Guest Post: Time for Tallinn

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Why Tallinn?

Since shrugging off the boring, wet old blanket of Communism, Estonia’s capital has never looked back. It’s now an exciting, chic, and amazingly dynamic city that is nothing short of an architectural jewel in the crown of Eastern European former Soviet satellites. Try saying that ten times fast.

It’s also pretty cheap by the standards of cities in Europe such as Paris, Berlin, and (especially) London, so if you’re stuck for somewhere to head for without breaking the bank, then this stunning metropolis makes the decision a no-brainer. Check out economy car rentals before heading off because a car will get you out into the surrounding countryside as well. The roads in Estonia are pretty good and there are plenty of hidden treasures waiting to be explored there.

A Quick and Dirty History Lesson
Tallinn’s foundations go way back to the mid-twelfth century, with its name meaning ‘Danish Stronghold’ because of its essentially Viking roots. The Danes sold it to Germany in 1347 and until its independence in 1918 it was known by the Teutonic name of Reval. The Old Town has been beautifully restored and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.

Under the thumb of Tsarist Russia since 1710 and then of the Soviets; there was an understandable period of decline, but then the old spirit of the city burst back with a vengeance and now it’s a hot destination. But, as I discovered recently, it’s far from being swamped yet and you won’t find yourself gasping for air in crowded streets and historic sites awash with happy snapping tourists. It’s just comfortable for a pleasant stroll.

Pretty Estonian girl
A pretty Estonian girl being all pretty and stuff. Photo by S.K. LO
A Bit of Old World Charm
Tallinn street
The cobbled streets of Tallinn offer a relaxing stroll.
As in most of the older medieval towns and cities littered across Europe, and especially in countries like Germany and Switzerland, the majority of the most important and impressive sights in Tallinn are to be found clustered around the central Town Hall. This, along with the Toompea, can be found in the Old Town, and exploring on foot once you’ve parked in a convenient side street is the best way of getting around.

Tallinn is especially good if you love wandering around winding cobbled streets, as I do. There are quaint little courtyards and spired churches seemingly at every turn here, along with some really fascinating museums that showcase Tallinn’s cultural and historic traditions. There are also plenty of notable buildings to be found on the outskirts of the Old Town, again just a short and easy stroll away.

The next thing I’d recommend is to then get back into the car and head for the eastern part of the city wall, where the impressive Viru Gate is the main access point into the central area of the Old Town. The car is also the easiest way of getting to Kadriorg Park to the east which is perfect for a picnic.

Tallinn is just one of the many cities spread across Eastern and Central Europe which are now coming out of hiding and taking great delight in sharing their unique and often ancient heritage. In the West we’ve probably just had it good for too long and take these things for granted, but in places like Tallinn you sense that the people themselves take enormous pride in their traditions and old buildings and love nothing more than to show them off.

What are you waiting for?

About the Author

David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.

Your Say
Ever been to Estonia? I’ve been fascinated with the place since watching Rufus represent the country a few years ago in Eurovision. If you like a bit of criminally underrated European pop, their track 80s Coming Back is quite catchy.

What other little secret corners of Europe would you recommend? With it looking like Europe may be a possibility in February of 2013, I’d love your suggestions!

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