Sunday, July 2, 2017

Backpacking through the Baltics - Estonia

After two days in Riga we set off for Tallinn.  We'd noticed that as we moved further north things were becoming less Germanic and more Russian - and in Tallinn we saw a lot more evidence of this with many signs in Russian.  The food definitely had a Russian flavour as well - bear stroganoff anyone?

Tallinn definitely has its charm, but Rachel and I probably liked this place the least of the 4 cities we visited.  Rachel described it as being a bit "fake" with people dressed up as medieval publicans and peasants - and certainly it was the most touristy of all the places we went.  For me I think the rain might have had something to do with it as well - in Vilnius and Riga we had blue skies and here they were mostly grey.


Our hotel was right in the middle of the Old Town, however, so it was easy to get around and to dodge the showers by visiting cafes and museums.

We took a walk through the Old Town and up Toompea, a limestone hill in the central part of the city of Tallinn, to the Orthodox Cathedral.  The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral crowns the hill of Toompea . The cathedral was built during the period of late 19th century Russification and was so disliked by many Estonians as a symbol of oppression that the Estonian authorities scheduled the cathedral for demolition in 1924, but the decision was never implemented due to lack of funds and the building's massive construction. As the USSR was officially non-religious, many churches including this cathedral were left to decline. The church has been meticulously restored since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Toompea is very colourful - right opposite the Cathedral is the parliament building.   Tallinn became known as the Lower Town, which grew into a flourishing Hanseatic city, while Toompea remained politically and socially removed.  The people surrounded the castle area with high walls and moats and built towers for defence.  The Gate Tower was the only exit.  


There are other gates all around the city and you can even walk on the walls in some sections.  The gate below was near our hotel and called  the Great Coastal Gate with Fat Margaret's Tower which was built to protect the city from the seaside, but also to impress quests arriving by sea.   We went out through this gate to catch the ferry to Finland.

Outside the city walls is the modern city of Tallinn.  Here you will find the Victory Column in Freedom Square.  This modern glass memorial was opened in 2009 as a memorial for those who fell during the Estonian War of Independence 1918 - 1920.


Tallinn is full of little alleyways and courtyards - many of which are now home to artists and craftspeople.  It also apparently has the oldest pharmacy and oldest pub in the Europe. 

After exploring the Old Town, we caught a tram to Kadriorg Palace which was built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great. The palace currently houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, displaying foreign art from the 16th to 20th centuries.  

Our trip through the Baltic States was almost done - the following morning we had an early start to catch the ferry to Finland.

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