A day in Tallinn

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Busy waterway

The Norwegian Sun pulled out of Warnemunde in the early evening and we watched the Baltic as we cruised. It’s hard to imagine the sea any calmer than it was, the only ripples made by the shipping.

The sunset is reflected in a door
Norwegian Sun above the rooftops

We arrived in Tallinn the next morning within easy walking distance of the old town on the slopes of the hill looking over the harbour. As usual, the ship offered guided tours of the city but we decided to venture forth on our own. Locals had set up a market which we would have to walk through to get to the town, but before we ventured between the tents we noticed a group of passengers gathered around a pole, all of them staring at their phones or tablets.

Free WIFI.

There was WIFI on the ship, but the cost was outrageous. It looked like we weren’t the only ones who decided to pass and/or find alternatives.

The row of tents from the ship to the edge of town
The city

Although the sky was clear and the sun was up it was cool in the shadows as we walked up the street to the town square where the main market was held.

One of the wall’s towers with the Norwegian Sun behind

Although the market was like markets everywhere, it was pretty obvious this one had an eye on the tourist dollar, with stalls full of knitted jumpers, shawls, beanies, hats, scarves, beads, necklaces, brooches, and other items that would easily fit in a suitcase. Quite a few sellers offered ‘amber’. I did the brackets because I suspect at least some of it was manufactured. There seemed to be an awful lot with entombed, perfectly preserved insects. Maybe Jurassic Park was real (dinosaur DNA derived from blood of sap-sucking insect). Pete bought a piece just for fun. Having said that, the amber used to create the famous amber room in Catherine’s Palace came from these parts. We’d be learning more about that tomorrow.

Sun and colour at the markets
I loved the witches
Jumpers, mittens, balaclavas, scarves. All pointless in sub-tropical Australia, but nice to look at.

Like most cities in the Olden Days,  Tallinn was a walled city. Red, conical roofs on the towers marked the boundaries. Like many other European cities, where you lived depended on your status. The upper classes lived up the hill, with access gained via gates in a series of thick walls. One got the impression that defence was important in this town. We wandered on up the hill from the town square and encountered a massive wall with a stairway leading to the top and an invitation to climb up to the cafe. We fancied a cup of coffee so we climbed up narrow, winding stairs with uneven and very high risers. Apparently, that was deliberate to slow down any enemies with a mind to try the ascent. We reached the top pretty puffed-out – and that’s where we were asked to pay an entrance fee. We weren’t impressed at the subterfuge but it wasn’t a lot of money and we wanted coffee. We left by a more accessible exit to wander around the town.

An imposing fortification in the middle of town
The stairs to the top. Note those HIGH risers. It’s hard work.
Note thickness of wall

Tallinn is neat, clean, graffiti-free (mostly) and fun to walk around. There are cobbled streets, fascinating laneways, fun places to eat and drink, and inviting shops selling local crafts and very much trading on the city’s medieval past. I expect, like Rostock, the citizens were delighted to throw off the Soviet yolk and get back to being Estonian.

The salmon was to die for, served with a crisp salad

Rather than go back to the ship for lunch, we found a restaurant in town offering a lunch menu and sat at a window watching people. It struck me that Estonians are amongst the most attractive looking people I’ve seen. So many tall, good-looking guys and women with long, flaxen hair. Peter Jackson could have recruited his elves from here, I reckon.

Lunch was fabulous. We had a bowl of chowder, then a piece of local salmon that was right up there with the best I’ve ever eaten. The price was good, too. I expect it might have been expensive for the locals but not for us tourists.

Cobblestones and interesting nooks and crannies
Old edifices
Al fresco dining outside a medieval pub

After lunch we did a lot more walking, soaking up what this city has to offer, stopping now and then for coffee to ease our by now aching feet. But we did climb up the hill that towers above the harbour to admire the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the consulate area. The views from up there are amazing.

Shrek and donkey pose outside the beautiful Alexander Nevsky cathedral
The view from the citadel. You can just make out the ship next to the tower

I loved Tallinn and I’d happily go again. I read somewhere that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld city, Ankh-Morpork, has elements of Tallinn in it. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tired but happy, we meandered gently back down to the ship for the next part of our tour. Tomorrow we’d be venturing into the great Russian city of St Petersburg.

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