My first stop on my 2011 Baltic Tour, Tallinn, is the smallest of the regional capitals and also the owner of the largest medieval heritage in the neighborhood. An important city within the Hanseatic League, it has preserved about ¾ of its city walls together with most of the important public buildings inside them, in the historical core. A quiet city on the shores of the Baltic didn’t stop just there. Tallinn today is a hub of innovation and technology, and even its contemporary architecture leaves no one indifferent. It is a city of free public transport, exceptional wooden houses and girls wearing colorful dresses.
One of the largest choral events in the world, the Estonian Song Festival is held in July every five years on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. It was here where mass protests took place in 1988 with people singing their way to what was called the Singing Revolution. Just before the event, participants from all regions of Estonia parade through the streets dressed with national costumes, followed by the cheerful local crowd waving flags and applauding. In 2011 Tallinn was the European capital of Culture so this event merged with many others; the city was glooming with life!
The wonderful Old Town is the highlight of the City, divided into the Upper town, still the Administrative center of Estonia, and the Lower town. While the urban grid dates back to the 13th century, many buildings are from the 14th to 16th centuries. The 17th century fortification still surrounds the Old Town. The 19th century industrial complex in Roterman Quarter, east from there, is a brilliant showcase of how old can be incorporated into a new environment in a chic contemporary way.
The largest and most centrally located square in the Old Town is the grand Raekoja Plats, surrounded by Town hall built in 1371 and several merchant houses. It can be accessed through the Viru Gates at the begging of the live Viru Street. The oldest church in Tallinn, the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin, was built during different historical periods, and was originally a catholic church. It is located inside the Upper town near the Toompea Castle, home to the Estonian Parliament. As a remnant of the tsarist Russian empire, the Saint Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral standing in front the Castle is a festival of colors and shapes.
Once a glorious merchant post, today Tallinn is a peaceful middle sized city. Even though it is the capital of one of the smallest European nations, it has entered the world stage as home to Skype. It is considered one of the smartest cities in the world, probably because of its achievements in the field of information technology. Citizens of Tallinn do most of their administrative issues online, and practically the whole city is covered with Wi-Fi. Brilliant architectural heritage, respectable musical tradition and constant technological innovations are a clear sign that this is not just another tourist destination. And as if it wasn’t enough, its citizens are remarkably hospitable and warm, quite atypical for northern countries.
Happy Frog recommends staying at Kalev Spa Hotel
If you have an extra day or two you should visit Lahemaa National Park or Pärnu