Once the tallest building in the world

Tallinn Travel Blog

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The next day we thought we would nip over to Estonia. After misdirection to a port on the wrong side of Helsinki and a ticket mistake we managed to get on the Ferry, complete with napping room, for our day trip to Tallinn, the most intact medieval town in Europe.

Inside the old city the first thing we did was climb the spire of St Olav's Church (right next to the former KGB headquarters with boarded-up windows). It is now only 123 metres tall, but when it was built (in 1438) it was 159 metres tall. This was enough to make it the second tallest building in the world, then the tallest in 1549 once the spiral of Lincoln Cathedral (160m) was destroyed. It is odd to think that this tower was actually the fourth major structure to hold the title of world's tallest building (after the Red Pyramid, the Great Pyramid which held the title for 4000 years and Lincoln Cathedral). It is even stranger to consider that it held the title until 1625, when the lightning strike knocked down the spire and the reconstructed height was lower than that of Strasbourg Cathedral. So nothing was actually built taller than St Olav's Church for 450 years until the Washington Monument just pipped it in 1884 (169m, ninth to hold the title), before the Eiffel tower rewrote the records in 1889 (300m), which lasted until 1930 Chrysler building (319m). I would have thought that the world’s tallest structure would have been held by many buildings over the eons, but actually only fourteen have held that title (five of which got it by larger buildings falling down) and most of the increase in height has come in three buildings - the Great Pyramid (146m, 40% gain), the Eiffel Tower (300m, 80% gain) and Ostankino Tower (537m, 40% gain). Anyway, the view from St Olav’s spire is really good.

Wandering around the city we saw the only surviving Gothic Town Hall in Europe, constructed in the 14th century and topped by Old Thomas since 1530, and the Raeapteek, a pharmacy that has been operating since 1422. We had lunch up White Bread passage next to the Gothic Puhavaimu Kirik (Holy Spirit Church), a beautiful old church with odd post-Christian stain-glass. After wandering around the walls of the lower town we climbed by to the high town (Toompea) and saw Toomkirik, the oldest church in Estonia (1219) and the stunning Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (1894).
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Tallinn
photo by: Chokk