140616 Tallinn

The Plan

Today you will have the opportunity to explore Tallinn and its historic Old Town. FB,L,D

Some Information

My thoughts on Tallinn in Estonia were not formed prior to our arrival this morning. I thought it was just going to be ‘another European city’ with churches and museums. And perhaps it is, but they were not prominent. Yes, visitors would use the spire of the Church of the Holy Spirit as a point of reference but it wasn’t ‘in your face’ dominant.

Tallinn has had a rather mixed history with the first traces of human settlement found in Tallinn’s city centre by archaeologists about 5000 years ago. In 1050 the first fortress was built on Tallinn Toompea.

Tallinn has always been an important port for trade between Russia and Scandinavia. It became a target for the expansion of the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Denmark during the period of the Northern Crusades in the beginning of the 13th century when Christianity was forcibly imposed on the local population. The Danes ruled Tallinn and Northern Estonia beginning in 1219.

The city has had the name of Reval even way back in 1285. The Danes sold Reval along with their other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Knights in 1346. This was when medieval Reval enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. Then, the city with a population of 8,000 was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers. After World War II started, Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, and later occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944. After the Nazi retreat in 1944, it was again annexed by the USSR. After annexation into the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of the Estonian SSR.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow, the sailing events were held at Pirita, just close to the centre of Tallinn. In August 1991, an independent democratic Estonian state was re-established and a period of quick development of a modern European capital ensured.

How the Day Turned Out

When we arrived in Tallinn this morning, the weather was fine but cold. The ship has many excursions available but we decide to take a hop-on hop-off 24-hour bus pass that enables to do 3 different tours with commentary in English. This a rather good way to see a city quickly and still get enough informative comments along the way. We pass many older buildings and many that have been done up since the Russian occupation and earlier.

The city contains 23% of parkland and we enjoy the lush green we had become accustomed to in Norway. Quite old trams are a means of transport in this city and so wide boulevards exist. The red double decker buses are very busy today as there are two largish cruise ships in port. The port is quite close to the old town centre. There are two distinct skylines here with a skyline of older buildings, and a more modern but not plentiful array of recently constructed buildings.

We take two hop-on hop-off bus routes. The first is around in the city centre which I cannot comment too much on as I dropped off to sleep. Not a good idea to pay money to go to sleep on a tour of a city. The second or ‘green’ route took us more out of the city to the suburbs and we pass the location where the mass choirs of Tallinn perform. These choirs often have 20,000 singers performing to audiences of well over 100,000. It was really the choirs that managed to get rid of the Russian occupation as the Estonians didn’t have an army but had had a history of large choirs creating havoc to the forces of Russian power. You see, armies don’t like killing large numbers of people singing songs together about unity for their own good.

It was good to see the suburban ‘backyards’ set in very green parklike areas. Lovely country-style roads in suburbia were experienced. The yachting competition of the 1980 Moscow Olympics was held just close to Tallinn old city. The competitors’ accommodation is now a Casino and accommodation building and is now a ‘talking’ point for the tour guides. After the tour, we walk through the old town browsing the gift and souvenir shops interspersed with many cafes and restaurants. I feel like a hot chocolate and some cake. We sit down in a sidewalk café and are dished a choc Latino with a large amount of coffee included. The cake turned out to be a small chocolate truffle. (I don’t know what a chocolate truffle is but now I know not to order one when I want a piece of chocolate cake).

We browsed a nice shop that was full of beautiful glass blobs with pictures of animals and face engraved on the back of them through which light is shone to enhance the drawing in the glass. There are many amber stone shops. I learn that a contained piece of amber is one which, when found, ‘contained’ an insect of some sort.

To return to the ship, we take a bicycle taxi. The guy doing all the work, recognized that we were ‘from a different country’ and gives us an extra tour of some of the parklands on the route to the ship. He speaks good English, but didn’t understand some of our Australian. (Our Estonian is extremely poor).

When back on the ship, we have some lunch and Lyn gets her nails repaired.

 

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