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marianne Tallinn - A travel report by Marianne
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Tallinn,  Estonia - flag Estonia -  Harjumaa
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marianne's travel reports

Medieval Splendour

  21 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4
Tallinn seems to have jumped straight out of the Middle Ages, but its cobbled alleys, medieval façades and onion–domed churches are real, not just a historical backdrop for tourists.

Medieval houses everywhere in the Old Town
Medieval houses everywhere in the Old Town
Tallinn's medieval centre, Vanalinn in Estonian, is almost traffic free and small enough to explore on foot. It is possible to see all sights in one day, excluding museum visits. Another half day can be spend at Kadriorg, a palace built for the Russian Tsar Peter the Great.

Kadriorg is a 45-min walk from the historical centre or a short tram ride in eastern direction. Take tram # 1 or 3 from Viru Väljak. (easy to spot as the skyscraper hotel is your landmark)

Toompea and the Old Town make up historical Tallinn. Thick city walls surrounded the medieval city, big stretches are still in tact. Nine towers and three gates give access to narrow walkways, cobbled streets and winding alleys. The Old Town has a wonderfully medieval feel, especially so in July when the farmers' market is in full swing in Town Hall Square. All merchants dressed in medieval garb praise their wares.

Tallinn is quite 'touristy': many day trippers from Helsinki. It is also a stop for cruise ships in the Baltic Sea.

Tallinn is an easy day trip from Helsinki. It is a 10-min walk from he ferry port, Linnahall, to Vanalinn. Ferries take 3 hrs 15 mins, hydrofoils and catamarans only 1 hr 30 mins. Bus #3 goes from the centre to the port, or 10 mins on foot.

The bus terminal (autobsijaam) is at Lastekodu 46, 2 km east of the centre. Take tram 2 or 4 from tartu Mnt / Viru Gate, on the eastern fringe of the Old Town, It takes 30 – 40 mins on foot.

Eurolines has its office at Lastekodu 46, in the bus station. Ecolines has its office at Virnu Väljak 4-6 (open from 09.00 – 20.00). Both have on-line booking facilities.

The Euroline bus from Riga to Tallinn doesn't go to the bus station but goes direct to the ferry terminal. No need to change money in Riga or at the border crossing as there is an ATM in the ferry terminal.

Estonia's currency is the Estonian Kroon (EEK).
EEK 1 = € 0.06
€ 1 = EEK 15.65

Favourite spots:
Ornate Clock on one of the walls of the Church of the Holy Ghost
Ornate Clock on one of the walls of the Church of the Holy Ghost
Cobbled Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) is surrounded by pastel-coloured medieval buildings. The Town Hall is a cream-coloured 15th cent building with Gothic arches and a steeple. The roof is adorned with waterspouts disguised as dragons.

Opposite is the old apothecary (raeapteek) which has been selling medicine since the 15th century. Its old medicine bottles and medical intruments are worth a peek.

In summer the square is the scene of the medieval market as much to the delight of tourists as the Estonians themselves. Smoked cheese, intricate knitwear, amber jewellery and lots more are for sale. In winter it is the Christmas market.

Church of the Holy Ghost, next to the apothecary, is a small Gothic building with stepped gables. its exterior a gleaming white. Its most striking feature is the ornate clock on the outside wall close to the entrance. Inside the wood-carved pulpit and an ornate altar are in stark contrast with the simple white-washed walls.

What's really great:
Green door of the House of the Blackheads
Green door of the House of the Blackheads
We now came to Pikk Tanev (Long Street), worthy of its name as it ends at the old City boundary and the Great Sea Gate, better known as Fat Margaret, now Maritime Museum (closed on Monday and Tuesday).

Pikk # 17 is the House of the Great Guild. This 15th century house with its Gothic façade was a gathering place for the city's prosperous merchants. Today it houses the State History Museum, closed on Wednesday.

I cannot tell you what to see in these two museums. I didn't go in because the weather was so beautiful. Something I had not expected, but apparently summers can be as hot as in southern Europe.

Pikk # 24 is the House of the Blackheads. Like the one in Riga it was the meeting place of unmarried merchants whose patron saints was Maurice, a warrior-saint from north Africa. The green embossed door is a photographer's dream especially late afternoon when it catches the sun.

Pikk Tanev
Pikk Tanev
It is impossible to miss St Olav's Church because its 124 metre tall steeple is a true beacon. It was built to attract the attention of passing ships and bring trade into the city, but also the cause that lightning struck. Consequently the church burnt down several times

Pikk # 71 are three recently restored merchants' houses, complete with loading hatches and winches. It is now a hotel and if you are prepared to pay €310 for a double room or €700 for the piano suite you can rest in full medieval splendour.

Hotel Rotermani Viking
Hotel Rotermani Viking
We stayed in a lesser hotel: Rotermanni Viking Hotel.

