Tallinn is another city I wish we’d had more time to explore. It’s a beautiful medieval city and, if you get the chance to climb the 258 steps of St. Olav’s Church, you can see the stark divide between old and new Tallinn-definitely a sight worth seeing. As we made our way from harbor to town we passed a rather creepy local carnival; Nick and I joked it was probably a set for a horror film, only to notice the lights and music kick on as we returned to the ship hours later. However, chill-inducing fairground aside, Tallinn Old Town was great fun to visit.
I may be biased, but the squat tower that greets visitors at the entrance to Old Town has a pretty bangin’ name. This, my friends, is the Fat Margaret Tower, or Paks Margareeta, which was first built as an artillery tower (it now houses the maritime museum). Nick may have a namesake church or cathedral in nearly every city on this trip, but I get a fat tower so who’s the real winner here?
…probably still Nick. But a tower’s still pretty cool in my opinion. Anyway, onto the rest of Old Town. Walking among the cobblestone streets, seeing original walls exposed beneath the newer plaster, the souvenir storefronts touting genuine Baltic amber seem to fade away and it’s easy to see how locals may have lived centuries ago. Granted, the cobblestones may have been a bit dirtier then, and there wouldn’t have been any camera flashes or iPads being held in the air for that perfect photo op, but you get the idea. We followed some of the crowd down a side street to reach St. Olav’s Church and get our step exercise for the day. The church was humbly decorated, a kind lady selling postcards in the lobby for 50 cents apiece, but the stairs were phenomenal. Roughly hewn into the stone, steep, narrow, and with a godsend of a rope that spirals up the tower with the stairs, the tower staircase was everything I imagined it would be. When we finally conquered all 258 stairs and the accompanying ladder to reach the outdoors, we were rewarded with a glorious 360 degree view of Tallinn. Fair warning it is blustery at the top, but that’s part of the fun! Just be careful to use the strap your camera came with; a boy nearly dropped his through the metal barrier trying to get a shot of the spire.
After fighting the crowds (more politely alternating right of ways, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it now does it?) we were on solid, level ground and on our way to the heart of Old Town. I’d describe all the churches we saw but I doubt you’d like to read an essay on medieval Estonian religious buildings, so I’ll say this-I am constantly amazed by the architectural genius humankind has displayed for centuries and millennia on end. Sure modern buildings are gorgeous in their own right, but the patience, determination, and artistic skill it took to create larger than life iconography and sculptures is incredible. Instead of going on and on about this, though, I’ll simply sprinkle photos of my favorite buildings in from time to time.
There wasn’t too much more I can describe that would seem exciting; Tallinn, to me, seems a city you need to experience first-hand to really appreciate it. I don’t know that I’d spend an entire vacation there but it would be great fun to have a few days and nights to see more sides of that mysterious old town.