Baltic Sea Cruise, Country #3: Tallinn, Estonia

Our second stop on our awesome cruise was Tallinn, Estonia!

Monday, 14 August 2017:

  • Arrival: 12:00pm (Clearance at 12:30pm)
  • Departure: 7:00pm (All Aboard at 6:30pm)
  • Port: Old City Harbour, pier # 25

Arriving in Tallinn, we first saw what is called Fat Margaret. Built in the 16th century, this stout tower was once used as part of the town’s defense. It was used to defend the harbor; but then became a place to store gunpowder and weapons; and finally, a prison. Currently, it houses something a bit more peaceful – the Estonian Maritime Museum.

If you look closely at the picture below, you can see us. The women (Jillian and I) are researching/writing things down while the men (Tony and Nick) are taking pictures, lol. Nick, of course, was taking this picture.

img_0619-xl
Fat Margaret

Right after entering the main gate, we saw what is called The Three Sisters, which are the three buildings featured in the picture below. Built in the 14th century, these buildings were used as merchant houses. The previous owners included the guild elders and town councilors. Today, The Three Sisters are functioning hotels.

So we have The Three Sisters here and The Three Brothers in Riga. 🙂

img_0635_pano-xl
The Three Sisters

Here we are!img_3546-xl

On this lovely day, we then stopped by St. Olav’s Church (or St. Olaf’s Church – both referencing the same building). This was once a Christian church and was dedicated to King Olav II of Norway, who is also known as Saint Olaf. St. Olaf encouraged the spreading of Christianity and became the symbol of independence and pride in the Norwegian countries.

img_0644-xl
St. Olav’s Church

At one point in history St. Olav’s was the tallest building in Tallinn. Unfortunately, the tower was hit by lightning about ten times! Ten times? Geez. Talk about dedication in rebuilding and reconstructing the tower!

St. Olav’s is now a Lutheran church. One thing we began to notice is the interior of Lutheran churches mainly consists of off-white/dull colors. But, unlike Orthodox churches, they at least have pews/benches!

Next, we saw the House of the Blackheads with the fancy-looking door below. Just like in Riga, Tallinn had a house dedicated to the former headquarters of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, which was an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners.

img_0667-xl

If you look at the picture below, you can see a little crane-like object toward the top of the building. This was a way for people to bring stock items to the top of the building for storage instead of carrying the items inside and up. I thought that was pretty cool.

img_0672-xl

One thing I love about traveling around Europe is being able to hear different musicians play while walking around the town. Here is a video of a violinist playing beautifully  in a small square:

The Great Guild House came next. It was constructed in the 15th century and is considered typical medieval Tallinn architecture. This house was made for a guild of merchants and artisans.

For some reason when I think of medieval, I don’t see a yellow building. Instead, I see dark, stone-like buildings. The Middle Ages span from the 5th century to the 15th, so perhaps I always picture buildings from the earlier centuries. In any case, today the Great Guild House is being used as an Estonian History Museum, where both the history of Estonia and the story of the Great Guild are explored.

img_0691_pano-xl
Great Guild House

Following the Great Guild House, we saw the medieval Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit or Church of the Holy Ghost. This church has Tallinn’s oldest clock right outside its walls. There are conflicting resources in whether this clock was made in the 15th or 17th century. Either way, it’s pretty neat that it’s still around. I didn’t look at it long enough, but I wonder if it is still functional. The time below seems pretty accurate to when we there.

img_0687-l

We then walked over to Town Hall Square, which serves as the center in the lower part of town. In the middle of the square is the Tallinn Town Hall, which is the oldest town hall in the Baltics.

img_0693_pano-xl
Tallinn Town Hall

Next came what is called Raeapteek, which is a very old pharmacy on the edge of Town Hall Square. One neat little fact is that this pharmacy opened up in the 15th century and continues to run today! The first record of this pharmacy shows that it was already on its third owner in 1422. That’s so crazy to think about…active from before 1422 to the present and it’s still functioning today!

img_0697-xl
Rarapteek Pharmacy

As we continued our exploration in this neat old town, we went through what is called Catherine’s Passageway. On one side of the passage, we saw several artisan shops, which first opened in 1995.

We went inside a couple of them and many items, though a bit pricey, were beautiful and would add nicely to any home decor. When the artisans joined together in opening their shops, they were called the Katariina Guild. If you go on their site (http://www.katariinagild.eu/en/history-of/) the women who are part of the guild have a picture of them dressed up in time-period clothing. 🙂

img_0713-xl
Catherine’s Passageway

On the side of the street, you can see the remains of some medieval tombs. There is a site near here that we missed: it shows the remains of St. Catherine’s Dominican Monastery for which the passageway was named after.

img_0710-xl

Our next stop was the Town Wall. It’s possible to climb to the top of the wall and get an overlook the city. All of these stone walls in Tallinn were used as protection for their people. As the years went by the wall continued to be built up, strengthening the town’s defenses. Personally, I like the red terracotta cone-shaped roofs. 🙂

Being on top wasn’t as high as other places we’ve climbed up, but it still had a pretty cool view. img_0744_pano-x3

Near the wall is Viru Gate, which serves as the entrance to Old Town from the outside near the new city. The picture below is looking from inside Old Town out toward the city, where you can see some more modern buildings.

img_0760-xl
Viru Gate

At this point in our exploring, we became rather hungry, so it was time to try out a restaurant called Restoran Vanaema Juures (Grandma’s Place). Let’s just say that grandma really knew how to cook her food!

