What could be more enchanting than a skyline of medieval buildings, cathedrals, stone walls, and spiralling towers? Tallinn is an amazing blend of medieval history and young, party vibe. Nathanael and I can’t wait to grab a few friends and come back in the summer!
Our first night in Tallinn couldn’t have been better. We arrived in Tallinn on the ferry from Helsinki around supper time and set off for our hostel in the heart of the Old Town. The harbour was only a 15 minute walk from the hostel, but we took a bit longer. The streets wound and intersected haphazardly, coupled with the fact that everything around us looked so achingly beautiful in the falling snow.
We finally stumbled across the hostel, and took a slightly dodgy looking stairway into a cramped reception room. After chatting a bit with the guy at the front desk (who had ties to Canada!) he informed us that the heater in the hostel was broken. After a moment of panic thinking to myself, “Oh god, are we going to have to freeze?” He reassured us that our booking had been moved to another nearby hostel. We would pay the same amount we had been originally quoted, and at this new place we would be getting breakfast included! Not bad at all, so off we went. This place ended up being even trickier to find, owing to the fact that the sign marking the entrance was tucked into the doorway. Climbing up the stairs and walking into this new place, right away we knew we had lucked out when the first words the girl at reception said were, “You guys are the lucky ones, you really upgraded!” The hostel we had been moved to was normally double the value of the one we had booked, awesome way to start the weekend!
As soon as we had settled in, we went out on the town. Starting off in the town square, we popped into Draakon for a quick bite. This place is a step into the past; set up like a medieval pub. The stone walls are streaked from candle smoke, the tables are uneven wooden planks, no cutlery, and everything is served in clay pottery. After some elk soup and a big cup of mulled wine, we stumbled back out on the streets to spend the rest of the evening wandering.
The next morning we got up early (ish), enjoyed our free breakfast, and took off down the street to catch the Free City Tour beginning at Niguliste Museum in the old Church of St. Nicholas. From there our guide led us through old town Tallinn, filling us in on all the history and scandal! My favourite was the story of Old Thomas, the weather vane figure on top of Town Hall. The original Old Thomas was put on top of the Town Hall in 1530. Local legend says that he was a peasant boy who won a crossbow contest, but was unable to win the prize because he was low-born. Instead, they awarded him the position of town guard for the rest of his life (a prestigious position in society at the time). After his death, his likeness was made on the weather vane over town hall, so that he could continue his watch.
The next day, we went back to another interesting spot: Kiek in de Kök museum. The museum was informative, but I think I enjoyed the view of the city from the cafe on the top floor of the tower the best.
After a tour of the museum, we went for a second tour of the extensive bastion tunnel system below Kiek in de Kök. The earliest tunnels were constructed in the 1630’s, and the system became more extensive as the Swedish Bastion and Ingermanland Semi-Bastion were built. They have had a variety of uses over the years, including as store rooms, prison cells, air-raid shelters, and even homes for the homeless.
After a wonderful dinner of pork, duck, and salmon (can you tell we’ve been missing meat?) at Porgu, we wandered around the various shops looking for a couple of gifts for our families. After a few free sampler shots of peppermint schnapps at Olde Hansa, we were feeling good and wandered along the city wall enjoying the atmosphere.
Tallinn was so beautiful, and we only got to spend such a short period of time there. The Estonians we met were friendly, the feeling of the city was warm and vibrant, and the history there is so alive and in front of you. We can’t wait to see more of Estonia as our journey continues!