28
Feb
18

Estonia: Medieval Old Town of Tallinn


Beautiful Estonia became one of our 2017 summer European travel destinations because of the successive terror attacks in some of Europe’s biggest cities that prompted me to revise our itinerary as my wife and I were bringing with us our two daughters, both less than two years old. Parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic states were the easy choices. We found a tempting inaugural flight offer from Norwegian Air flying directly from Providence, Rhode Island to Bergen, Norway, a much more convenient route than the New York City to Oslo we took previously since we live in southeastern Connecticut. From Bergen we flew to Helsinki, Finland (via Stockholm) and then crossed the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia which was our entry point to the Baltic states.

OLD TOWN OF TALLINN

DSC_0091Most of our time in Tallinn was spent inside the Old Town. The imposing Viru Gate with its pair of picturesque, ivy-covered towers at the entrance to Viru Street was the first glimpse we got of the Old Town. The gate fascinated me so much that we took time to take photos at different times of the day.

 

DSC_0101Yes it was July and mid-summer yet chilly just like most of Scandinavia and the Baltics so we had to take off our jackets for the “summer” photo.

 

 

CSC_0095At the left side of Viru Gate is a small park atop a hill that overlooks the gate. We discovered it as we were walking along the main road.

 

 

CSC_0084There was less of the normal crowd above the hill so we spent some quiet time enjoying the views.

 

 

CSC_0081The two towers are actually only the foregates of what was a much more complex gate system built in the 14th century. It included a large, square tower that stood farther back along the street, close to where the city wall can be seen.

 

 

CSC_0088Most of the gate was pulled down in the 1880s to make room for traffic, but these two towers remained and have since become a symbol of the town.

 

 

FullSizeRender85This was taken as we entered the Viru Gate into Viru Street. Anyone passing between those two towers couldn’t be blamed for thinking they’ve left the 21st century behind and landed smack in the middle of the 18th.

 

 

FullSizeRender81After entering Viru Gate one will pass through the usually packed Viru Street.

 

 

FullSizeRender82A lot of shops, restaurants and cafes dot Viru Street.

 

 

FullSizeRender83Side streets are awesome too!

 

 

IMG_1360We entered a souvenir shop and we were surprised to see Trump and Putin souvenirs being sold together.

 

FullSizeRenderwFrom Viru Street we walked toward the Old Town square.

 

 

FullSizeRender4The main area of the Old Town is its square and this is the southern part.

 

 

FullSizeRender93On our first visit to the square, there was an event going on.

 

 

IMG_1429We took our own photos at the square.

 

 

IMG_1433The restaurants around the square were already bustling with local and foreign visitors alike.

 

 

FullSizeRender3Then we circled another block or two that brought us to the back of the Old Town Hall.

 

 

FullSizeRenderyThe route brought us back to the place of the square tram with authentic Estonian atmosphere.

 

 

FullSizeRendertI could never resist the temptation of having my photo taken with an Estonian girl……

 

 

FullSizeRender…or taking a photo of an Estonian girl. Yes I did ask her permission.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThis is my daughter at one of the doors of the Old Town Hall.

 

 

 

FullSizeRender2As we took another block tour we came upon this tri-cycle and to its back is where we would have a dinner like no other.

 

 

 

A UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE 

IMG_1426It was our first night in Tallinn so we decided to experience the irresistible call of a medieval dinner. There  was no obvious choice but Old Hanse, a restaurant we discovered as we were strolling near the Old Town Square.

 

 

IMG_1370Tucked near the center of the Old Town it has both outdoor and indoor seating.  We chose outdoor even if it was chilly because of the babies.

 

 

FullSizeRender92We were given the menu and the staff spoke with medieval flair.

 

 

DSC_0055Blankets were provided for those sitting outside as it was a bit cold summer night.

 

 

DSC_0051The weapons for dining.

 

DSC_0056I had two pieces of wild boar and a piece of elk.

 

DSC_0058My wife had a piece of salmon.

 

 

IMG_1428I tasted both our orders and they tasted so different. Well, medieval.

 

 

FullSizeRender91Yes 1400 A.D. :-). It was indeed a very unique gourmet experience something we never had before, challenging our palette and reasoning even after we have left.

 

 

NIGHT MODE OF TALLINN OLD TOWN SQUARE

FullSizeRenderDOn our second night in Tallinn, we spent some colorful times at the Old Town square.

 

 

exif_temp_imageAs we waited for darkness to set in I took this photo of my beloved with the Old Town Hall and the beautiful buildings as background.

 

 

IMG_1491I also tried the iPhone portrait camera setting as I took another photo of my wife with my firstborn who was 18 months old then.

 

 

IMG_1512We finally decided to have dinner at an Italian restaurant just inside the square to experience the moments of the day turning into night with all those lights starting to turn the square into a magical place.

 

 

IMG_1525A closeup shot of the Old Town Hall at dusk.

 

 

FullSizeRenderBA view of the buildings west of the square accented by the square stones that turned reddish due to the lights from a nearby establishment.

 

 

FullSizeRenderCA part of the north side of the square.  The left end is where the Italian restaurant was located where we had our dinner.

 

 

FullSizeRenderGSome dining options abound too in the east side of the square.

 

 

FullSizeRender(23)A panoramic shot of the square that covered the north, west and south sides.

 

 

FullSizeRenderEFinally, a monochromatic shot of one of the most exciting squares in Europe.

 

MORE OF TALLINN OLD TOWN

FullSizeRenderccOn our last day, we explored the area of the Old Town nearest to our hotel.  First stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, an Orthodox Christian building similar to those found in Russia. Well, Estonia used to be part of U.S.S.R.

