Monday, December 26, 2005

Tallinn, Estonia

There are plenty of interesting, out of the way places one can visit. But I have to admit Tallinn is one of the best I have ever seen. Estonia’s capital city sits on its northern shore opposite Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea.

I arrived at Tallinn’s pleasant airport around mid-day in April 2005 on easyJet flight 3445 from London’s Stansted airport. I picked up a rental car from National and set off for my hotel. I had booked a room at the Scandic St. Barbara Hotel at Roosikrantsi 2A.

Long the home of numerous outsiders, Tallinn has hosted Danes, Teutonic Knights, Swedes, German nobles, merchants and Russians. Few except for ethnic Russians remain today. They form a considerable portion of the town’s populations. One can easily distinguish between Russians and Estonians by listening to folks speak. While many Russians do speak Estonian, a close listener can tell the difference. Russians seem to have a strangle hold on the tourist shops in general and the amber stores in particular.

Tallinn’s old town center is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. This distinction earned it a listing as a World Heritage site in 1997. Walking through the narrow streets and alleyways of Tallinn’s old town feels much like a journey through the streets of Germany’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Tallinn, with fewer than 400,000 residents, is not overwhelming for travelers. Traffic remains tolerable more than a decade after independence. The best part of Tallinn is the old town. From the imposing city wall and Toompea castle to the numerous amber shops and pleasant restaurants, old town will impress anyone. I spent most of my time in Tallinn in the old town. The scenic views of the city from numerous outlooks in Toompea precinct offer unbelievable views of the old town and beyond.

Tallinna Linnamuuseum (Tallinn City Museum) at Vene tänav 17 in the Vene precinct once housed one of Tallinn’s prosperous merchants. The admission was reasonable at just 35 Kroons and well worth the time. The museum has excellent collections covering Tallinn’s history and Estonia’s independence in the 1990s.

Tallinn is well worth a visit and makes an excellent launch point to visit the rest of Estonia. This is exactly what I did on my visit. I’ll tell you more about that in a future post.




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