Suomenlinna ("Sveaborg", "Viapori") sea fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Finland’s most popular tourist attractions. The construction of the fortress started by the king of Sweden in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. Suomenlinna was planned to be a principal base for naval military operations and the general responsibility for the fortification work was given to Augustin Ehrensvärd. The construction phase lasted for over four decades. During this time six islands were fortified to provide a safe harbor and dock for the archipelago fleet in Finland.
In the Finnish War (1808-1809) Russians easily took Helsinki in early 1808 and began bombarding the fortress. Its commander, Carl Olof Cronstedt, negotiated a cease-fire, and when no Swedish reinforcements had arrived by May, Suomenlinna surrendered with almost 7,000 men. After taking over the fortress the Russians set about on an extensive building program, mostly extra barracks, but also extending the dockyard and reinforcing to the fortification lines.
During the Crimean War in 1855 a combined Anglo-French fleet bombarded Viapori for two days in August. At this point, the repair work was nowhere near complete, and Viapori sustained heavy damage in the bombardment. The next stage in the arming of Suomenlinna and the Gulf of Finland came in the build-up to World War I. The fortress and its surrounding islands became part of "Peter the Great's naval fortification" designed to safeguard the capital, Saint Petersburg. The fortress became part of an independent Finland in 1917, following the Russian Revolution.
After the Finnish Civil War, a prison camp existed on the island. About 6000 red prisoners were held in Suomenlinna. Many of them were executed by the white army and others died of disease due to the poor conditions in the fortress.
Suomenlinna is today one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki as well as a popular picnicking spot for the city's inhabitants. A number of museums exist on the island, as well as the last surviving Finnish submarine, Vesikko.
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.