Well, here I am at home, once again. I met up with Roberto, Marco and Lorenzo at the Rome airport and we flew home together.
Earlier in the week, I arrived in Tallinn, Estonia by bus, and got the #4 tram, which took me to my hostel called Vana Tom. It was right on the main square in Old Town, which was marvelously medieval. However, tourism was a zillion times more active here than in the other two capitals—the square was swarming with tourists.
The Roekoja Plats (Old Town main square) and all the streets around it were chock-a-block with medieval buildings and have been the pulse of the city since it began in the 11th century. The beautiful Old Town Hall was built in 1371 and was used for this function until 1970. Inside there were woodcarvings from 1374, so we’re talking OLD, folks. A 1530 weathervane, called Old Tom, had been taken down and restored.
I visited quite a number of old buildings, including churches, museums, and the historical Guild buildings. St Olaf’s church, which was dedicated to an 11th century Norwegian king, had an architect, also named Olaf.
Legend had it that when he completed the 13th century spire on the church he would die. Sure ‘nuff, he fell to his death, and you know what?? When he died a snake and toad came out of his mouth! A carving on the church depicts this so it must be true! Actually, I can’t see the toad, so maybe that part’s not true!
Spreading out a little, there were the 15th century Russian merchants’ buildings and the Germans were here, too. And there were large parts of the old city walls still in existence with a bunch of towers.
A huge restaurant called Olde Hansa served medieval dishes, largely based on wild game, but others as well. It was clearly rigged for the tourists. The waiters were in costume, of course, and it sounds hoky, but the food was excellent. I had some forest mushroom soup that was superb, along with good nut and herb bread with a spread of fresh farmer cheese, accompanied by dark honey beer—not so good. I ate many meals there (with regular wine and beer) and enjoyed each one!! On my last day I had their game sausages—lovely!
There was an organ festival in Tallinn so I went to an organ concert one evening at the 12th century Church of St. Nickolas, which has now been made into a museum and concert hall. There were four organists, who sat at the console high up in a balcony near the organ pipes so we couldn’t see them. However, they had rigged a video camera and projected the images on a big screen so we could see all the moves. And moves there were—there was even an assistant to help set the stops. The music was very contemporary, nothing like anything I have heard before, somewhat inaccessible but interesting and beautiful, too. The organists were extremely good and the concert was very enjoyable, even if the music was a far cry from ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring!’ There were no programs so I don’t know the names of the performers, the composers, or the music.
The following day (my last day in Tallinn) it rained all day! I finally went sight-seeing in the rain to view the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Parliament building housed in the Toompea Castle with a 18th century façade put on by Catherine the Great, and other churches and towers of the city wall, which, along with the rain, finished me off! Tallinn is a beautiful city, no doubt about it.
I had asked a couple of people how the attitudes were toward each other among the three Baltic countries. Reading looks on faces and between the lines of what they said, I gather the Estonians think they are quite a cut above the other two. They probably are economically, as Estonia has been permitted to use the euro while the other two still need to solve some of their economic problems, even though all three are members of the European Union. The Estonian language is closely related to Finnish, while the other two are distantly related to each other and to Russian.
Latvia takes credit for starting the breakup of the Soviet Union with their peaceful protests and also it is where Mikhail Baryshnikov, the dancer, was born, before moving to Russia. Russia certainly has had its boot on the neck of these countries throughout the ages. The former KGB building in Tallinn is chilling to pass, especially when it was pointed out that the lower windows were bricked up, the better not to see and hear.
All three of the Baltic countries were great to visit in a laid-back way. The three capital cities were certainly outstanding with their old, beautiful buildings, a plethora of museums and churches and bits of history intertwined. The rural regions were lovely and the food was good, too!
Still it’s good to be home again!
Until next time—