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Tallinn, Estonia 
      

June 6

A travel day by bus from Riga, Latvia to Tallinn, Estonia. After settling into Hotel Shnelli, which is a part of the railway station and across the street from Old Town, we went out for an introduction stroll and some dinner.

First impression was most pleasing with winding cobbled streets, a busy central square and street hawkers in period costumes all promising a delightful walking day tomorrow.

June 7

We returned to Old Town, this time through the arched gateway of Fat Margaretís Tower. This stout, round and squat shaped stone tower, built in the 16th century, stands on the northern seaside of the walled city ... the waves lapped up a lot closer in those days. Her 25 metre diameter and 20 metre height was to impress those approaching by sea and earned the name "Fat Margaret". It has been used for storage of gunpowder and weapons and sometimes served as a prison.

Up Pikk (meaning "long") Street we met Three Sisters ... the name given to three adjoining buildings. Today they make up one up-market boutique hotel ... back in 1362 (first mentioned in records), they were merchant houses. Within merchants would live, work and store their goods. The upper floors were used for storage after hoisting the goods up on rope attached to an outstretched wooden post from below the roofís peak and then swung into the upper storey doors (or nowadays windows). In the Middle Ages, Pikk, being the main route through town, was an exciting thoroughfare of noises from animated bartering and horseís hooves; smells of spices, dust, meats and grains (not to mention people whose hygiene back then left much to be improved upon).

Making a leap in time, one ominous-looking grey building with bricked-up basement windows on Pikk was once the single most feared place in the city ... KBG headquarters (using the 13th century St. Olavís Church steeple to send radio transmissions).

During Soviet occupation, perceived enemies of the state were interrogated here. Seldom did they return home; they were either shot or sent to Siberian work camps. A plaque outside translates to "This building housed the organ of repression of the Soviet occupational power. Here began the road to suffering for thousands of Estonians."

Further along on another corner the architecture lightens the mood with a fanciful art nouveau structure of blue and white against the dayís sunny deep blue sky. At the top leftside a professor-type looks through his spectacles with some guarded amusement at the gawking tourists below.

Along twisted cobblestone streets passed little busy bakeries and through arched tunnels which allowed growth of the city above but not impede transport (very much the same as in cities today) we entered the main square of Old Town Tallinn. It is large and if we could imagine the noisy bustle of commerce on Pikk Street, it would probably seem organized chaos here in the square, especially on market day. Four and five storey buildings, many with a German flair (Germans constructed many) line three sides of the square while the fourth side, looking much like a church with its tower, is the town hall.

Today from the base of each building (other than the town hall) spill multi coloured umbrellas providing equally colourful tourists with a shady spot to drink pricier beer than they could get up one of the many streets and alleyways that spoke off this grand square hub.

Taking one of these routes we climbed up the hill and through another wall which divides Old Town into two sections ... Lower Town (where we have been) and Upper Town (where the upper crust used to hang out ... and some still do).

In Upper Town, we took a look at the Russian Orthodox Church with its onion shaped domes and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral where outside old beggar women are smiling one minute and then one bops another over the head with a cane followed by arguments, scowls and tongue lashings.

 

Around the corner of the castle stands Tall Hermann ... Fat Margaretís counterpart in the towered wall ... with the Estonian flag waving free at the top.

Rick Stevesí guide book leads us to a viewpoint where we surveyed the scene below including red tiled roofs of Lower Town, the train station and our hotel (could even see our room window) and beyond to the modern towers of concrete and glass. The centrepiece of Tallinn is undoubtedly Old Town, registered on UNESCOís World Heritage list, but the cityís 400,000 residents arenít so interested in living in the past as much as forging a new Tallinn identity. The future of Tallinn and Estonia and its people is a bright one.

    

We strolled back into Lower Town and to a brewery-pub and sampled a couple of pints from their stock (the brew-master was busy making more) and had a grand visit with some Brits who allowed us to share their outside table.

After wandering around even more ... we returned to the same place we had dinner last night and again sat at an outside table in the alleyway. This time, however, we were treated to an extra .... the inside had been rearranged and there was a flamenco dance rehearsal taking place.

After supper we tiptoed in and up the stairs where we could watch for a bit. We were on our way back down when a fellow approached us selling tickets for the performance which would be getting underway in a few minutes. No ... we were on our way back to our room.

The shadows were again getting long ... but oddly enough the sun seems reluctant to set ... and even at 11:00 dusk was only starting to creep in from the east.

  

June 8

It was an early morning start. We travelled by boat from Tallinn, Estonia to Helsinki, Finland. Great weather and smooth sailing.

 

 

click here to continue June 8  and trip to Helsinki, Finland   ...

     

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