Tallinn, August 25, 2005 - Thursday
Trip Start Aug 12, 2005
23Trip End Aug 27, 2005
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I decided on a private accommodation in Tallinn. The name of the agency that had taken care of it was Rasastra, located in a street named Mere puiestee. Whatever it means. Of course, I spoke neither Lithuanian nor Latvian, but those languages at least belonged to indo-european language group and after a while I would pick up on at least the most rudimentary language patterns, resembling the things I could speak. Estonian language, on the other hand, was as if from a different planet. Particularly at first encounter.
Rasastra office was on the upper floor of a house which looked almost as a bit larger private dwelling. I went through the formalities with a friendly and chatty lady of some years quite fast. She liked the fact that I was from Croatia very much.
"You became independent the same time as we did."
She obviously belonged among those who were behind it with their heart and soul and she never bothered to hide it. Even if someone in the politically correct Europe should consider her a nationalist. For, recently, it wasn't that cool and wasn't so in any more
When I was ready to go to my accommodation, armed with her direction instructions and the Tallinn map she'd given me, she wished me in a very heartfelt way:
"Have a very pleasant stay in Tallinn!"
I thanked her and left.
The room I got was located in a private apartment in the Kaupmehe street. According to the opinion of the lady from Rasastra, it was near enough for me to go there on foot
And just when I entered the room where I would stay in Tallinn, it started to rain. Through the window it seemed to be a good, strong rain like I had not seen in the Baltic countries yet. After ten days of spotlessly sunny weather that had even put some tan on my face, the clouds had finally piled up. It was not cold. To me it felt like 25°C or so, even if it was fairly possible that during the rain the temperature had to go on a downward spiral. Actually, I guess I felt like that because to me it was all quite pleasant. Only rainy. So I couldn't go out until it stopped. OK, I could. But I wouldn't.
I didn't have to wait for too long, though. Some fifteen minutes later the rain stopped and when a few more minutes later I assured myself it wouldn't rain again, at least not so soon, I went out into the street. Thereby I started the last leg of my trip in the Baltics.
However, it was already relatively late, around six thirty. In my country you'd gradually start calling it evening, but so high up north it could still pass off as a late afternoon
I first came out onto the street called Kentmanni. Whatever that meant. The pavement was still wet and car lights reflected off it as if from a mirror. I knew I had not been given a room in the narrowest town centre, but nevertheless centre it was. And yet, if I had seen Lithuania and Latvia as empty, on the face of it Tallinn gave out an impression of an almost a ghost city. At least on this spot. Literally, just one or two pedestrians per street and that was all.
Neither the city map nor the "Lonely Planet" suggested that Kentmanni was hiding anything worthy of lingering longer. Just by the way I took a photo or two and arrived in the street called Sakala. It too, as it seemed, didn't belong among those which should not be missed, but I couldn't go around it, since I had to walk it, at least a part of it, on my way to the Old Town. And on that way I first came upon Vabaduse Väljak or Freedom Square in translation.
The landscape of Vabaduse Väljak is dominated by a Neo-gothic, Evangelical-Lutheran, orange-coloured Jaani kirik, or St. John's Church. St. John being the Evangelist. Standing there ever since 1867, some people must've considered it an eyesore, for every now and then a plan to demolish it and reshape the square in a different fashion would pop to surface from somebody's desk drawer
From Vabaduse Väljak I started climbing a stairway decorated on both sides with street lamps and metal amphorae up to the Old Town. The first street I came up to was the cobbled, relatively steep and quite slippery Harju. Right from there I could see the sturdy Kiek in de Kök Tower, which is said to have been the strongest cannon tower in Northern Europe in its time. Built in the late 15th century, the name it carries is in fact German, even if not exactly of the variety you'll hear at your German university lectures. It basically means "peek in the kitchen", since the guards up there had an ongoing show, free of charge, of always being able to have a fresh look into the kitchens of tenants in neighbouring buildings. Well, from time to time their view must've also extended to the enemy's rear.
Kiek in de Kök could be visited until six o'clock, and at that time I had not even been in the street yet. Now I could see it only from the outside. So I continued my walk. On up the Harju, the next landmark was St. Nicholas church, or Niguliste kirik. It looked as if it was on top of a mound of rubble, or at an as yet unfinished construction site where workers and machinery disappeared for a vacation of an unspecified length. But of course, it wasn't quite like that. At first sight already it was visible that Estonia was an organised and orderly country, in many ways different from the two I had previously visited
So I went on again. Still on Harju, above the three- and four-storey buildings, there was the Town Hall tower above the roofs. I decided not to go today to the Raekoja plats, i.e. the Town Hall Square. It was late already, past seven or so, and that square called for quite a time. OK, I could make the evening visit tonight, and come again during the day tomorrow, but I saw no need for hurry. Instead, I turned aside into another cobbled street, this time Müürivahe, which stretched along one of the remnants of old city walls.
And the city was old. If 5000 years old traces of the first human settlement found in the city centre are set aside, Tallinn as people know it today probably had its birth in 1050 when the first fortress was built on Tallinn's Toompea, or Cathedral hill
Germans brought Lutheran Protestantism into Tallinn, so Estonia is nowadays predominantly protestant, and that was one more thing that sets it apart from Lithuania and Latvia. Some new guests arrived thereafter, this time Swedes and Imperial Russia. Then, same as the other two Baltic states, Estonia became briefly independent and from there on its history, the recent history, went in the parallel direction of those in Lithuania and Latvia.
Interestingly enough, throughout the past, the city has been attacked, sacked, razed and pillaged on numerous occasions. Then as already mentioned, Soviet air forces extensively bombed it towards the end of World War II, but nevertheless its medieval Old Town is still there, still retaining its charm, eventually becoming a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.
From Müürivahe I came to Suur Karja, a beautiful, narrow cobbled street, one of the very few without any cars whatsoever, even in the Old Town
For a while longer I stayed around the Vabaduse Väljak, took a few more pictures from a few more angles and then went back to my room.