Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn sits on the Gulf of Finland, 80 km (50 miles) south of Helsinki, and 324 km (201 miles) west of Saint Petersburg.  It is Estonia's capital and, with +430,000 people, it's also the country's largest city.  Almost 1/3rd of the country lives in Tallinn.



In 1219, the original town here became known as Reval.  In 1917, the year before Estonia gained independence from the Russian Empire it became known as Tallinn.


Tallinn is about the same size as Brno.  It's a lovely little city.

The Viru Gate








The historic Old Town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

The Viru Gate was once part of a larger 14th century gate system.  It's the main entrance to the Old Town.



St. Nicholas' Church was originally built in the 13th century and is dedicated to the patron saint of fishermen and sailors.  Today, the medieval building is used as a concert hall and serves as an art museum.

The Town Hall, I heard, is the oldest town hall in the Baltics.  On top of the tower is the "Old Thomas" vane which is one of the city's symbols.  It's been there since 1530.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox cathedral that was built, between 1894 and 1900, when Estonia was still part of the Russian Empire.

In the days of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, the communist government tried to use the building as a museum of atheism.  I don't quite know what kind of exhibit one would display to support atheism, especially one that was inside of church.  Oh well.  The Russian church just so happens to sit exactly across for the Estonian parliament.  


Toompea Castle sits on Toompea Hill.  The castle dates back tot eh 9th century and today it is the country's parliament building.



Tall Hermann is the tower connected to the parliament building.  The Estonian flag has been flying here since independence was declared in 1991.


The artillery tower, built in 1475, is called "Peep into the Kitchen".  It got the name because those in tower could see into the kitchens of the nearby houses.  The tower is 38 meters (~125 feet) tall and its walls are 4 meters (13 feet) thick.  Today it is a museum and photo gallery.

St. Olaf's Church was built in the 12th century.  In the 15th century, a new 159 meter (522 feet) tall Gothic spire was built.  From 1549 to 1625, St. Olaf's was the tallest building in the world.  Over the years there have been a few fires and the current spire is only 123 meters (403.5 feet) tall.

From 1944 until 1991, the KGB used the spire for surveillance.

St. Mary's Cathedral is also known as the Dome Church.  It was built in the 13th century and is the oldest church in mainland Estonia.  It started out as a Roman Catholic church but became a Lutheran church in 1561.

Linnahall was built by the Soviets for 1980 Moscow Olympics since Tallinn hosted the sailing events.  It's pretty shabby now, with a fair amount of graffiti, but it's a good place to enjoy a sunset.


St. John's Church is a Lutheran church that opened in 1867.  It's located at Freedom Square across from the War of Independence Victory Monument.

The War of Independence Victory Column was unveiled in 2009 as a memorial to those who died during the Estonian War of Independence.  It stands at 23.5 meters (77 feet) tall and is made up of 143 glass plates.  The column is in the shape of the Liberty Cross.

There have been many problems with the column and most are blamed on the Czech company that built it.  Within its first couple of weeks, a corner piece fell down.  Then some of the glass panels were defective.  At one point, dust got inside that created stains and made the thing glow pink.  The Estonian government has been happy especially since it cost over €7 million ($9.5 million).


The Tallinn TV Tower is 314 meters (1,030 feet) tall.  It opened in July 1980 in order to provide better coverage of the Olympic sailing events.


The Museum of Occupations opened in 2003.  It covers 1940 to 1990 when Estonia was occupied during WWII by Germany and then by the Soviet Union.

Kadriorg Palace was built by Peter the Great for Catherine I.  Construction was completed in 1725.  Today it's an art museum and there are some lovely gardens.

The Russalka ("Mermaid") memorial was erected in 1902 to commemorate the 9th anniversary of a Russian warship that sank in 1893 en route to Finland.  The angel holds the Orthodox cross in the direction of where the ship sank.

At the Hotel Viru is the KGB museum.  The hotel was the one modern hotel during Soviet times.  It was also the prime surveillance center for the KGB.  It makes for an interesting visit.

Here's a Rick Steves video I found out on YouTube that tells a bit about Tallinn.


©Rick Steves

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