Tallin: Self-Guided Walking Tour
One thing I love doing is a walking tour with snippets of information along the way. I found the perfect self-guided walking tour for our first full day in Tallin from the Smithsonian magazine: Tallin Walking Tour
In my blog, you'll get a lot of information about what I saw, what I learned, what I ate (yum!), and what I bought (a girl gots to shop -- hee hee). And just so it doesn't get boring with facts, history and sightseeing stuff, I'll also be telling you stories and snippets of life along the way. So stay tuned.
Tallin: What You Need to Know
So in order to understand the history of Tallin, you need to understand four things:
1. Tallin has been occupied and/or repressed for much of its history by Swedes, Germans and, most recently, Russians.
2. For a long time, Tallin was essentially run by the Germans (way before the Germans of WWII). Much of the history in Tallin relates to either the Estonian's life with the Germans or the Estonian's life with the Russians.
3. Tallin was part of the Hanseatic League (during the days with the Germans). This was a "league" of different cities (i.e. merchant guilds) that traded with one another.
4. There were two parts of town: (1) the upper part (Toompea) where the government people hung out and (2) the lower part which was the trading center with all the merchants (who hired Estonians to do the dirty work).
One the walking tour, here are some of the things we got to see:
Fat Margaret (above): The old part of Tallin was a medieval city surrounded for protection by a wall with a few gates going into the city. Fat Margaret was one of the gates.
Pikk Street: These charming buildings used to be primarily warehouses and offices.
St. Olav's Church: Some believe this was once the tallest spire in Scandanavia. Far more nefarious, the KGB used the tower to block Finnish TV signals.
Ministry of Police (Pikk 59)
Ugh....this is the KGB police station. While Tallin is quaint and charming now, it wasn't that long ago that the KGB ruled the streets. Because of the awful things that took place in this building, the KGB bricked up the windows (see the blue arrow). It was said that "from here started the road of suffering" with many of the people arrested ending up in Siberia.
Hall of the Black Heads Society, Pikk 26, dating from 1440
Do you know what the Black Heads were? See the answer on my next blog post! In the meantime, the name "black head" came from the use of the head of St. Mauritius, an early Christian martyr, that was beheaded in Switzerland.
Here's a close up of St. Mauritius on the building:
Next, right down the street, is a really interesting Art Nouveau building.
#16 Pikk: This coffee shop Maiasmokk (Sweet Tooth)(popular during the Soviet days) with a lovely ferris wheel made out of spoons in the window. You can also see the reflection of the pink building from across the street.
We then continued to the Great Guild Hall. This is where the German bigs wigs (of the Hanseatic League days) hung out. Lots of interesting interesting in this museum about Estonia! Well worth the visit! Here are some of the more unusual things we saw:
During Festival times back then, people went CRAZY and did all kinds of things that they normally would not have - just because they were hiding behind a mask. Notice how Allan really looks like a devil but I just look like me with a mask.
This is what they called a "Flea Trap". Because people got fleas (UGH) they created the flea trap. It was basically a piece of fur they hung inside their clothes. Apparently fleas LOVE fur, so they would congregate there instead of on the person's body. Wouldn't a bath have been simpler?
Life was also uncomfortable for animals ...take a look at this horrible mask that some poor horse had to wear:
This is something I've never seen....they had the tradition that if a soldier was killed, his sword was also "killed". This is what a sword looks like after it has been killed: