We arrived in a hot and sunny Talinn in June 2011. As Estonia is two hours ahead of the UK it was 2pm as we left the plane and definitely warmer than Luton. The weather had forecast clear blue skies and 29°C and they were right. Given that this was the most northerly point on earth I had ever been to this was amazing.
We caught the bus from the airport into the centre of Talinn, then using the map we’d downloaded we followed directions to the hotel, walking the rest of the way (about 30 min). On route we passed an interesting looking church building and factory.
We were staying in Talinn for just 2 nights (a mini-break in celebration of our Wedding Anniversary) and had booked the Domina Ilmarine. We were warmly welcomed by the hotel staff upon our arrival. The room was a typical layout and had air-con which was an absolute must. The hotel had been constructed inside a Machine Works building dating back to 1881. According to the guidebook this was renowned throughout the Russian Empire. Inside this façade the building was modern and comfortable. We certainly liked the large amount of natural light in the hallways.
After a quick shower and change we decided to explore the old town of Talinn. We made our way through the cobbled streets of this UNESCO world heritage site.
Danish King’s Garden.
The Taani Kuninga is of extreme historical importance in Talinn and is believed to have been the actual spot where the Danes first gained their National Flag.
Legends say that the Danish Army, who were fighting in Talinn on 15th July 1219, were starting to lose hope of winning. Suddenly a flag fell from the sky ( a white cross on a red background) and their luck turned. The victory gave the Danes more than 100 years of domination in Talinn and Northern Estonia.
We discovered a very steep staircase cut into the stone wall and were able to walk and along the top of the wall. This gave us some great views over looking the city.
Climbing higher we reached the summit of the hill (Toompea), here there were many viewing platforms allowing for amazing vistas. Talinn’s UNESCO status relates to the historic centre (Old Town) of Tallinn which
is an exceptionally complete and well-preserved medieval northern European trading city on the coast of the Baltic Sea
We were able to see this amazing cityscape contrasted against new Talinn in the distance.
Talinn is known for its amber and on our back into town from Toompea we encountered many outlets.
According to legends amber derived from the rays at sunset that solidified into the depths of the sea. Other legends talk of solidified human tears or strikes of lighting beaten down to earth. Beyond this mythology we know it is actually the fossilised resin from ancient pine trees. Amber is common throughout the Baltic.
Although Amber makes beautiful jewellery we didn’t buy any.
We did see some amazing street signs and art work though.
Eventually we reached the Town Square (Raekoja plats). Talinn was a European City of Culture this year and there was a large stage erected with benched seating where we sat and watched a variety of singing and dancing performances, before returning to our hotel.
We emerged into the warm Estonian evening to seek out a place to have a meal in celebration of our 16th Wedding Anniversary. After a wander we came across the Olde Hansa a themed restaurant offering a Mediaeval Three-course Menu. It was delicious!
After our meal we enjoyed an evening walk through the lower part of the old town. We came across the flower market with its rows of stalls selling beautiful cut blooms. We would like to have bought some but couldn’t have got them home on the plane. We also came across a number of old and brightly painted churches of Nordic style and a monument to the War of Independence (1918-1920) in Freedom Square.
The next morning we decided to book a walking your of the city . Although revisiting done spots from yesterday it gave us new insights as well as new places to see.
Wi-Fi and Statues
After the tour we took the opportunity to grab lunch in a cyber café. The whole of Talinn is geared up for mobile communication and Wi-Fi Hotspots abound. After all Estonia is the home of Skype.
After lunch we took a wander through some gardens repeat with a large number of papier-mâché sculptures.
We decided to learn a little more about the history of Talinn up to the modern-day.
Talinn was an important trading port and part of the Hanseatic League in the Middle Ages. This was a trading block which covered Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Changing hands between various countries (Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland and Russia) Estonia eventually came into Russian hands, before declaring independence in 1914. During the war it was occupied by Nazi Germany and then absorbed into the USSR. Under communism the country suffered but in 1991 it regained independence.
We watched a video of the events leading to independence including the famous 600km human chain in which almost 2 million people linked Talinn, Riga and Vilnius ( capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) in 1989.
We climbed to the top of the tower and saw another impressive view of Talinn. The church inside a mix of old and new. Like our own church kitted out with TV monitors and screens to aid viewing otherwise obscured by pillars. Gas we been in Talinn on a Sunday we would like to have come to a service.
For our second and last evening we went to a modern Jazz restaurant (Clazz). They served great food here and had a live band who were excellent. After our meal we moved into the bar and got a table near the band. We enjoyed the chance to have some drinks and dance to the jazz-funk music until the early hours.
Amazingly even at 1am it wasn’t entirely dark. Being so far North at this time of year means very short nights.
The following morning we wandered through the interesting streets, and popping into the little shops. We then went into Fat Margaret’s Tower, home to the Estonian Maritime Museum which gave an interesting account of nautical past of this country.
The top of the tower afforded some more great views of Talinn.
We discovered a lovely market. Anita particularly loved the rag dolls but they were very expensive and resisted the temptation. We did pick up some little souvenirs.
Leaving the old town we found Viru the local shopping centre – not too much to offer here but we did manage a “Costa-like” coffee, before returning to the old town via an interesting sculpture.
A final wander around the old town admiring the dove-shaped bollards used to stop cars from driving into the city. We grabbed a last meal in one of the many bars (Old Estonia) alongside Raekoja plats before returning to the hotel and heading home.