Estonia is one of the three "Baltic States" (along with Latvia and Lithuania), once part of the Soviet Union (although only by force) since independence all three countries have westernised very quickly.
For Estonia this meant re-establishing its links with Scandinavia and particularly Finland with which it shares a similar language and culture. The Estonians are keen to tell people that they are the only former Communist Scandinavian country.
The capital is Tallinn, one of Europe's best preserved medieval cities, the other major city being Tartu. Estonia also has a series of beautiful and wild islands in the Baltic.
Tallinn - Andrew, Jacqui, her Mum and friends - 2014
After St. Petersburg I had begun to think that the Baltic Cruise had peaked. I was wrong about that. The two days of intensive sight seeing in Russia’s great city had been tiring but rewarding; and we had a tour booked for our next destination – Tallinn, Estonia.
We woke up – once more – with rain lashing down. In fact, the rain was the worst it had been since Stockholm.
As we left the Ship to head for our tour bus I took a picture of the ship reflected in the rain.
The dock at Tallinn is nice and close to the City and – on a good day – a great view can be had of the Old Town rising up to Toompea Hill. Today was not such a good day, but the view was still quite impressive.
The tour we had booked was in two parts – firstly an hour at Toompea Hill and then a driving tour around Tallinn and its suburbs.
The bus stopped by Tall Hermann Tower – part of the fortifications of Toompea Castle. From here it was a short walk up to the top of Toompea Hill, from where, ironically you can’t see any of the Castle-like parts of the Castle!
The Toompea Castle on the hill-side of the structure is now hidden beneath 18th Century work and today houses Estonia’s Parliament. Immediately across from it is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Much to the chagrin of the Estonians this Russian Cathedral has become one of the symbols of their City. It was built between 1894 and 1900 and is dedicated to the Russian Saint Alexander Nevsky (see also Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria).
The tour went inside the Cathedral but I ducked out a bit early and – having an hour or so – went off for a quick wander around the back streets of Old Tallinn.
Not far from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the Toomkirik – the oldest church in Tallinn dating to 1229 (and strictly speaking St. Mary’s Cathedral). Because of the continuing dampness of the day the top of the church was disappearing into the mist, but it did make for a very atmospheric picture.
From here I headed towards the area where the viewing points over the Lower Town of Tallinn are situated. I found myself, once again, walking through a maze of picturesque little cobbled alleyways.
Then I found my way to the Patkuli viewing platform from where a wonderous site of higgledy-piggledy red roofs with fortified towers and church spires lay before me.
The towers of the City Walls looming through the mist is one of the images of Tallinn that will always stick with me.
The rain continued unabated as I began to make my way back towards the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, but Tallinn continued to unveil fantastic, if damp, vistas to me.
Eventually I found my way back to where I would meet up with the rest of the tour group and a few of us headed to the other main viewing platform; Kohtuotsa. Finally the rain eased off a little and the view was the clearest that we had.
Back on the bus the dry weather did not last long, and as we headed towards the waterfront areas of Tallinn the rain start up again, so my pictures of the remainder of the tour are somewhat rain spattered. But as we travelled around the edge of Tallinn and into the nearby wooded area I slowly began to realise that this was one of the most beautiful cities in the world; historic, green, modern and manageable. Both Jacqui and I decided there and then that we would definitely be back to this place. Unexpectedly, Tallinn became the highlight of the Cruise – despite the truly horrible weather!
That evening there was a high-wire show in the Centrum of Brilliance of the Seas which was pretty impressive and ended this day on a literal and figurative high.
Only one more stop remained on our cruise, at Visby in Sweden.
Back to Eastern Europe
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