Old Town Eesti
Trip Start May 28, 2008
60Trip End Aug 26, 2008
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The ferry boat from Helsinki to Tallinn was an adventure in itself, it started with Demian and I partaking in a pre boat cocktail called a Long drink, which is basically gin and grapefruit juice, neither of which I am particularly fond of. However, when combined you don't really taste the gin and the grapefruit juice loses its bitterness. This drink is a popular after sauna refreshment with the Finns, which I found to be amusing; there is something about sweating out all impurities from your body only to immediately replace them. I have decided to Google the recipe was I get home. Yum!
Once on the boat, the party hit full gear. The duty free shops were crammed full of Europeans feverishly purchasing alcohol, chocolate, perfume, and any other gourmet item you could think by the boatload (we found Haloumi cheese-yum!). People brought portable luggage carts so that they could easily transport their cases of alcohol, up to their compartments, to their homes, or at least as far as the deck. We fortunately were able to secure some chairs with a table on a top deck where we played cards and people watched. The guy dressed up like Borat (you know- the lime green Speedo ensemble), epitomized the party mood of this boat.
Tallinn is really a beautiful city. The meandering cobblestone streets, small shops, numerous bars and restaurants, ancient churches and buildings create a wonderfully charming place to spend time. We walked a great deal through the old city, soaking up the sights, and discovering hidden little gems throughout. We found out that the city's pharmacy that is still in use today was built centuries ago and has always been their pharmacy. We also discovered that Tallinn has a Depeche Mode bar. I don't know if it is officially recognized or sanctioned by the band, but still that is pretty cool.
The view from the top of St Olaf's was touted as being spectacular
"You need to wait, I am coming though, now!" she barked at me in accented English, for which I replied, "you need to move, or I will vomit on you!" Funny how carefully chosen words will get you results so quickly. I was much better as I quickly descended the tower and explored the church until Demian and the kids came down.
One of the highlights of my time in Tallinn was visiting Saint Nicholas's church. There is a painting there that I had wanted to see for a very long time, The Dance Macabre, painted by Bernt Notke in the 15th century. It is a series of dancing skeletons that are 'explaining' to each person that they are dancing with (a king, empress, pope, bishop, etc.) that it doesn't matter how rich and powerful they had become in their lives- they are but a feast for the worms in the end
Trying to live a 'normal' life while your country is under occupation is not easy. Estonia has had this problem for a very long time. If it wasn't the Danes, the Swedes, or the Germans, it was the Soviets. Estonia regained its autonomy when the USSR fell back in 1990, but it wasn't something that they were just sitting and complacently waiting for. To learn about these series of fascinating events we visited the Occupation museum. Their collection includes a multitude of everyday items, such as cigarettes packs, telephone booths, WC doors, a beautician's booth, telephones, children's history books, along with old Soviet army uniforms that all come from the decades of 1940-1990.
Along with all this, the story of the Soviet occupation is told through interviews, news reels, and personal accounts that detail just what happened here
Estonia (Eesti) Footnotes:
The Danse Macabre of Notke on display in Tallinn is the only surviving portion of the original painting, which was over 30 meters. Notke painted another Danse Macabre for St. Mary in Lübeck, but this was destroyed during an allied bombing raid.
The Occupation museum give documents the German occupation equally well along with the Soviet one. The Soviet Union invaded first and behaved brutally in what the Estonians call "The First Red Year", so the Estonians initially welcomed the Germans as liberators and joined the German war effort in earnest. They were not well treated under the Germans, but still fought hard to avoid the eventual return to Stalinist Soviet domination. The U.S. and British agreements with Stalin ceded the borders as they had been after the Soviet invasion, so Estonia was guaranteed to be under Stalin's dictatorship if the Germans lost WWII... which eventually came to pass.