading to it, and was protected by moats. The castle became completely inaccessible and served as a retreat for their owners even when the enemy conguered the rest of the Transcarpathian Region. The enemy never managed to capture it by force.
The next owner of Mukachevo Castle, Dierd Rakotsi II, claimed the Polish throne. For this reason, he formed an alliance with Bohdan Khmelnytskiy. With the support of Cossacks and Swedes he was able to capture Warsaw, but as soon as the allies retreated, the prince had to capitulate. On the way to Mukachevo, his army was ambushed by the Crimean Tatars, who captured and took into slavery about 11,000 of soldiers. His son Ferents I Rakotsi has also failed in his attempts to liberate Hungary from Austrians. He opposed the Habsburgs together with the Croatian ruler, whose daughter he had married.
After the death of Ferents I Rakotsi, his wife Ilona Zriny became the owner of Mukachevo Castle, and the anti-Habsburg rebellion was led by the young Count Imre Tekeli. Soon the Count and the Princess married, thus having joined their efforts for common struggle. The Ottoman Empire became their new ally in the struggle against Austria. The Ottoman army of 90,000 pushed to Vienna and besieged the city in 1683. Imre Tekeli came out to help the Turks. However, the Polish king Jan III Sobieskiy won the Battle of Vienna. Tekeli tried to seal a peace agreement with the winning side, but his former allies Turks took him as a traitor and transferred to Istanbul without the right to leave the city.
Meanwhile, the Austrian army moved to the Transcarpathian Region to suppress the Hungarian rebellion. Soon it was subdued and Mukachevo Castle came under siege. However, the castle was not going to give up. For almost three years (1685 – 1688), the Austrians attacked the walls of the castle in vain. The castle defense was supervised by a woman – Ilona Zriny. She had the infant son, Ferents II Rakotsi, the successor of the princely dynasty. Displaying exemplary patience and courage, the Transylvanian princess became one of the favorite heroes of the Hungarian people. Seeing the impregnability of the castle and the firmness of its ruler, the Austrians resorted to cheating. They sent her a faked letter from Imre Tekeli, allegedly asking to cease resistance. After the castle had surrendered voluntarily, Ilona Zriny with her son were taken to Vienna and then exchanged for the Austrian general and released to Istanbul to meet her husband, where they spent the rest of their lives.
Barely reaching adulthood, Ferents II Rakotsi continued the activity of his parents and allied with the owner of Uzhhorod, Miklosh Bercheni, to raise a new wave of national liberation movement. Having collected sufficient forces in 1704, the rebels seized power in Transylvania, and from 1707, it received a legal status. The freedom lasted until 1711, when his generals capitulated while Ferents II Rakotsi was in Poland. After that, he stayed abroad forever, making a successful literary career, while Mukachevo Castle became a grim prison to political detainees for a long time.