Tallinn, Estonia 2019
We reached Tallinn airport at 9.30 in the morning in a flight from Riga that lasted less than 50 minutes. And then the bus, which is free for Estonian citizens (Tallinn is the first European capital to offer a fare-free service on buses, trams and trolleybuses within the city limits), 2€ for non-Estonian citizens and 1€ if you download the app! And here we were, in another beautiful Baltic capital! Our exploration was mostly within the borders of the Old Town that gave us the impression that we were in another century! It is full of exquisite architecture hidden in its twisting, narrow streets! The invasion of tourists from all around the world has brought a lively atmosphere and of course lots of facilities.
We entered crossing the Viru Gate in the south of the Old Town. The cobble-stone streets were bustling with life although it was still early in the morning! We were walking aimlessly choosing every time the narrowest and less crowded lane and this way we bumped into Choco, the Chocolaterie de Pierre café, hidden in a beautiful courtyard! Its bizarre, bohemian style and the aroma of chocolate made us forget about calories! Mouthwatering chocolate for even the pickiest palate!
Our apartment was conveniently situated in the northwest gate of the Old Town. We checked in, left our luggage and went out in search of some energy. We always avoid touristy places and therefore we completely rejected the idea of having lunch in the busy restaurants of the Old Town Center. Torokse Talupood-Kohvik was very close to our apartment and the idea of having some homemade local food sounded very tempting! The owners of the place are a family and when you enter it they let you know what they had cooked that day. They usually have a menu of 4 or 5 dishes and that is all! The seating area looks like the family’s living room, with sofas and armchairs in a rustic style. We had a local soup, and two different dishes with pork accompanied with potatoes and cucumber. Excellent choices to refuel before setting off towards the Old Town again.
It is no wonder that this enclosed neighborhood of medieval houses, marvelous churches and guard towers attracts so many tourists! Its surrounding wall is mostly intact rightly making it one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. The most popular sight is Town Hall Square with the Town Hall and the Tower. Tallinn Town Hall is the oldest city hall in North Europe and the only preserved one in Gothic style. The square is literally bustling with life! You can hear there any language you want! It is dotted with cafes and restaurants where young locals serve customers in their traditional Estonian costumes. There is also situated the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Europe!
Walking up the Toompea Hill we reached one of the many viewing platforms of the Old Town, Kohtuotsa. Red roofs surrounded St Olaf’s Church that stood out. It was said to have been the world’s tallest building from 1549 to 1625. And in the distance, the Gulf of Finland, the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. Wandering in Toompea Hill we found St Mary’s Cathedral, the oldest church in Tallinn. But the most beautiful part of the day was at Piiskopi viewing platform where we saw an amazing sunset a few minutes before nine o’clock! Walking down the hill we couldn’t miss Aleksander Nevski Katedraal which was left to decline during the Soviet period but has been beautifully restored since Estonia regained independence in 1991.
Walking towards the south we reached the Danish King’s Garden which happens to be the Danish flag birthplace! Legend has it that during the Danish invasion in Estonia, in this place, the skies opened and a red flag with a white cross fell from the heavens! That’s why every year the Day of the Danish Flag is celebrated here. The garden is decorated with sculptures of faceless monks. Quite quirky I have to admit!
Still walking down the hill we got out of the Old Town and reached Freedom Square with the characteristic Victory Column on the west in memory of the Independence War and St John’s Church on the east. It is not anything special, especially having walked in the scenic lanes of the Old Town earlier!
It was already dark when we reached Town Hall Square again and it looked completely different under the dim lights, very mysterious and somewhat magical!
Today we started our day outside the walls. We walked parallel to them, right next to its many towers and reached Snelli Tiik, a gorgeous little pond in the heart of the Estonian capital! A small paradise full of green and sitting areas under the shade! Needless to say how clean and peaceful it was! The ideal place for relaxation or sports. For which we didn’t have time of course!…
We entered the Old Town once again to aimlessly wander its picturesque streets! It takes no time at all to forget that you are in the 21st century and become part of its old history! Nothing is left in disrepair; everything has been restored to its former beauty, every single building, every single door! Add to this some notes of classical music played by buskers and you will get a taste of what it feels like being there!
To get a look at the wall from the inside, we spontaneously entered one of the three open-to-visitors towers at the northwest corner of the Old Town. Here we climbed up and explored the towers evoking images of brave knights, we walked on the wall (which awoke my acrophobia!) and enjoyed a picturesque view of the red-tiled roofs below us with St Olaf’s Church dominating the skies!
Back to the safe ground, the road unintentionally led us again to Town Hall Square where tourists had swarmed in the touristy restaurants! Not our kind of food. We want something more genuine! We left the Old Town and headed towards the west to Telliskivi Creative City, located in a former industrial complex. In Soviet days, they fixed railway locomotives here. Today, it is a community platform for the Estonian creative industry with a distinctive industrial echo. As they once told a journalist “We have been building a self-sufficient city. One made of people who, while different, share a vision of what a friendly, open and creative community should be like.” And somehow this whole idea has worked as today it hosts 250 companies, 1500 people and a million visitors! With its own Street Food Festival, its flea market, frequent concerts (600 annually!) and experimental theater, this unique cultural place is full of positive vibes! Our choice in this modern urban district was F-hoone restaurant located in a 100-year-old industrial building. Its dishes were a pleasant surprise and the atmosphere very relaxed. A great choice all in all!
That was our last day in Tallinn. Certainly, not enough to see everything but enough to get a small taste of this by all means must-visit destination!