On the shore of the Gulf of Finland lies one the most interesting cities I have visited during my years in Scandinavia. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, aka the Silicon Valley of the Baltics or hometown of Skype, has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. Although Tallinn is not on many people’s bucket list, the place is not only remarkable for its technological and mobility infrastructure, but also for its history, art and architecture.

P1030722Old Town lookout (May 2008)

The Old Centre is a walled area full of old buildings and fortifications. It was first expanded by the Danish who arrived and started ruling Tallinn in 1219. The Swedes invaded the city next in 1561. Then, in 1710, the Russians. In 1918, Estonia declared independence from Russia, but fell to the Nazis and then the Soviets during World War II. Despite all the wars and invasions, Tallinn’s historic centre has survived remarkably intact. It is so well preserved that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

118_0300Medieval walled area

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If you are going on weekends, you have to get there early in the morning before the crowds to get the most of its medieval charm. It’s the best time to sit and marvel the beautiful architecture and to picture the life there hundreds of years ago.

118_0310Early in the morning near the Centre Square

100_0240Centre Square after 10 a.m.

talliinStreet made spiced almonds

 

Curiosities

  • For a period of time, Tallinn attracted many young men with the lure of cheap booze and prostitution. You can still see a great number of people taking the ferry in the Finnish capital and crossing the Baltic just to take advantage of the slightly lower prices of drinks, goods and services.
  • Estonian artists have recycled  13,000 mobile phones to make benches in the downtown area.
  • Not too far from the capital, there is a village called Kaali, on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. The last known occurrence of an impact event on a populated area happened there. The tourist area resembles a film set for The Game of Thrones. You can experience an authentic medieval meal at the surroundings.
  • Tallinn is the oldest capital in Northern Europe.

P1040005

A waiter showing one of the meals at the Olde Hansa restaurant.

 

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Our meal at Olde Hansa

Next time you plan a trip overseas, consider visiting an unpredictable destination like the Estonian capital. Just don’t forget the best time would be off-season when crowds are gone and you can dream yourself alive in a Game of Thrones setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The unexpected charm of Tallinn, Estonia

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