29.08.2016 - 29.08.2016
Today was the first crappy weather day of my trip, which is rather remarkable considering that I’ve been gone for 26 days now. The day was cloudy and overcast – my ideal weather. However, not the best weather for sightseeing.
My plan for today was to take two free walking tours around different parts of town, but that fell through when I noticed that they do not run on Mondays. Thankfully there was still the regular free city walking tour at noon, which left me with both the morning and afternoon to goof around. I thought to visit some of the museums in the city, but they are all closed on Mondays!
After breakfast I decided to walk around outside of the historic city center. I made my way to the Patarie, which is a former fortress on the coast that was then used as a prison until 2005. Now the building is abandoned. There is a pleasant walk along the coastline that goes right next to the prison and it was really interesting to get to see it so close. The old barbed wire fence was in disarray, graffiti was all over the walls and the windows were boarded up.
As I was walking along the waterfront it began to rain, which put a damped on the sightseeing for the day. I made my way to the Linnahall building, which is another abandoned building. This one was built by the Soviets for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The Olympics were in Moscow, right? …so why was this built for that event? Since Moscow is landlocked, several cities bid on hosting the sailing events and Tallinn won. This was built to showcase how impressive Soviet architecture was, primarily the concrete-style buildings.
It is an interesting complex, though quite an eyesore. There is a large square of sorts and several higher levels reached by stairs, all of which are outside. Plans have begun to take over the entire building, growing from between the cracks.
My last stop before joining the walking tour was St. Olaf’s Church, which is the tallest building in Tallinn (city code forbids buildings to be any taller in order to preserve the old town feel). The tower was once the tallest building in the world – until the Eiffel Tower was built! The inside of the church was rather plain; I could have climbed the tower, but with the cruddy weather and my time restraint, I decided to pass.
The free walking tour kicked off at noon and soon the rain began to pour down upon us. Surprisingly none of the people on the tour left early due to the weather! Our guide was fun and energetic, providing several interesting and funny stories about Tallinn and Estonia. Our first stop was to the Freedom Square where we were able to see the independence monument. Our guide explained that Estonians are rather ambivalent about the monument itself.
We made our way into the upper town, where we saw some of the old fortifications of the city: old towers and city walls. Beneath the towers is a system of underground tunnels, which one can visit (just not on Monday).
After trudging up a hill we saw the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church that was built when Estonia was ruled by Imperial Russia. Across the street from the church was the Estonia parliament building, where they were currently holding elections for the president!
We made our way over to a viewing platform that provided some truly amazing views of the old town area of Tallinn. I tried to snap some selfies with my phone, but the lighting was too dark. Thankfully someone on the tour offered to take a photo for me.
We moved on to another viewing platform, this one looking over the area that I had explored in the morning. We took the long stairs down the old city wall to reach the old town area once again. One the way down there were several quotes or sayings painted on the wall, one of which said “Games people play” and then “Ryan” in smaller letters next to it.
Below we were shown a small monument to Boris Yeltsin in recognition of his assistance in Estonia independence during the early 1990s. It was an interesting monument made of metal with a surly-looking Yeltsin pictured (perhaps the artist was trying to make him look drunk!).
Our final stop was at the town hall in the city center, which is in the middle of a large square surrounded by restaurants and shops.
After the tour ended I found my way over to a small restaurant called Kompressor for lunch. This is a favorite among the locals, notably for its cheap prices and large portions. Kompressor specializes in filled pancakes and that is exactly what I ordered: a pancake with bacon and smoke cheese, along with an Estonian beer. The place was quite packed and I shared a large table with another person. The food was amazingly delicious and the portion was huge! All together the meal cost me less than EUR 7.
By this time the rain had thankfully stopped and I spent some time wandering around the city. I walked back up to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral so I could go inside. There was no admission cost, but they did not permit picture taking. Inside it was quite ornate, with gold all over the place and several very nice paintings. There were a few people praying and lighting candles as well.
I had one other sight that I wanted to see: St Catherine’s walk, which is a walkway in an alley with several local shops along it and there were some stone arches over the walkway. It was small and rather nice to take a quick stroll down the street.
At the end of the street I ran into a pleasant surprise: the old town city walls! There was an entrance a few meters away; I paid the EUR 3 entrance fee and made my way up to the walkway. It was cool getting to walk along the wooden walkway, looking through the arrow slits on one side and at the old town on the other side. This wasn’t something that I was aware of in the city and I was really happy to have found it.
Finally, I decided to return to the hookah lounge that I visited my first night in Tallinn. I had finished “Ready Player One” last night and I wanted to start my next book, a history of the Crimean War. Interestingly enough, our guide on the walk today spoke briefly about the Crimean War as well: there is an area near the port that the city used to burn down when enemies would approach; during the Crimean War the city saw a French and British ship sailing by (en route to blockade St Petersburg) and they burned the area down. I spent the evening at the hookah lounge – and yes, I did get to see the hot guy working there again! :-)
Fun tidbit: while watching TV at my hotel tonight I turned on a Russian network where they were playing the Mr Trololo song over some weird video. I feel that I’ve really experience some Soviet-style entertainment now…