Since I last updated this blog, Bill and I have been away on a cruise from Bristol to St. Petersburg aboard M.S. Magellan with Cruise and Maritime Voyages (C.M.V.) I have long wanted to visit some more of the former Soviet Union countries of Eastern Europe and we were lucky enough to visit East Germany, Estonia and Russia as well as making brief stops in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. I hope to share some impressions and photos over the next few weeks.
At the end of our cruise we were given the usual customer satisfaction questionnaire to fill in. One question was “which was your favourite port of call?”. Without any hesitation, I chose Tallinn the capital of Estonia. I am certainly not alone in liking this city. In 2018 it was chosen as Lonely Planet’s best value destination.
Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage site and a former Hanseatic league city on the Baltic sea. It is just fifty miles by ferry from Helsinki but has a very different atmosphere. Like many Eastern European cities it has a fairy tale quality with red-capped towers, medieval castles and gabled tile-roofed houses. The city had a thick outer wall and moat. The centre of the old town is largely pedestrianised with narrow cobblestone alleys and intriguing small shops and cafes.
The small country of Estonia belonged to Denmark then Sweden and Russia. It formed part of the Soviet Union before becoming independent in 1989. Nowadays the Estonians seemed keen to reject the drabness of the Soviet Union by painting every thing in bright colours. Suprisingly Tallinn is also a centre for internet technology especially cyber security and an Estonian helped invent skype
Tallinn is a walled city and I think the towers add to its charm. At times it looked like an illustration from a fairy tale.
Toompea castle dominates the old town and this tower affectionately known as Tall Herman has become a symbol of Tallinn.
The ornate Russian Orthodox cathedral is free to visit. The inside is beautifully decorated with icons, paintings and mosaics but I was not allowed to take photos. I was surprised that there were no seats but was told that worshippers stand or kneel during services. It is named after Alexander Nevsky a Russian military hero.
In November and December there is a Christmas market in the main square with fifty wooden stalls circled around an enormous Christmas tree.
Tallinn claims to have the oldest pharmacy in continuous use dating back to the 15th century. Part of it is now a museum and as a retired nurse I was particularly interested in the display of old medicines and potions.
The lower town is full of narrow alleyways and small shops. it is connected to the upper town by two alleyways called short leg and long leg. I was particularly amused to spot the short leg shirt shop.
Language Estonian (this is similar only to Finnish.) English is widely spoken
Getting around: Trams, buses and by foot. There is a regular ferry service from Helsinki. There are also the ubiquitous red hop on hop off buses.
Shopping Specialities include amber and marzipan (most shops close on Sundays).
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