Cross the Baltic Sea to Tallinn
Tallinn Travel Blog› entry 3 of 17 › view all entries
We got up early today to sunny skies and moderate temperatures. We took the Superseacat ferry across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn. The journey took about 1 hour 45 minutes over a fairly smooth sea. Although there were a few small bumps it was not eventful. The Baltic Sea freezes in the winter and the faster Superseacat (a catamaran) does not go over ice, only the slower ferry can go across after the ice breakers makes way for them. It's pretty amazing to think this big surface of sea as frozen, if anyone has a photo of it I would love to see it. As an aside Finland is the world's largest producer of ice breaker ships! As the ferry got close to Tallinn, we could see the colorful city approaching, and the various spires and towers, looking very attractive.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, the smallest of the 3 Baltic nations. Estonia has only 1.4 million people, and 400000 of them live in Tallinn. Gaining independence from the former USSR in 1991, it nonetheless has a large Russian population of about 25%, with most of them in Tallinn of course. Estonia has the most strict rule for the Russians to become Estonia citizens among the 3 Baltic nations. The Russians must learn Estonian, and its history, and pass a citizenship test. Otherwise they are not very employable. We saw many young womens selling postcards in Tallinn, and were told these are Russians without jobs! The three Baltic states are current European Union members, but they have not achieved the economic status of using the Euros as currency, which is expected in 2009. The Finno-Ugric people and language of Estonia are more closely related to the Finns than its other Baltic neighbors.
After arriving and getting through customs, we boarded our bus which came over on the same ferry with us, and head to old town Tallinn. Tallinn old town is a well preserved medieval city with city walls, gates, cobble stone streets, old churches and merchant houses. One would think since it's medieval there would be no cars in its streets, but that's not true. We saw many (ok, not that many, but enough you can not assume you own the streets) cars zipping along its narrow cobble stone streets!
Our local guide took us on a guided walk through parts of town, starting at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral across from the Toompea Castle at upper Tallinn. 3 cruise ships have just disgorged thousands of people onto Tallinn, so this place was choke full of people! We took a quick look inside the cathedral, which was grand and had Russina icons, tombs of some important people I don't know, and lots of candles.
Next we went to the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin. There was a sundial on the wall above the door, after considering the daylight savings time, it was still telling the time correctly! This church had very high pews, many coats of arms on the walls, and tombstones on the floor inside. Then we walked to an overlook point where we could look down on the lower part of old town, before heading through a doorway next to Kiek in de kok (peek into the kitchen) tower where the guards supposedly could literally peek into the kitchens of the houses below into the lower town.
Next stop was the Niguiste Museum/concert hall, which used to be St Nicholas' church. This church was bombed and destroyed during WWII and now is restored and used as a museum and a concert hall. The pew seats can be moved to face either the pipe organs or the front of what used to be the altar. This church also had many coats of arms on its walls, tombstones on the floor, but also museum items such as the silvers from the House of Black Heads (a guild of merchants who were not married), part of a long panel of painting depicting skeltons dancing/talking with young women, meant to tell people that the dead is just the future of the living, and the dead were once living, since people can not take anything with them after they die, they should give material goods away.
We ended our walking tour at the town hall and market square, where there were thousands of people, vendors selling all kinds of stuff in little booths, sidewalk cafes overflowing into the sqaure, and people generally having a good time. The town hall has a tall steeple, and watersprouts in the shape of dragons.
After lunching at the cellar restaurant called Vanaema Juures Restoran (old grandma's kitchen) on a side street away from the market square, we checked into our hotel, rested a bit (found the computer inside the room) and headed out to see some of the sights mentioned by another travbuddy cessna152 (Yeah for travbuddy).
We went next to the back of the St. Olav's Church, where there was a big tombstone with carvings of people mourning this guy who died of the plague, over a stone (not his real) skelton of him! St Olav's Church has a tallest steeple in Tallinn, at 124 meters high.
We kept walking to the Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret's Tower, out the gate and saw the memorial of them 852 victoms of the ferry Estonia which sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994. (My husband was travelling on another ferry the day before on the Baltic Sea arriving in Helsinki himself.
The Domina City Hotel has internet connection for 9 euros per day. A first I have seen, it comes with a computer in every room! Our room was small with a slanted ceiling (being on the top floor right under the steep roof), so if you were tall you had to watch your head when you get into the bed. We opened the window and the seagulls were having a great party making all sorts of noises. The sky was light even at 11pm!
Dinner was at Gloria's, a fancy restaurant which served the Soviet elites while Estonia was part of USSR.