One of the special treats in the Baltic Sea is the eating of “black bread” and oh my gosh was it good! There was some sort of seasoning on the crust that was delicious. Combine that with its soft inside…my mouth is watering. 😛

Nick had elk, which is a very popular meat in this region, and a couple of local drinks (a hard cider and a rhubarb lemonade/soda); I had fish. We split the desserts with our friends. Nick and Jillian split the rhubarb dessert while Tony and I had the Kama Chocolate cake – yum, yum! The chocolate cake was sooo good!!

Along with the amazing food, our waitress was extremely friendly and helpful. The whole place kind of felt like what a grandma’s place should feel like – warm and cozy with good food and company.

After we had our fill, we made our way to the Danish King’s Garden. During the 13th-14th centuries, Estonia was under the control of Denmark; hence, why the Danish King had his own gardens in Estonia.

According to legend, during a battle in the 13th century the Danish flag fell from the sky into this garden and turned the battle around in the Danish’s favor.

But, this garden is not only famous because of the flag from the heavens legend, but also of its creepier history:

At night, the gate of the gardens was closed to separate the lower town from the Toompea Hill. It was said that the gate was also closed to stop the ghosts from reaching the top of the hill where the aristocrats had lived.

One of part of the garden, the Short Leg Gate Towers, is known as the most haunted place in Tallinn. There have been several sightings of a famous executed black monk here, along with other scary figures.

The Maiden Tower is also in this area. It was a prison for prostitutes and is more famously known for its legend involving a deal made between a prostitute and the devil. It’s said that after trading in her soul for beauty, the woman had to lure as many men as possible to the tower. However, it was declared that she was a witch and was executed.

Lastly, people have heard a male voice singing in the towers, but there never seems to be a body attached to the voice.

Spooky!! Luckily, we didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary on this day, lol.

Passing through the gate, the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral can easily be seen. It was built between 1894 and 1900, when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire.

Many Estonians did not like this church as they felt it symbolized oppression, so it was scheduled to be demolished in the 20th century. However, this never happened since there wasn’t enough funding to support the demolition. Since Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union the cathedral has been restored. The church has eleven church bells, one of which is the biggest one in Tallinn.

*Fun Fact* 

Just like Latvia gained its independence in 1991, so did Estonia.

We continued on our journey, eventually reaching the top of Toompea Hill. This hill is the central part of Tallinn and offers a beautiful overlook of the city.

At this point in our visit, we wanted to make a trip out to an open air museum that was outside of the city a bit. Unfortunately, we were running a bit short on time and were worried we may not make it back in time to catch the boat. Since getting stuck in Tallinn and getting a last minute flight to our next stop (Russia) wasn’t something we wanted to deal with, we decided to wander back through the town a bit more. We walked through a small picturesque park called Tower’s Square on our way back.

img_0863-xlimg_0873-xl

As we wandered a bit more in the city, we paused for a moment on the historical Harju St. It’s said that this street potentially dates back to the Early Medieval Age. Tallinn was bombed several times during WWII by both the Germans and the Russians and it resulted in major structural damage. Along Harju St., there is a memorial to remember those troubling times.

What Harju St. looked like after the bombings:img_0885-xl

Harju St. today:img_0887_pano-x3

One of the famous features of this street is that in the winter months, the whole street is turned into an outdoor ice skating rink. How cool is that?

At this point in our trip, it was time to head back to the Vision of the Seas ship.

img_3567-xl

Here is a little buddy we had waiting for us in our room on board:

img_3571-xl

As a bonus, in case you are ever questioning – should I eat that cake? Here is your answer:

img_0877-xl

We found this town more charming and quaint compared to Riga and really enjoyed our day.

Back on the ship, we caught the live show, had dinner, and again prepared for the next day’s adventure.

Thank you for reading and keep your eyes peeled for our next stop where we visited St. Petersburg, Russia!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Click here for more pictures of Tallinn, Estonia!

Thank you for reading! Until next time!

Advertisements

Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres – Italy

This will be a more pleasant post, compared to the one before.

Sunday, 28 May 2017:

One of the great things about living here in Italy is the ability to visit nearby towns and discover something new and unique. We took a day trip to a few small towns the other weekend to visit their main attractions.

The three cities we visited were Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres, which are all in the Aosta area in northern Italy. A little less than two hours away for us.  Continue reading “Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres – Italy”