Tallinn's Old Town

Getting some sleep when the sun doesn't set until almost midnight was quite a challenge. Then there's our room without even an electric fan in the middle of summer, forcing me to sleep in my underwear. And just below us, the hum of Tallinn's main rail station started sometime around 5 AM like an unwanted alarm clock. I peeked through my eye shade, squinted in the horror of too much daylight already at such an early hour of the day. Surprisingly, even my sleep-deprived brain cells told me to wake up. OK, there's a whole day of exploration out there today. So, I woke up Erwin, my traveling buddy, who was kick-ass ready even with just a few hours of sleep.

What's with Tallinn anyway that drove me here in the first place? That's what I've been asked even before this journey began and fellow blogger Photo Cache brought back the question with her comment in my previous post. My mom was the most vocal: "where on earth is Tallinn?" when we spoke via Skype (which coincidentally, was developed with Estonians!). To quote one of my fave travel writers, Paul Theroux: "The best travel is a leap in the dark. If the destination were familiar and friendly, what would be the point of going there?" For me, traveling to any underrated part of the hemisphere is thrilling - it could mean getting there before it becomes a traffic jam of tourist buses.

In Tallinn's case, it's increasingly turning into a major eye candy for tourists. Its own claim to fame is the very atmospheric Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is where the well-preserved sights are concentrated, with very old structures standing side by side that command attention all at once. Our hotel is just a short walk through a park and into a maze of cobblestone streets so it didn't take long for us to immediately feel like we're in a set of a Robin Hood movie. The map provided by the hotel was very handy as the maze of streets is honestly confusing even with street signs. Even the 9th-century Vikings who used to invade Estonia might find themselves scratching their heads if they were in the middle of Old Town.

Estonia of course had more than just Vikings forcing themselves in uninvited. There were the Danes, Germans, Swedes and the Russians, all neighbors with territorial interests. Under the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact just before WWII, Estonia was occupied by the Soviets but true to his megalomaniac nature, Hitler reneged on the pact and claimed Estonia. When the Germans were ultimately defeated, the Soviet army took Estonia again and was ruled thereafter with an iron fist, becoming a part of what was to become the USSR. Things changed for the better in the late 1980's when Mikhail Gorbachev's glastnost and perestroika created a dramatic change across the crumbling communist empire. In 1991, Estonia declared its independence.

So much for history. Let's go sightseeing (before I get sleepy).

Visitors to the Old Town gravitate towards the Raekoja Plats (Old Town Square)

Lording it over the square is the 14th-century Town Hall, Europe's oldest.

Traditional music and dancing was part of an ongoing summer festival

Just like the square's mercantile past, there were goods for sale: woolen hats, woolen blankets and wooden toys

Orthodox faith is glorified in this eye-catching Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, built 1895-1900 when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire

Quite disappointed with our meal but not the view all around us

Entering through one of the gates in the Old Town's defensive walls built during the 13th-century

Inside one of the towers connected to the defensive walls

If only these walls could talk

Cobble stone streets are quite unforgiving to the feet.

Tallinn's skyline is dominated by St. Olaf's Church with its 124-meter high tower. Like some of the sights we entered, there's an entrance fee to climb. Luckily, the ticket lady thought we really were students and gave us a discount (Asians do look young eh?)

We clambered up 258 spiral steps and into a literally breath-taking view of the Old Town and beyond (while our knees were shaking).

The Old Town as seen from St. Olaf's tower.


  1. this is why you ought to try something foreign and new. i could feel the culture seeping through the images you took. great job.

  2. Tallinn's main rail station started sometime around 5 AM like an unwanted alarm clock.>>> hahaha... good that in my case im already up. but without an aircon... i might experience the same thing.

    i like places like this over modern structures.

  3. you got a breathtaking view from that tower!
    i like how you captured the cobblestone street. postcard perfect!

  4. I love the various shots with different perspective! Very good! Now I know I should add Estonia to my wishlist.

  5. Beautiful! I go for the infamous as well. Discovery is more challenging than experiencing the anticipated.

  6. Beautiful pictures indeed! I was there December 2009 and it looked totally different with snow (was also freezing, it was -20C the day I left). Will be moving there permanently next month. I think i will be the only Filipino living there... I hope i am wrong! :D

  7. Macy,
    Thanks for dropping by. Sounds like you're making that big move, permanent at that. You obviously love Tallinn, am I correct?


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