How about a long weekend in virtually the last capital city in Eastern Europe?
Tallinn the capital of Estonia on the edge of the Baltic Sea, with nearby and around 100 miles away it’s border flanking the giant neighbour that once ruled over this tiny country, Russia!
The city with its well preserved medieval centre, Gothic spires, ancient buildings and winding narrow streets that were a once home to many merchants who traded from this influential city that was once within the Hanseatic League.
Lucky for us visitors today the city has managed to preserve much of that medieval architecture which makes this city pretty rare in the whole of Northern Europe.
Buildings like its town hall, from 1404 it was the administration centre for the city until 1970 this 700 year old Gothic Hall is now a concert hall and museum and where you can visit the tower for some great views over the old town.
One building that dominates the skyline is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral sitting high on Toompea Hill its large onion shaped Russian Orthodox Church domes and highly ornate decoration both inside and out certainly has to be visited.
The other building that towers above the city is St Mary’s Cathedral this Roman Catholic built by the Danes was badly damaged in a fire in the 17th century but was rebuilt and in the 18th century the spire was added.
However the building with the greatest height has to be St Olaf’s Church named after a Norwegian King at a 125 metres high the church has been struck by lightening ten times been rebuilt after fire 3 times and was used by the KGB as a surveillance look out and radio mast.
TALLINN WEEKEND BREAK IS A MUST
Although the skyline is impressive the streets of the old town have many buildings of great age to see too. The defensive towers and walls that enclose the old town with its cobbled squares, streets and narrow lanes where your eyes dart from one interesting building to another as you stroll the streets where once medieval merchants made their living.
Away from the medieval and the more contemporary Freedom Square and the War of Independence monument is a large open area just outside the old town where in 2009 on Victory Day 23rd June the square was readopted after Russian rule.
The city is very easy to get around and is compact, walkable and very friendly although it’s quite hard to understand the Estonian language. Embarrassingly so for us English speakers that our language is extremely widely spoken around the city so asking for directions, ordering food and drink, taxis is very easy.
As is also the technology around the city, Wi-Fi is very widely available and the country as a whole is one of the most advanced in that area in the world.
Not short of museums either, from modern art at the Kuma or The Museum of Occupations, The Estonia History Museum, The Maritime and Seaplane Museum and even a museum dedicated to a KGB spying operation in a major hotel in the city are all to be considered should you have time.
Food specialties in Estonia have been influenced by Russia, Germany and Scandinavia with pork being very popular and around the coast and lakes fish with herring and zander high in demand. Rye bread is the staple along with potatoes. Within the city today as well as local Estonian cuisine you can eat French, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Russian and at a steak house as well some of the popular fast food outlets!
Widely connected to many European cities flying into Tallinn which, is part of the Schengen area and is the way most tourists arrive although many also day visit from the Baltic cruise ships that call in at the busy port. Also they arrive on the ferries from cities like Helsinki just 3 hours away or Stockholm and St Petersburg by ship. The airport is just 4kilometres from the city and has a ‘Kiss and Fly’ parking option where you can park free for 15minutes and say your goodbye before you are charged!
That little touch at the airport I think is rather typical of Tallinn and that is why I give the whole of the city a big fat X!