One of the biggest perks of living on the edge of Baltic Ocean is the ease with which one can reach any country across the sea on an overnight cruise trip. After watching pictures of one of my friends, Jannis who went to Tallin, I got intrigued to see the unique architecture of this Eastern-European country. It’s funny how buildings at a place speak nearly everything about the history.
So fast forward from nearly missing it to boarding our Ship to Tallin – MS Victoria, which turned out to be fully equipped with everything that could keep someone entertained and engaged on an overnight cruise – Dutyfree shopping, restaurants, live music, disco, cabaret and what not.
We reached Tallin around 10:00 in the morning and our ship was scheduled to leave for the return journey to Stockholm at 18:00, so we had practically just shy of 8 hours to explore the place; having realised this earlier, we had breakfast and got ready before we arrived in Tallin.
The easiest and the best way to explore Tallin was to take the free walking tour, for those of you planning to visit Tallinn in coming months, this tour starts at 12:00 every day from the Tallinn tourist center and takes you to most of the places around the city during next 2:30 hours.
We started from St. Nicholas Church, (also known as Niguliste kirik — Niguliste Muuseum), This church dates back to 13th century, but was partially destroyed during the Soviet bombing during World War II, when fire turned it to ruins and destroyed most of the interior. It was restored between 1953 and 1981, only for the tower to again be destroyed by fire in 1982.
Ironically, when the restoration was completed in 1984, the church no longer functioned as a place of worship. It is now a museum of ‘religious art’ and one of the most famous pieces is the painting of the “Danse Macabre” (dance of death) by artist Bernt Notke.
Then we walked a bit from old town towards a wide open area called the Freedom Square, It is known to be Tallinn’s grandest public space. The monument to the War of Independence was unveiled here in 2009. Over the years, the square has gone by many names: the Straw Market, Peter’s Square and Victory Square among them. On one side of it, you’ll see St. John’s Church, and opposite to it is the colossal glass sculpture called the War of Independence Victory Column [Vabadussõja võidusammas].
From there, we climbed the stairs next to this glass structure and reached a canon tower called Kiek in de kök, no matter how misleading the name is, it’s a German name translating to “Look in the kitchen”, having situated in the upper part of town, the guards could look into the kitchens of nearby houses because of big chimneys in those times. The tower now houses museum displaying collections of weapons and artifacts from Tallinn’s medieval history
There were a number of funny stories about this place that our guide told us, this place used to be a place where they used to illegally sell the American music which was banned in that era in Estonia. This tower still has nine of Ivan IV’s cannonballs embedded in its walls, which are easily visible.
We walked further towards Toompea Hill which is also called the upper town of Tallinn; these days it is the seat of the Estonian administration. In the old days the nobility lived here, on the top of Toompea hill is situated the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is an orthodox cathedral designed in a typical Russian Revival style, it was built when the country was a part of the Russian Empire.
But the best part of the upper town were a couple of viewpoints, from where a really nice cityscape of the city could be seen.
We saw some more spots in the old town before our tour ended at the Town Hall Square, that happened to be a lively area, and we found an Indian restaurant there as well, the perfect place for lunch.
Tired and chilled with the cold winds in this coastal city, our next move was towards the mall which was closer to the port as well, the best part about shopping malls is that you get access to free Wi-Fi, although I’m not in favour of staying glued to the phone during trips, but there is calling home is something any Indian student can’t miss for sure.
The return journey was a bit spoiled by a storm so everything was moving with the turbulence in the sea, but the performances by the band and singers were good enough to distract us from that.
Tallin, for sure is not a place that one could explore in mere 8 hours, it deserves much more time, I’ll try to go there once again during summer when I go to Riga and St. Petersberg.
PS: If you want to visit these places, save this map on your google maps, I’ve marked them all on it.