Wednesday, January 11, 2012

TALLINN, ESTONIA

(*Note: I realized I have two more posts to do on our Russia/Scandinavia trip.  Rewind to last summer . . . )
If you had asked me a year ago where Estonia is, I would have said, "Is that a country or a city?"  Now I know that Estonia is one of the three Baltic States (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) and is slightly larger than Switzerland.  Its language is related to Finnish, and the Estonian people are distantly related to the Finns, but not to any other of their neighbors.

Estonia was conquered and ruled by the Teutonic Knights in the 14th Century, and there is a definite German flavor to the architecture of the city.  The dominant religion is Lutheran, although there is evidence of Russian rule as well, which began in 1710.  Estonia was liberated after World War I, but then returned to Russia in the 1939 dirty deal between HItler and Stalin.  Its independence was finally restored in a bloodless revolution, part of the amazing chain of events that occurred in the Eastern Bloc in 1991, and since then tourism has been booming.

Tallinn, the capital city, has a population of about 1.3 million and has been called the Silicon Valley of the Baltic Sea, which is amazing considering where they were 20 years ago.

We were on our own in Tallinn, and so we hoped for the blessing of this angel who greeted us as we entered the city:
The Russalka statue, erected in 1902 to pay
tribute to 177 men who lost their lives when
their ship by that name went down in a storm in 1893.
We bought tickets for one of those "hop on, hop off" tour buses to take us around the city, and the first area we saw was the business district, which looked clean and new.  No remnants of Soviet architecture here!
I loved this building covered with letters, and wonder what it housed. A newspaper office, perhaps? Maybe a publishing company?

Awesome graffiti.  Isn't this a great word?
For a few minutes, I thought we might be in LA, where this style of limo can often be seen:
And hey! Look! Here's my sweet little RAV 4!
One look at the street signs, however, and I'm glad we're not trying to drive our car around this city.

We got off the bus at the Toompea Castle, seat of the Estonian Parliament . . .
 . . . and made our way to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  Wait.  Are we in RUSSIA?

This cathedral was built in the late 1800s when Russia ruled and dominated the Baltic States.  As a symbol of oppression, the Estonians hated it so much that they planned to demolish it in the 1920s, but the building is so big and they were so poor that it never happened.  After they achieved their independence for the second time in 1991, they began to restore it, a process still going on today.


It is beautiful inside, and made me feel as if I had been teleported back to Russia:

Looking up at the interior of one of the onion domes.


A water tank for drinking and feet washing?


After drinking in all the gilded icons and the beautiful colors, we came across a much more subdued church, the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin:

For a mere five euro, tourists can have the privilege of climbing a narrow, wood and stone staircase to the top to get a panoramic view of the city. Of course, we had to do it.

The 360-degree view from the top was pretty spectacular:



We moved on to St. Olaf's Church, the tallest building in Estonia and once the tallest building in the world (from 1549 to 1625).  The steeple used to be over 520 feet tall, but it got hit by lightning EIGHT TIMES, and the church has burned down three times. Now it is just over 400 feet tall.  Even at this shorter height, it was tall enough for the the KGB to use it as a radio tower and surveillance point. Too bad we couldn't climb up this tower!

The inside of the church was relatively simple and very elegant

Back outside again, we were enjoying strolling along the cobblestone streets . . .
. . . when out of nowhere a heavy downpour hit us. For a while we huddled in a covered section of a narrow alley that was ringing with laughter, especially when it started to hail.
We had no choice but to find a nice restaurant where we could wait out the storm:

Yeah, it was really tough.

After a while the rain stopped and we were back outside exploring.
We found the beautiful, colorful Old Town square . . .
. . . complete with City Hall:
I loved this barbershop sign.

Time was up.  We made our way back to the ship, passing a fortress . . .
and these cute sheep in a pasture by the sea . . .


. . . and STOPPING by this man's crepe-making stall:
We can never resist a crepe.  Savory for Bob. . .

. . . and sweet for Judy:

And Judy can never resist trying an assortment of the native chocolate:

Ah, Tallinn, we hope to visit you again someday.

3 comments:

  1. What an interesting place! Quite the contrast between the modern business area and the old city.

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  2. I really enjoyed old Tallinn and the lunch we had there was one of the best we had. Hope we can get to the other Baltic countries.

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  3. Fun to head back to the tromping aronnd Europe--I keep adding placed I want to go to! Lovely--just lovely.

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