This hotel is in the Rotermann district. This part of Tallinn used to be the place of warehouses and factories owned by Mr Rotermann, a 19th century industrialised. The district was neglected in Soviet days but recently many of the warehouses have been redeveloped and and now house hotels, bars and restaurants.

Rottermanni Viking has simple and smallish rooms with IKEA-style furniture and attached bathrooms. There are no rooms with a view, all that we saw was the wall of a nearby building and the chimney of an abandoned factory. Part of the building looks as if the hotel consists of stacked sea containers. Still I can recommend this hotel as it was comfortable enough and at walking distance from the Old Town.

Address: Rotermani-Viking
Mere Street 6A

see tips for the website and prices.

The first spire is St Olav Church, the second the Town Hall
The first spire is St Olav Church, the second the Town Hall
This is not about nightlife but about Tompea, the hilly part of Tallinn.

The easiest way to reach Tompea Hill is from the lower end of Pikk Street. Its continuation, Pikk Jalg, leads straight to the multi-domed Russian orthodox Cathedral. Its icon-packed interior breathes spiritual calm.

The pastel-pink building next to the cathedral is Estonia's parliament. In 1992 Estonia had its first free elections in 60 years. Estonia became a full member of the EU in 2004.

Toomkirk, Dome Church, with white washed walls and a steep spire is worth a peek. Over 100 wood-carved coats of arms adorn the walls and make this church less austere than other Lutherian churches.

The look-out points are not difficult to find: follow the crowd. The views are fantastic: the harbour,the ferry terminal, but best of all the red-roofed medieval buildings and the tall spire of St Olav Church.

a warren of streets
a warren of streets
North of the cathedral is a warren of streets, with few tourists. Some of the houses have been restored others are slightly run down. I was here on a bright sunny day and this part of the city was an excellent place for some photos. I am not sure if I would have liked it as much on a dark or rainy day.

South of the Russian Cathedral is a stretch of slooping parkland with still in tact stretches of the of the city wall. Kiek-in-the-Kök is a well-preserved bastion and now a museum of weaponry, coats-of-arms and other warefare artifacts. Its 4-metres thick walls made it a safe place for soldiers to fire cannons from without being hit themselves. Soldiers were able to spy down on the pantries in the old town hence its name Kiek in the Kök, peep into the kitchen. I don't know if this is true, but that is the explanation given in the museum. If you want some more views scramble up the top for some breath-taking views.

Medieval House
Medieval House
Olde Hansa (see tips) is a medieval-themed restaurant, wooden benches and live minstrels. It is a good opportunity to see the inside of a medieval house

I found it amazing that two-thirds of all medieval houses in Tallinn have been preserved. Most houses have the same lay-out, whether the owner was a rich man or not. Wealthy people simply had larger rooms and they were more beautifully finished

Medieval house had a spacious entry which included a kitchen with a woodfire and a chimney. Beside the kitchen there was only one other heated room. All other rooms were unheated, which must have been very cold in winter

There was also a cellar and the rooms on the second floor were used as storage rooms. That's why they had hatches instead of windows. Above the hatches or the windows on the upper floors there were winches to hoist heavy goods up and down. Behind the house was a long narrow courtyard lined with servants' living quarters. Other outbuildings served as stables and sheds

Other recommendations:
Kadriorg Palace
Kadriorg Palace
Kadriorg is a palace built by Tsar Peter the Great. It is some 3 km east of the centre along Narva mnt.

It is a beautiful Baroque building with rose-petal pink façades that contrast with the dark green woodlands surrounding the palace, but only in summer when the foliage is bottle green.

The rooms contain period furniture and paintings by 16th – 19th cent. Dutch, Flemish and Russian painters.

The palace is closed on Monday in summer (May – September) and Monday and Tuesday in winter. Trams 1 or 3 from Virü Väljak take 10 mins, get off at the Kadriorg stop and walk along Weizenbergi, along the swan pond to the entrance.

Published on Wednesday August 23th, 2006

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Wed, Feb 21 2007 - 03:50 PM rating by travler

Your report made me want to come here.

Tue, Aug 29 2006 - 06:59 AM rating by frenchfrog

yet again another great report, you will make a great tour guide Mariane! Many thanks for sharing your experience.

Sun, Aug 27 2006 - 05:13 AM rating by magsalex

I have been thinking about making a visit - the report has just sold this!!

Sat, Aug 26 2006 - 09:17 AM rating by st.vincent

Looks like a very colourful city to be in when the sun is shining

Fri, Aug 25 2006 - 05:24 AM rating by gloriajames

Some great pics and of course an interesting report!!

Wed, Aug 23 2006 - 08:34 PM rating by mrscanada

Hi hon, I just loved this review. I wish I could have been their with you.

Wed, Aug 23 2006 - 03:48 PM rating by mistybleu

What a picturesque city. Nice report.


Wed, Aug 23 2006 - 11:57 AM rating by eirekay

Marianne, great report! You have such a terrific writing style and ALWAYS great photos!

Wed, Aug 23 2006 - 08:13 AM rating by davidx

Very informative as always.

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