Robert Hampton

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6th May 2011

Tallinn Ho!
Posted by at 4.14pm | 1 response | Out and About

Tallinn European Capital of Culture bannerThis is part 2 of my Tallinn blog. Read the first part.

By the time we had checked into the hotel and took a few moments to recover from the journey, it was after 3pm local time (Estonia being two hours ahead of the UK). We wasted no time in heading out to explore the surrounding area and make the most of the rest of the afternoon.

The first thing that hit us: it was cold. The cabin crew on the flight informed us that the temperature was a brisk 5°C, however this didn’t take into account the chill factor of the wind. Even with multiple layers, we shivered, especially after the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in Liverpool lately.

I nearly brought the trip to a premature end outside the hotel, after forgetting that they drive on the left right in Estonia and looking the wrong way before crossing the busy dual carriageway. Only an angry honk from an approaching taxi driver alerted me in time.

A map might be handy at this point, so click here to orient yourself.

The dome of Toomkirik, TallinnWe strolled through Toompark, an attractive park that covers a large area between the station and the Old Town. From here we were able to admire some of the buildings on Toompea Hill above us. The original medieval town was built on this hill and surrounded by a high wall (much of which still survives) to protect from marauding attackers. It didn’t work too well – Tallinn was variously invaded by the Danish (12th century), the Swedish (16th century) and the Russian empire (18th century).

The picture to the left is Toomkirik (Dome Church), which can trace its history back to the 13th century, although reconstruction work carried out over the intervening years means the building today is quite different to its as-built condition. It’s just one of the many structures that wowed us as we explored.

Access to the Toompea itself is via Pikk jalg, a steep cobbled street leading up through the medieval walls. One steep climb later and we were in Toompea, surrounded by history. The whole Old Town area of Tallinn was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and it’s not hard to see why — every building has a story to tell.

View looking up Pikk jalg, Tallinn

We passed the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (picture below). As you may have noticed, I am not a fan of religion, but there’s no denying it has inspired some marvellous architecture over the years.

The hill also offers some great viewpoints and we took the opportunity to take some pictures. Andrew used his digital SLR with a million buttons, I had my £79 compact digital camera. Of the photos I took here, I think the one below is my favourite. It shows the Old Town in the foreground, with skyscrapers encroaching in the distance. While walking amongst this medieval splendour, it’s easy to forget that Tallinn is quickly developing a modern, technology-led economy (Skype was originally developed here).

View of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral View of Old Town with high-rise buildings visible in distance

We continued exploring the maze of narrow streets, taking in more of our surroundings, including the many towers built into the city walls over the years. The walls, like the rest of the Old Town, have been amazingly well-preserved over the years.

Medieval Tower in Tallinn Medieval Tower in Tallinn

By now Andrew and I were starting to feel hungry. It was approaching 5pm and, other than a few snacks on the plane, neither of us had eaten. However we both agreed that a quick bite, rather than a substantial meal, was what was needed at this point. We headed back into the modern town centre to see what was available.

We stumbled upon Taco Express, whose slightly garishly-decorated premises promised the best Mexican food in town. We gratefully went in and ordered a burrito each. OK, it’s not exactly authentic Estonian cuisine, but it filled a hole. We did accompany our meal with Saku, a brand of local Estonian beer, so I think we just about got away with it.

Two glasses of Saku beer

This turned out to be the first of many Sakus we drank during the course of our stay.

From there it was back to the hotel to briefly stop and recharge our batteries. We took time to enjoy the wide range of TV on offer. I was secretly hoping that we’d get to watch BBC World, but the only English-language channels were Euronews, Eurosport (the proper version, not British Eurosport as seen on Sky), a European variant of VH1 and Fashion TV. I eventually settled on German channel ProSieben, which was showing a dubbed version of the Simpsons. The Front is funny in any language.

Suitably refreshed, we later headed back into town in search of something to eat…

To be continued…

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One Response
  1. Comment by Andrew
    7th May 2011 at 2:45 am

    “after forgetting that they drive on the left in Estonia and looking the wrong way”

    Errm your actually still looking the wrong way on your blog as they they like the rest of mainland Europe drive on the right meaning you need to look left first! Alternatively you could always misread the zebra crossing into thinking cross anyway despite oncoming traffic and running halfway across the road despite the absence of a green light 🙂