Tallinn

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The old town 

Got up very, very early, my bad, I woke up zero dark early with the net result that we spent an hour extra at Helsinki airport really, really early, G was justifiably annoyed. Still we got to Tallinn airport and as we had a few hours before our connecting flight to Moscow well let’s go explore the Old Town. There are lockers at the airport for luggage and the bus leaves from right outside to do a loop route through the city. Hint, if you’ve a flight to catch you need to watch your time and know the stops.

If you’ve ever watched some soviet era period piece films you may find the streets of Tallinn’s old town strangely familiar, or so says G, and she would know. Apparently Tallinn was a stock location for Soviet art directors after a ‘European’ feel to their film, with Sherlock Holmes and The Three Musketeers being shot here. Back during the ‘good old days’ of the cold war the KGB also co-opted St Olaf’s spire for use as a radio transmitter, nowadays Tallinn hosts NATO’s cybersecurity research centre.

In some ways the visiting in the off season is great as you don’t have to rub shoulders with a billion other folk. You can get a feel for the place and go where you please without feeling like an ambulatory sardine. The Estonian museum in the old guild hall was open and I’d recommend it if you’re interested in the history of the place. After learning a little bit about the history of Estonia I’m thinking of a new Estonian tourism board slogan, “Come invade Estonia this summer, everybody else has”. If you’ve got the time then spiral around the lower old town before making your way up the hill to Toompea, the upper town,  where the current national government sits, and where you can get some great views out over the lower town and across to the gulf of Finland beyond. Funny to think that we spend a few hours here then it’s back to Moscow with one day left on my Russian visa (that will take some explaining) and the start of the journey home.

The Viru gate barbican, well what's left of. This was just the start, Tallinn has a lot of towers, a lot...

The Viru gate barbican, well what’s left of. These two towers would have provided defensive fire for the main gate when it was under attack. Medieval gates such as these are interesting not just because they’re military works but also because the served to monitor and regulate people’s comings and going and as points at which taxes could be collected. This btw was just the start of Tallinn’s towery wonderfulness 🙂

Obligatory christmas tree, town square.

Obligatory christmas tree, Raekoja platz, that’s not the town hall spire over the back but in fact the spire of The Holy Spirit. We have our backs to the town hall, as you do.

The Raeapteek or Town Hall Pharmacy which is located opposite the Town Hall at number 11 and has been operating here since the 15th century. Check out the twining snakes (caduceus) on the door which is an ancient symbol of medicine.

Wandering around the backstreets in the early morning light.

Wandering around the backstreets in the early morning light.

Muurivahe, a narrow cobbled stone street behind the old city wall.

Muurivahe, a narrow cobbled stone street behind the old city wall.

Another medieval street with the spire of the Town hall behind, useful navigation marker really :)

Another medieval street with the spire of the Holy Spirit behind, useful navigation marker really.

The most renovated medieval bathroom I've ever been in, courtesy of the Estonian museum. :)

The most renovated medieval bathroom I’ve ever been in, courtesy of the Estonian museum.

Door of the Great Guild Hall, G about to knock with the enormous lion head door knocker.

Door of the Great Guild Hall, G about to knock using the enormous lion head door knocker.

Give me a little bit more of that gothic architecture, thanks.

Give me a little bit more of that gothic architecture, thanks.

Clock of the Church of the Holy Ghost in Tallinn. A Lutheran church with this glorious sundial of a clock hanging off the side of it, how'd they get away with that? :)

Clock of the Church of the Holy Ghost in Tallinn. A Lutheran church with this glorious sundial of a clock hanging off the side of it, how’d they get away with that?

More streets, this time slightly wider. But just about as deserted.

More streets, this time slightly wider. But just about as deserted.

And yet more picturesque streets with the sun starting to burn away the overcast.

And yet more picturesque streets with the sun starting to burn away the overcast.

St Nicholas' steeple from Rataskaev street.

St Nicholas’ steeple from Rataskaev street.

Walking up Pikk Jalg with Toompea (the upper town) on our right

Walking up Pikk Jalg with Toompea (the upper town) on our right

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The Alexander Nevsky cathedral in all it’s gaudy Russian revivalist finery. Needless to say not well liked by the locals given it’s role in the ‘Russification’ of the country under the old empire.

Inner wall and towers on the edge of Toompea hill That's the kiek in the kok (peek into the kitchen) tower to the right

Inner wall and towers on the edge of Toompea hill That’s the kiek in the kok (peek into the kitchen) tower to the right

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Looking back over the city wall, with Old St Nicholas' spire peeping above the wall.

Looking back over the city wall, with Old St Nicholas’ spire peeping above the wall.

Pikk (tall) Hermann, built by the knights of the Livonia order (as you asked). Tallest tower in Tallin. That's the Estonian flag up on top, a bit like the royal standard at Buckingham palace.

Pikk (tall) Hermann, built by the knights of the Livonia order (as you asked). Tallest tower in Tallin. To keep the sentries warm in winter the tower was built with a form of central heating. That’s the Estonian flag up on top, a bit like the royal standard at Buckingham palace as this is the capital precinct.

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Tallinn with St Olaf's church (KGB field radio det. No. 36) left of centre and the rooves of the city wall towers extending to the left. On the right we're looking across the port in the distance to the Gulf of Finland. Hey! I can see Rob's house from here. :)

Tallinn with St Olaf’s church (KGB field radio det. No. 36) left of centre and the rooves of the city wall towers extending to the left. On the right we’re looking across the port in the distance to the Gulf of Finland. Hey! I can see Rob’s house from here. 🙂

Winter roofs of Tallinn from Kohtsuatsa viewing platform

Winter roofs of Tallinn from Kohtsuatsa viewing platform

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