Traveling to the glorious cities of the Baltic Sea, such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, many are surprised to find out that the cruise ship also stops in small Tallinn.
At the same time, most tourists, in their own words, are most impressed by Tallinn, and this city turns out to be their favorite stop in a series of European capitals.
Why is this so? Let me reveal to you some of the secrets of our city!
The panorama of Tallinn is the most memorable, the most charismatic and recognizable on the Baltic Sea. Those, who saw it once, will never forget and will not confuse it with any other city. Despite the fact that Tallinn is compact, relatively small (half a million people) and cozy, it still has an amazing variety. Even the history of Tallinn resembles a puff pastry – a pagan prehistoric period, then from the 13th to the 17th century – Danish, German, Swedish; then 200 years as a part of the Russian Empire, from 1918 to 1940 the period of independence (the first republic), during the Second World War – the Nazi regime, then Soviet time until 1992. Each era has left its mark on the culture and the way the city looks. Here you will learn stories that will make you cry, laugh, shudder and wonder – experiencing a variety of emotions. Anything but indifference and boredom.
Tallinn is a very old city, it helps you to remember even those times when the high location of the settlement was a guarantee of people’s survival. After all, the Upper town, the center of the old town, is located on the top of a hill where people have lived for thousands of years. Where does the hill come from in a country where landscape is as flat as a pancake!? Especially in such a place, practically on the seashore? This question has always occupied the minds of Estonians too. It is no coincidence that there are many legends and stories among the people explaining the origin of this hill. One of the legends says that this is the grave of the national hero-giant Kalev, who defended his land from the conquerors, but unfortunately was killed in one of the battles. His wife Linda buried her beloved according to the custom of those times – she pulled a high mound of stones to bury the body, and this is how the famous hill appeared. And when the grief-stricken beauty was carrying the last stone, as the story continues, her hands unclenched from fatigue, she dropped the stone, sat on it and cried, unable to restrain herself any longer. And she cried for so long that she cried a whole lake, from which the city today takes drinking water. Do not forget about this when you turn on the water tap!
While the heroes of the national epic express their emotions openly, real Estonians are rather stingy with smiles or tears. And this is for a reason. Historically, showing emotion has been a sign of weakness for Estonian person. And even today, if a man loves a woman, people say that he loves her so much that he almost told her that. So, do not be offended if walking around the city you will not see locals smiling at you in return. Just remember those 700 years spent by estonians under the yoke of different rulers and add the harsh winter climate.
A special surprise awaits lovers of the Middle Ages – buildings and walls from the 13th-14th centuries. This is a special tidbit for guests from the New World – you can’t deny, it’s cool to see a wall which is twice as old as your country (the USA, for example)! Tallinn is one of the best preserved medieval cities of Europe, and in the past it was also a Hanseatic city. Already 700 years ago, it was one of the strongholds of the Hanseatic League – the medieval state, the powerful trading empire that you will not see on any map, but which dictated its conditions to the North European emperors and kings for about 400 years and influenced the life and development of Europe vastly.
You will also be pleased to realize that for the price of one old town, you will actually see two! That is because historically, there was a city of nobles and knights on the top of the Toompea hill, and below it, a commercial, merchant city developed. The two cities, although they existed side by side, lived for seven centuries according to different traditions and laws, were tough competitors and even had different names – Domberg (the upper town) and Revel ( the lower). And then only in 1925 they were united and officially became Tallinn. Tallinn – by the way, is the name which comes from the 13th century and translated from Estonian language as “The Danish town”.
Connoisseurs of architecture here can savor Gothic style, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism, Art Nouveau, Modernism, Soviet brutalism and so on … Those who are interested in sports will enjoy the stories about the Olympics, which took place in 1980 in Moscow, but all water sports, including a sailing regatta, were held here.
Fans of delicious food can have a feast in a medieval tavern, where 500-year-old recipes are lovingly preserved, or in an exquisite restaurant, the menu of which is still based on the national cuisine. As the beautiful Elizabeth Debici (the star of the movie “Tenet” by Christopher Nolan, which was filmed in Tallinn in 2019) said, she has never tasted such delicious food in her life as in the local restaurants. You can even take part in an excursion, where you can not only learn the history of the city, but literally taste it!
Spa lovers will like it too. SPA tourism in Estonia is at its best. The largest island of the country Saaremaa is even jokingly called Sparemaa, you can guess why.
If you love museums, Tallinn is the city for you! In general, Estonia is the absolute champion in the number of museums per capita. 1 museum for every 5000 people. This speaks of Estonians as a small nation striving to preserve their culture and survive in the big melting pot that Europe is today.