Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beautiful Tallinn

I really meant to write this a few weeks ago! Better late than never!

Last month I went to London as mentioned in my previous post, but I also got the chance to head back over to Tallinn, Estonia for a trip the following weekend. It was the fifth time I had been there and definitely a different experience to previous trips there.

First off I went over with a friend and fellow au pair who was leaving the country the following week. Her original planned stay in Finland had been cut short and she had definitely been planning to visit Tallinn before that happened. As a result she decided to spend her last full weekend in Finland in Tallinn. As I love the ciy I volunteered to go along and show her around and stuff like that.

Now I have played tour guide to people in other cities including Turku, Finland and Sydney, Australia where I have spent significant amounts of time and lived but I have never lived in Tallinn so for me it was just as great to go and show her the things I love there as to visit places I hadn't been. It's also the first time I've been any kind of guide in a place where there is so much history.

We stayed with my cousins in Tallinn. They live about 10-15 minutes walk from Vana Linna or in English the Old Town. It is a medieval town centre and not much has changed in the buildings since that time.

By the time we got to Tallinn on the Friday, we had actually already been travelling for over 6 hours by bus and boat. We ended up spending most of the first day in the Old Town wandering around, looking at churches and trying not to get too confused in the sometimes maze-like streets.The best thing about getting lost though, is that you get to see the amazing architecture that has survived to this day and the many buildings that have been restored. There are also some amazing doors!

There are many churches in this part of Tallinn, including two Orthodox churches, and at least one Catholic church not to mention several Lutheran churches. One of the Lutheran churches (St Olav's/Oleviste Kirik) was actually the tallest building in the world for a time when it was constructed with a spire that stood at 159 metres. It burned several times however, after being struck by lightning, and the current spire stands at just 124 metres.

For lunch on this day we decided to stop in at the Reval Cafe in the old town centre. I have been to at least three different Reval Cafe's in the time I have spent in Tallinn and I have to say that every time the food has been fantastic, as well as the service. I also think that it is extremely reasonably priced.

We also spent some time in Tallinn City Museum (Tallinna Linnamuuseum). It is definitely a museum worth visiting. Whilst not so large as many museums it tells the story of the history of Tallinn quite well and in an easy to understand fashion. I definitely learned things I hadn't known about the Hanseatic period(Tallinn was a major city and trading port for the Hanseatic League and was known as Reval during this time).

Saturday we got up fairly early and decided we would walk into the Old Town. It is a nice walk and the way we went took us up and over part of the walls that still stand to the top of Toompea Hill which is the upper part of the old town. You end up with some fantastic views of the old town from there and it's great for taking photos.

First thing on the agenda for the day was to head up onto the city walls. One of the fantastic things about the Old Town and the fact that it has been so well preserved is that it actually means you can get up onto the town walls where they still stand at some points. It is interesting to see the town from this perspective and makes me glad that I'm not a guard for walls and living in the middle ages. The walkway is not actually very wide and there is never anything pleasant about looking straight down to the cobblestones below when all that stops you if you slip is a wooden railing.

After the wall we took the opportunity to do a sightseeing bus tour of a bit of the rest of Tallinn. My cousin had been amazing and bought us some 24 hour bus tickets for a sightseeing bus that goes around Tallinn on three different routes. We took the green line tour which took us to the Pirita beach district where there are the ruins of Pirita Monastery(dedicated to St Brigitta) and past the area which was built for the 1980 olympics when Tallinn hosted the yachting events for the olympics.

In the afternoon we decided we would try to see some more museums. First we headed off to Kiek in de Kök, which is situated in one of the towers along the wall. We also wanted to visit the Bastion Passages but hadn't realised that we had to pre-book so we ended up missing out on that part. It was the second time for me to visit the museum however and I loved it just as much as the first time. It has changed a fair amount in terms of the displays and I think the quality is even higher. It covers a lot of the history of Tallinn and in particular focuses on the military history and the fortifications of the city.

We also ended up visiting the Estonian National Maritime Museum (Eesti Meremuuseum) in another tower known as Fat Margaret (Paks Margareeta).

For dinner that night we went to a restaurant know as Olde Hansa. It is a medieval themed restaurant and it definitely has some great atmosphere. It isn't somewhere I would recommend anyone go to if you are a picky eater, nor if you are trying to save money. The most expensive single dish on the menu is Bear and it costs 55€. We both went for something a bit cheaper and split the dessert which was a sort of apple pie with almond milk. It was amazing. So was the Warm-Up drink which we had. It was some sort of spiced apple cider type drink. Om nom nom!

Sunday was our last day in Tallinn and we did our best to enjoy it. We took one more of the sightseeing bus tours, this time around some of the older suburbs of Tallinn. Afterwards there was some more wandering around the city for some last minute photos, souvenirs and postcards which resulted in me finding a Star Wars babushka doll, as well as a stop for lunch once more at the Reval and a hot chocolate at the Chocolaterie de Pierre Cafe in the Old Town. My cousin first introduced me to the Chocolaterie in 2007 when I visited. It is a cosy cafe that makes you want to do nothing more than sit down and relax with a nice warm drink and maybe a bit of dessert too.

All in all it was a fantastic, jam-packed weekend in Tallinn and it definitely made me realise how much I haven't seen and want to see when I next visit.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with Tallinna Toomkirik in the background.
Taken from Kiek in de Kök tower.

View of the lower part of the Old Town from the viewing platform on Toompea Hill.
Where would you like to visit?

Entrance to the Old Town.
The old Town Hall.

Photo credits go to my friend Christina who took some great photos whilst we were there.

~~Random Logic~~

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