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.
The Legend of Old Toomas is one of the most popular and well-known tales in Tallinn folklore:
In old times, there was a famous archery contest held just outside the main city where contestants (only ever wealthy men) tried to hit a small wooden parrot with their crossbow and arrows. During this particular year, despite their best attempts, no contestants were succeeding. All of a sudden, a small boy [Toomas] stepped up, pulled out a wooden bow and hit the parrot off its perch in one shot. more “Old Toomas: The Old Town Weather Vane”
There are so many different spots throughout Tallinn from which to grab the perfect sunset shot. I have been fortunate to visit them on a regular basis; armed with a bicycle, a camera… and sometimes a beer. Simple pleasures.
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”
About 50km from Tallinn lies the small town of Riisipere. After a lengthy bike ride we came face to face with this magnificent yet eerie mansion. Dating back to the 1800’s, the building and its grounds have been completely abandoned and left to the mercy of the elements for many years, giving this once grand structure a far more imposing aura.
I have often heard the phrase ‘a wall of silence’ used to describe a stillness so profound that it feels all-consuming. The grounds of Riisipere Mansion were engulfed by silence. No birdsong. No breeze. No rustling of the leaves. No life could be heard. Gardens were overgrown and a solitary rusting bench lay forgotten next to a vast lake that stretched out into the void. more “Stalked through the Abandoned Mansion, Riisipere”
Tallinn boasts many clean, shiny and sterile shopping centres packed with the typical array of vastly over-priced clothing stores, chain restaurants and miserable faces but for a truly unique experience nowhere compares to the Russian market.
From second hand socks to chunks of raw meat, antique cameras, stuffed eagles and a staggering array of old Soviet knives and Nazi uniforms, the Russian market is the place to find almost anything your heart desires. So, step into the time machine and travel back to the Soviet times with a visit to this fascinating cultural locale. more “The Russian Market”
Back in 2011, thousands of people flock to Freedom Square to hear a speech from the Dalai Lama, who was on a tour of the Baltic region at the time. This image, taken from the hill overlooking the vast square, really gave a sense of scale. So many people standing in silence just to hear one man speak.
As Estonia continues to stride purposefully into the twenty first century such high profile visits serve primarily to cement the ever-growing reputation of this tiny Baltic country as a forward-facing and progressive nation. The glistening freedom monument towering proudly behind the Dalai Lama perfectly encapsulates this journey from Cold War oppression to self-determined destiny. more “Dalai Lama Speech in Freedom Square”
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 “Patarei Vangla: Abandoned Soviet Prison not fit for Humans”
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)”