Toompea Castle is situated on the steep limestone hill in the central part of Tallinn. The first wooden castle is believed to have been built on the hill in either the 10th or 11th century by residents of the ancient Estonian county of Rävala. It was probably one of the first inhabited areas of what later became Tallinn. In 1219, the castle was taken over by Danish crusaders - led by Valdemar II. According to a legend very popular among Danes, the very first flag of Denmark (Dannebrog) fell from the sky during a critical stage of the Battle of Lyndanisse, fought near the castle, resulting in Danish victory over Estonians. The current castle is mainly constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The castle is one of the most potent symbols of the reigning power, which over the centuries has been conquered by various nations. According to the Altmark peace treaty of 1629, Estonian territories went to the king of Sweden. In 1583–1589 a new ceremonial building, the State Hall building, was erected on Toompea. It was located against the western wall between Tall Hermann tower and the convent building.
In 1710 the ownership of Toompea went from the Swedes to the Russian Czarist Empire. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great ordered the construction of the Estonian Government Administration building in the east side of the fortress; it was completed in 1773.
On 24 February 1918, Estonia became an independent state. From 1920 until 1922, according to the plans of the architects Eugen Habermann and Herbert Johansen, the building of the Parliament (Riigikogu) was built in the castle courtyard. The expressionist design of the building makes it unique among the parliament buildings of the world. In 1935, the palatial south wing was built on the south side, copying the style of the Government Administration building, and the Governor's Garden was laid out in appropriate design.
The Toompea castle and the surrounding old town are is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Nineteen of the original sixty six defense towers are survived. The old town is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The castle is open to the public with no charge. There are also guided services available.
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.