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  • Writer's pictureKaren O.

Telling Tallinn Tales – A Gem in the Baltic.

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is visit the old towns. I love the Middle Ages and its history; cobblestone streets with colorful buildings, open squares with bronze monuments and churches in gothic style architecture make me feel like I am back in medieval times.

Today I am heading to Tallinn, Estonia to explore the old town and her history. Getting to Tallinn from Helsinki is pretty easy and comfortable, all you have to do is book your ticket for a ferry online or buy one at the ferry terminal station and voila, a comfortable 2 hours ride or shall I say float to Tallinn. I am taking the Tallink’s Megastar departing Helsinki at 7:30am and arriving Tallinn at 9:30am. The ship is big, with plenty of room on various decks for sitting and eating, free WiFi, restaurants, clean restrooms, bars and lounges, a sun deck, a duty free shop, cafes and even a Burger King.

Tallinn has a quiet yet bubbly vibe to it and the spring is much colder than in Helsinki. It is cloudy today with moderate wind speed and the temperature is about 9 deg Celsius. My jacket isn’t doing much protection from the wind but I am here already and old town exploration is my mission – like a ship Captain, full ahead. Thankfully it is not raining…. yet but it looks like it might so I better get going and see what I can before the showers.

The Old town of Tallinn has preserved its 13th century city plan, and for this reason, it is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, ranking among the world’s most recognized landmarks, and is the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe with original medieval architecture, twisting cobblestone streets, colorful gabled houses, grandiose churches and gothic spires.

Tallinn’s old town is divided into the Upper town called Toompea and the Lower town. These two towns were separated by gates back in time and these gates were said to be locked at a certain time of the day because the rich landlords and Merchants who lived in the Upper town were afraid that the poorer people from the lower town would constitute a nuisance or would rob them at night.

The Upper town, Toompea has always been the seat of power and the Toompea castle now serves as the Estonian Parliament. Toompea also houses the old town viewing platforms; Kohtuotsa and Patkuli.

Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform


Patkuli Viewing platform


It is also home to 2 churches, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Cathedral of Saint Mary the virgin, also called the Dome church or Toomkirik in Estonian.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral


Toomkirik


In the heart of the Old Town is its most popular spot, the Town hall square with the town hall, existing since 1322.

Old Town Hall


A very interesting shop Raeapteek exists at the Town hall square. It is Europe’s oldest continuously operating pharmacy open since 1422. Till date it is still a pharmacy and also operates as a museum. Legend has it that ten generations of the same family, the Burcharts, operated it from 1581 to 1911. It was so famous back in the day that the Russian tsar used to order medicines from here.

Visittallinn.ee says “Remedies sold at the pharmacy in medieval times included snakeskin potion, mummy juice and powdered unicorn horn (for male potency) but it was also a place to buy everyday items like jam, tea, claret, gunpowder and, most importantly, marzipan. Marzipan was one of the pharmacy’s best sellers, one that local legend insists was actually invented as a curative here in the 15th century”.

St. Catherine’s passage, a half-hidden walkway connects Vene street with the Müürivahe street where the town’s famous knit market is situated.

St Catherine’s passage


According to Visittallinn.ee, “What makes the passage particularly interesting is that it’s home to the St. Catherine’s Guild, a collection of craft workshops where artists use traditional methods to create and sell glassware, hats, quilts, ceramics, jewellery, hand-painted silk and other wares. The workshops are housed in the small, 15th- to 17th-century rooms on the south side of the lane, and are set up in an open-studio fashion so visitors can watch the artists at work, be it glass-blowing, weaving or pottery making”.

One of the iconic towers that stand out to many tourists is the Viru gate which is the street linking the lower town marketplace.

Viru Gate


To know more about things to do in the Old Town of Tallinn, visit: https://www.visittallinn.ee/eng/visitor

Asides the old town, one very interesting activity that is worth you time is the Seaplane harbor, a maritime museum located in a building originally constructed as a hangar for seaplanes in Peter the Great’s Naval Fortress. The 1936 submarine Lembit can be found in the museum as well as a yellow submarine where one can learn how to pilot a submarine. The museum also has a replica of the World War 1 short type 184 seaplane, as well as several types of guns used in World War 1.

The icebreaker suur toll originally built in 1914 for the Russian empire, captured in 1918 by Finland and handed over to Estonia in 1922 according to the Treaty or Tartu is also displayed at the museum.

Tallinn is beautiful, worth visiting and exploring and best of all, you can do this in a day or two. The city also has great bars, wonderful beer and vodka.

The food is also great and there are a variety of cuisines available to satisfy any level of craving.

Until next time, I have to catch the 7:30pm ferry back to Helsinki and you wouldn’t want me to miss it.

There’s more to come so sit tight and see you in Stockholm.

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