Belle of the East

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Jan 16, 2010

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Flag of Estonia  ,
Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wow, what a gorgeous place! I had heard tales of a long forgotten beauty on the shores of the Baltic Sea, but to see Tallinn is to truly fall in love. Cobblestone streets and narrow lanes leading through medieval towers which then reveal great Orthodox cathedrals beguile the traveller, while views of an ancient city bumped up against a modern harbor astound. That's the good news, the bad is that the cruise ship operators have found her, and dump thousands of tourists on Tallinn every morning. Fortunately for me, they are mostly gone by mid-afternoon, so I could wander in peace. And wander is exactly what I did, through the alleyways, through the churchyards, under the fortress arches and into the beautiful churches. Like Riga, music seemed to be everywhere.It amazed me that these 12th century buildings stood strong through so much history. I did not visit Estonia's museum but I imagine the horrors of deportations to Siberia, killing people suspected of being disloyal to the government and involuntary service were shared. Having made friends with a travel agent who spent time in the US, I asked her about Tallinn during the days under Soviet rule.While it is still so recent, it is hard to imagine, what with its bustling streets, patron filled cafes and restaraunts, and busy shops selling everything from woolens to amber to tourists anxious to bring something home from the newly dubbed "little country that could". She said, "well there was no private ownership, so all these shoppes you see would have been offices for the state". When Estonia gained its independence again in 1991, a monumental effort was made to return these properties to their rightful owners. I tried envisioning how that task was done, and the turmoil these folks went through going from one crazy system to a totally opposite government almost overnight. My friend says there are still growing pains, such as the older people who are really struggling with how to finance their old age. I saw evidence of this on the streets, old women in babushkas begging for assistance, always in front of the churches. My heart went out to them and said silent prayers that they would be taken care of as I went past.
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