 

 

FullSizeRenderxxAfter some time circling the cathedral grounds, we finally found a spot to take a snapshot of the side of the cathedral with more of us and less of the irritating crowd.

 

 

FullSizeRenderbbThe facade of the cathedral that was not free of Filipinos taking photos.

 

 

FullSizeRendervvThe Orthodox Christian church was truly an architectural marvel.

 

 

FullSizeRenderNext was the Maiden Tower, a less than 10-minute walk from our hotel.

 

 

FullSizeRender111It is one of the more famous of Tallinn’s medieval defence towers.

 

 

FullSizeRender2It was recently renovated and reopened a museum, complete with an exhibition hall in its vaulted cellar.

 

 

FullSizeRender444What puzzled me inside the Maiden Tower complex was these creepy monks.  There are actually three creepy monks, Ambrosius, Bartholomeus, and Claudius.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThese monks in the Danish King Garden. Their creation was funded by a shady Estonian businessman Toomas Annus.

 

 

FullSizeRender555Veering away from the creepy monks, one can have the beautiful view of this part of the Old Town from the Maiden Tower complex.

 

 

FullSizeRenderLastly as we left the Maiden Tower complex, we passed by Kiek in de Kök, an artillery tower built in 1475. It gained the name Kiek in de Kök from the ability of tower occupants to see into kitchens of nearby houses. The tower is 38 m high and has walls 4 m thick.  A defense passage actually connects it to the Maiden Tower.

 

 

OUTSIDE OF OLD TOWN

DSC_0110Even if our hotel was geographically outside of the Old Town, we never ventured its neighborhood until our last day as our main focus was what was inside the Old Town  It was awe-inspiring to see outside the Old Town medieval architecture blending with modern design.

 

 

IMG_1469This is one of Tallin’s museums.

 

 

IMG_1478My wife and one of my daughters.

 

 

DSC_0097Just outside of Viru Gate, there is a nice place to go for street shopping especially for authentic Estonian handicrafts.

 

 

DSC_0098It has an extensive choices of locally-designed clothing and souvenir items.

 

 

DSC_0109Also, outside the Old Town were Hop -On, Hop-Off tour buses…..

 

 

FullSizeRendeqr….the modern transportation system of the Estonian capital…..

 

 

DSC_0099…the trike business for tourists…

 

 

FullSizeRender…..interesting buildings…

 

 

IMG_1443…and sex shops 🙂

 

Also, we had to visit a supermarket as we needed some things for our little baby.  We were directed by the hotel staff to a shopping mall less than 10minutes walk from our hotel located outside the Old Town.  It has a huge supermarket at its basement.

IMG_1463What made our day complete though was a restaurant that satisfied our craving for Asian food.  It was the CHI Restaurant located at mall’s basement, a food place of Thai-Asian fusion.

 

 

IMG_1448The place was not that crowded anymore when we had our mid-afternoon dining.

 

 

IMG_1462We ordered pad thai…..

 

 

IMG_1460….fried rice….

 

 

IMG_1451…green curry chicken….

 

 

IMG_1457…and sweet and sour fish.  It was indeed a food fest for us who have been deprived of Asian cuisine for almost a week.

 

 

GETTING INTO ESTONIA

Compared to Riga, Latvia, Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn has less direct flights from major European cities probably because of its proximity to Helsinki, Finland’s capital which is just 2 hours ferry ride away via the Gulf of Finland. We chose to cross the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki to Tallinn and it was truly a breeze.

FullSizeRenderfThe Viking Line ferry terminal was just a 10-min taxi ride from the center of Helsinki.  Although there were a lot of passengers, our check-in took us less than 10 minutes.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThere was also an automated checkin area but very few people were using it.

 

 

IMG_1271This was the massive ferry that took us from Helsinki to Tallinn.

 

 

IMG_1261With two babies in tow, we decided to book a private cabin so that we can all easily take a short nap during the sea crossing.  This is the hallway to our cabin.

 

 

IMG_1252Adding a bit more to the regular fare without cabin, one can have this cabin with three sleeping beds tucked into the wall and a fixed sofa bed!

 

 

IMG_1255This was the lower part of the sleeping area.

 

 

IMG_1260With all the beds set up the cabin looked like this.  We were able to take a short nap during the travel………

 

 

IMG_1265……especially that I took my wine inside the cabin which was not allowed.

 

 

IMG_1274We arrived in Tallinn at the Ferry Passenger Terminal where we took a taxi to our hotel.

 

 

WHERE WE STAYED IN TALLINN

IMG_1289After so much consideration with the price and location of the hotels, I booked a room at the Hotell Palace Tallinn in the Estonian capital.  It was way cheaper than the hotels of the same category inside the Old Town and it was just a short walk (less than 10 minutes) to any entrance to the Old Town.

 

 

DSC_0074Shown here is the small lobby of the hotel.

 

 

DSC_0073To the right of the lobby is the area leading to the elevators that would take you to the rooms.

 

 

IMG_1281Our room had two double beds that we later joined together.

 

 

IMG_1279We were provided promptly with the crib. The room had a desk with a Samsung tablet that guests can use freely and is connected to the ultra fast and reliable hotel Wi-fi.  Did you know that Estonia is the most wired country in Europe and probably the world?

 

 

IMG_1282The bathroom was spacious but there was no tub, only a shower area.

 

 

IMG_1283At the other end of the bathroom was a single sink with a large round mirror.

 

 

IMG_1435I think the most captivating thing for me in the hotel was the buffet breakfast included in the hotel room rate.  Fishes and eggs and everything healthy I wanted to eat in the morning.

 

 

IMG_1530And some meaty stuff too: bacon, sausages and pork ribs!

 

 

IMG_1643Tallinn summarizes and showcases what Estonia has gone through the several years of its tumultuous history.   Shown here is the Cross of


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