What isn’t there to love? Tallinn, the largest city in Estonia, has a small but very well preserved Old Town at its core. From the Town Hall Square, cobblestone streets wind their way to the 2.5 kilometre perimeter of defensive walls and towers. The streets are lined with churches and pastel buildings (and the expected knickknack shops and overpriced restaurants).
Town Hall (with the spire) from 1404
Estonia has been invaded many times. But if you look at its strategic position and coastline, it shouldn’t surprise you.
Vabamu, the Museum of Occupations and Freedoms, covers the period from 1941 to 1991 while Germany and then the Soviet Union occupied Estonia. It tells the stories of torture, famine, 80,000 people leaving as refugees and over 30,000 deported to Siberia or killed.
I found the part about establishing their country again after independence very interesting. They now had a significant part of the population who identified as Russian, and they had to figure out how they fit in (like, would Russian be an official language?) as well as what kind of economic structure they wanted.
There has been a settlement at this location for over 5,000 years. The oldest buildings are some of the defence towers.
Kiek in De Kök (1483), German for ‘peek in the kitchen’, was named from a legend about some soldiers who peeked in the nearby kitchens. It now has a museum inside.
Next to it is Maiden Tower (1370) then Stable Tower (1380) on the end.
Invaded by the Danes, then the Swedes, then the Danes again, Russia and Germany many times. They also were severely hit by the plague twice and cholera.
There are many more towers around the town with very well preserved sections of the town wall.
The current invaders are the cruise shippers…
Lots of churches, many of which were from 1233 on, but were burnt, rebuilt, added on.
My hotel room is the top arch window on the left blue building. Walls are two feet and it doesn’t help wifi at all!
I did leave the Old Town to visit Kumu, the Estonian Art Museum. I got to use my transit pass I purchased at the airport when I arrived (5 days for €6). I also used it to find the bus terminal to buy my ticket for Pärnu.
Love figuring out public transit but the night before I left, it had the last laugh. They were putting up barricades for the marathon, and I discovered my tram didn’t run from 8 to 11, and my bus was 11. I was going to get away from the Old Town and find a taxi, but ended up walking the 30 minutes with two young Russian women.
The art museum Kumu is in Kadriorg Park along with the palace.
Not everything is old here. Shops are filled with modern Scandinavian style items, there are huge post-Soviet shopping malls, and their IT (information technology) is known internationally.
And the food! You can find vegan and any nationality you want, but still lots of black bread and grilled flounder in cellars
But also Italian on the street
And vegetarian spicy chickpeas with baked sweet potato
Pärnu was a 1.5 hour ride on a very nice bus, with the best wifi I’ve seen so far. Having no stone walls does help!
It is known as the ‘summer capital’ as the population heads to the beach. But even on a warmish September Sunday, it is a ghost town.
Businesses are empty or closed for the season, but I enjoyed the quiet after the intensity of Tallinn.
Deserted beachside hotel
I said goodbye to Viveka and Hilda in Goteborg before flying here. Now I’m on my own for three months for a tour through the Baltics, Istanbul and Greece.
Next, a 2.5 hour trip to Riga, Latvia for five days.