Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vacation 2012, #10: Tallinn, Estonia

(One of the fortified entries to Old Town.)

Tallinn, Estonia. This was the surprise jewel of the cruise. Neither of us had many expectations for Tallinn, and it turns out to be a really lovely place.  The guidebook on the ship says the city rather uniquely straddles the ancient / modern divide by keeping, in the old city anyway, much of its historic, medieval form while having every modern convenience--including free city-wide wifi. (I'll have to take them at their word on that, since we were never able to log onto the free wifi, possibly the result of there being four big ships in town on this day making for something like 6-8000 extra folks trying to use it.) Wikipedia lists it as a "global city" and a "top-10 digital city," both of which seem incongruous to the ancient feel of the place.

We only saw the Old Town on this visit (the New Town is adjacent, and we saw a bit of it from our cab window), but it was incredibly picturesque and it felt very old indeed. Even among all the historic places we're visiting--all of which trace their roots back to well before anything very civilized was going on in my country--Tallinn feels ancient, like stepping back 500 or 600 years or more. All the streets and sidewalks are cobblestone, and the buildings feel like a movie set. Even the street lights are straight out of a Dickens novel. I was surprised there was so much English spoken here, but clearly it's a place geared for tourists, and for cruise ship tourists in particular--though I understand this is a relatively recent development. Everything we saw was clean and generally in very good repair and felt quite prosperous. Many of the shops and street vendors were dressed in antique garb and the whole thing felt like a city-wide renaissance fair.

We did our usual thing, just picking a street and wandering, and after five hours we had covered most all of old town (Susan was on the mend, but still not 100%). The Old Town is built on a hill and surrounded by walls and fortifications with heavy gates. There are nice observation areas on the hilltop with views for miles all around. Really lovely. Susan found a fun ring and some amazing hand-made wooden kitchen tools at a market set up on a public square, and we bought a couple works of art as well. (Six years ago we got a couple paintings from a street artist in Amsterdam, and they're among our favorite mementos from our travels. We both found Tallinn very picturesque, and we hope these paintings will take a similar place.) 

Another place we could have spent more time, I'd say.

(Not sure why there is a large bronze cow in the middle of town. But she was cute and we made friends.)

(At the top of the hill.)


Vancouver Voyeur said...

I see you took pictures in the church as well. There was a no photos sign, but everyone around me was taking pix, so I discretely did as well with my iPad. How odd is it that we both went to an "out-of-the-norm" city so close in time? Your description of the town is better than mine. I'm still travelling so I'm just throwing pix up and will worry about the descriptions later. The city is wired, sometimes there' s a trick to getting it to work. Estonia being a wired country is what brought us here. M is working on a cyber-security agreement between our US school and schools in Estonia.

wunelle said...

Yeah, what are the odds? So fun you guys get to spend some time there. It'll be fun to hear what you think after a few days; our impressions are but a few short hours.