The National Song Festival

During my first visit to Tallinn in 2009 I was privileged enough to witness a magnificent spectacle…

25,000 Estonians – young and old – all wearing national dress, standing on a magnificent semi-circular stage in front of a crowd well in excess of 100,000, all singing patriot, historic, emotional songs of freedom more “The National Song Festival”

Linnahall: Abandoned Soviet-Era Concert Hall

The steps of Linnahall were originally built to signify Tallinn’s status as hosts of the sailing events for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. As part of a larger regeneration project – which included the building of a brand new highway, the sailing club in Pirita, the famous TV Tower and even the airport – the I.V. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, as it was originally known, is perhaps the only structure which has failed to live up to its billing. more “Linnahall: Abandoned Soviet-Era Concert Hall”

Former KGB Headquarters

There are many remnants of the Soviet era still present in and around Tallinn. All of them provide a tantalising  but incomplete glimpse into Estonia’s very recent and repressive past but few instil the same level of fear and intimidation as the former KGB Headquarters. more “Former KGB Headquarters”

World War II Memorial

About 4km away from the Old Town, down the coast towards Pirita sits a very touching monument to the Russian and German soldiers who lost their lives in the second Great War. The striking gateway and sporadic scattering of crosses generate both a sombre and slightly eerie atmosphere while the large list of names creates a very poignant reminder of the price of conflict.

more “World War II Memorial”

Tallinn TV Tower

Originally built to provide better communications for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the TV Tower is a fascinating example of Soviet delusions of grandeur. Famously, this huge structure is the site where, in 1991, a handful of radio operators risked their lives to protect the free media of Estonia.

As Estonian independence loomed large on the horizon the order was given for Soviet assault troops to seize the TV Tower, a key pillar of communication to the outside world. Upon hearing this, ordinary Estonians turned out to protect the tower as a small group of brave armed locals barricaded themselves inside, standing their ground against the odds until the tanks were forced to turn back. more “Tallinn TV Tower”

Abandoned Prison: Patarei

The imposing abandoned structure of Patarei Prison, just a stones throw from the main harbour, serves as a stark reminder of the brutality of the Soviet regime and offers a tantalising glimpse into the grim nature of prison life in Estonia during the late twentieth century.

Originally built as a sea fortress in 1840, this formidable compound housed inmates right up until 2004 and has remained almost completely untouched since its closure in 2006. With dead plants still on the tables, beds still made and bars of soap decaying in the showers, this eerie, uncomfortable and dirty place remains one of the most ubiquitous remnants of Tallinn’s dark past. Poignant, thought-provoking and utterly immersive. more “Abandoned Prison: Patarei”

Linda Hill (Lindamägi)

At the top of Toompea Street on the upper side of the Old Town sits a tiny monument depicting a mythical figure – Linda. According to Tallinn folklore, Linda was the wife of Kalev, the man who founded the city. The statue depicts a very solemn figure of Linda with her head bowed, mourning the death of her husband.

This small monument is very important to the people of Tallinn because, despite the fact that the statue predates World War II, the residents adopted it as an unofficial memorial to loved ones that had been exiled to Siberia. Due to the fact that there was no official gravesite or memorial, locals would come and lay flowers by Linda, sometimes at great personal risk. more “Linda Hill (Lindamägi)”