I loved the view of the city as we approached. To the left is modern Tallinn; to the right is old Tallinn. We would be visiting Old Town today. I was so excited.
When I chose the “Tallinn Highlights” tour I was attracted to the word medieval. I have come to love the walled cities, tower gates and castles that are speckled all over Europe.
Medieval Old Town Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage site and is ranked as a global city.
We started our tour with a scenic ride through Tallinn seeing such sights as the Kadriorg Park founded by Peter the Great in honor of his wife Catherine, the 16th century ruins of St. Bridget’s Convent, and the Olympic Yachting Complex outside the city center.
Our first stop was the Song Festival Grounds. Our guide, Kelly (Kullii) explained that in 1869 Joann Voldemar Jannsen established an Estonian Song Festival that is considered responsible for an Estonian national awakening. Festivals have been held every five years since with as many as 30,000 performers singing to over 300,000 spectators. I thought that was amazing.
Kelly said, “Estonians put their thoughts, ideas and dreams into music. This is how we express our emotions”.
She also said that the Estonian people are, “Very serious. We don’t talk to strangers”.
“In this country the Estonian people do not volunteer to help you to do things. If you want help, you must ask for it,” she continued.
A short distance later we arrived at the Tall Hermann Tower and took a short walk up Toompea Hill to the Palace Square. Inside the square was the baroque style Toopea Castle which now houses the Estonian Parliament.
Just across the street was the Russian Orthodox Church of Alexander Nevsky. We stepped inside for a short visit. There was a sign asking visitor to not talk or take pictures. I thought that was a shame because the interior was just beautiful. There were no pews or seats in the church. But, it had many beautiful icons and mosaics.
We asked about that and were told that no one sits down they just come in walk around a little, perhaps light a candle and say a prayer then leave. Before leaving, I stopped and bought a postcard with a picture of the interior.
We walked along winding cobblestone streets as we made our way to 13th century St. Mary’s Cathedral. I loved the inside of the church. The walls were covered with over 100 beautiful coats of arms. I loved the wooden pews and organ. Lovely, just lovely.
Our next stop was but a short walk through this beautiful, historic city to a platform that Kelly promised would give us amazing views of the historic town. She was right. From this unique spot there was a wonderful panoramic view of Old Town’s rooftops and towers with the newer section of the city skyline just beyond. It certainly was an interesting contrast.
The most impressive sight was St. Olaf’s Church and Tower that was once the tallest building in the world. We stood along the railing for a while just soaking in what we were seeing. The sight was quite captivating.
We stopped briefly at a lovely area full of shops and small cafes. We spent a few moments walking through a few shops looking at all the souvenirs but only stopped at a small wagon where a very nice woman was selling glazed almonds. They were spicy and delicious.
All of the sights we saw were wonderful but what caught my fancy were the old walls and towers around the city. They were beautiful. I would have loved to go into one of the towers but that was not a part of the tour. Oh, well maybe next time.
The tour was coming to an end so we made our way back down to the bus and took the short ride back to the pier. Instead of returning to the ship we walked down the pier to a small area filled with little open-air shops. While there we talked a little about our trip.
I asked, “How did you like the tour?”
Randy said, “I am glad we came here because I wanted to visit an ex-Soviet country to see what changes had been made”
“I saw signs of old Soviet housing that were pretty much concrete and showing their age and not many people were living in them”.
Randy went on to say that he enjoyed listening to Kelly express how proud the people of Estonia are about their country after having to endure years of occupation by both Germany and Russia and finally winning their independence in 1987.
We finished our conversation and started to walk back to the ship. As we were walking I noticed that some very dark clouds were hovering over the ship and stopped to take a picture before continuing on.
It was a lovely, lovey day. Although I would say that walking on cobblestone streets can be a bit exhausting. The one thing that we both agreed on was this was definitely going on our list of cities to return to some day.
We had cocktails and dinner with our friends then retired to our cabin for a good night’s sleep.
Tomorrow we are in St. Petersburg, Russia.