Destination: Tallinn, Estonia
Date: May 2013
I had no expectation of Estonia. I kinda felt like the cruise line had thrown it in just so we would have one more port of call and not necessarily a real attraction to our 12 day Baltic cruise. Little did I know how wrong I was! Pulling up to the port of Estonia it looked like I was arriving to a secret fairytale from long ago. In the distance I could see the roof tops sticking through the fog that was laying low over the city. It looked mystical, and inviting and I couldn’t wait to see what our days adventure lay ahead.
Arriving to the port we were talked into paying $10 per person to take the shuttle bus into town. This turned out to be a waste of money. The port is about a ten minute walk from old town Tallinn so purchasing the shuttle wasn’t necessary. If I was to do it all over again I wouldn’t buy the shuttle ticket. But as they say hindsight is 20/20 so we purchased the shuttle and took the four minute drive into town.
Getting off the shuttle the city isn’t very impressionable. It looks like many cities of eastern block countries. A little dirty but industrious and not much to write home about. However the old town of Tallinn is where the charm resides. From our drop off point we still had about a five minute walk into old town. With our trusty map in hand we started toward the old city walls that are intermittently placed around the old city. Since this town has been raided and bombed so many times over the years there is much of the city walls that have been torn down but some of these walls still exist and add to the enchantment that lies within.
Estonia was a complete surprise for me to discover. I loved every minute of this old city. It wasn’t about museums and cathedrals but it was about visiting a city that had been transported from the 18th century. It was charming like no other city on our cruise.
This city was about walking the narrow streets, peeking into the old shops that sold many great souvenirs. Some of these items were the typical nesting dolls, keychains, and magnets but other stores sold neat pieces of embroidery, materials, and crafts made by the local people. Actual souvenirs that we would want to buy and take home to show the ingenuity of the people of Estonia. These shops were inviting and often owned and managed by the older population of this city.
On the streets there were kiosks full of girls wearing old time apparel selling candied nuts and selling them in their booths. Over by the area of Toompea there are archers with archery booths set up to give the tourists a chance to show what they are worth. Our little group had to have a small competition to show off our archery skills. It was a fun activity that was totally different than anything we had ever experienced on our travels.
Every resident of this area seemed to be in the business of taking the tourist back to the medieval times when this city was fighting for protection and focused on family and worship. Even the school group that was in the town square on a field trip was wearing capped shawls to make them look like children from the 1700’s. This city could have easily been the inspiration for the city of Duloc, in Shrek. It felt like a life like fairytale.
Our day was focused on shopping the streets, going in their main buildings like their cathedrals and town square and finding the best place to eat. There are five museums in Tallinn. The Kumu Art Museum, a living art museum filled with many contemporary pieces. Then there is the Kadriorg Art Museum, with jewels of European and Russian art in a magnificent Baroque palace. Next there is Mikkel Museum which is the largest and most valuable private collection by an Estonian art collector. The Adamson-Eric Museum is next and it has the art of Adamson-Eric an Estonian artist. The last museum and the one I wanted to see was the Niguliste Museum which housed the ecclesiastical art treasures from the medieval to the baroque period. Most importantly it has the Ars Moriendi-the Art of Dying. Does that sound morbid? It certainty was!
We actually just happened upon this museum and I was glad we found it. Located in the St. Nicholas church just off the main square in old town it is now a museum and concert hall. The Ars Moriendi is the main exhibit on site. “The exhibition examines how the meaning of death, man’s fate after death and remembering the dead were reflected in medieval art and the art of the early modern age. In addition to artworks, archeological and cultural historical items help to cast light on the topic.” This seemed like a great way to transport ourselves to the time that Tallinn was a happening seaport for merchants and seamen.
A double treat to visiting this museum at the time we did was that there was a concert going on inside the museum. I’m not sure I would have found the museum as enchanting as I did had the group “Ooper Kvartett” not been playing beautiful cover songs of classical music on their violins, violas, and bass. The music echoed through the huge cathedral and made a lasting impression on me.
Our next enchanting find was the restaurant Von Krahli Aed. Trip Advisor led us to this gem ranked number three on their website. We were so excited by the entire experience we had there. Though we were unable to get a table for our party of six we were able to get three tables for two. It had the atmosphere and cleanliness I desired and on top of that the food was delicious. I loved it all. The tomato cheese pureed soup is something I will dream about for the rest of my life. Even the ice-cold cheesecake left a lasting impression. I couldn’t have been any happier and will consider this restaurant in Estonia as a happy place for me for the rest of my life. I loved it that much. It was also the best food we had on our entire three week trip in the Baltic’s! I can’t say enough good things about this place. Did I mention it was also affordable? Well it was!!
After a day of shopping, walking, discovering, eating, laughing, and enjoying all that Tallinn had to offer in the short eight hours we were there this country became one of my favorites. Maybe because I miss the fairytales from my childhood, or maybe because the rich past that is celebrated so richly by the locals… I’m not sure. However, when I think of Estonia it will always cause me to smile. If you ever have a chance to visit you must give it a try!!
Have Safe, Happy, and Fairytale Travels!