Fairy tales begin with hardship. This one is no exception.
Welcome to old town Tallinn, for the past 20 years a UNESCO world heritage site.
Another country where I don't speak a word of the language. Just as I'd learned to say Thank you in Finnish, which is related to Estonian, I discover a whole new set of mysterious words. Miks ka mitte!
Not a lot of people learn Estonian unless they're from here, though there is a marvelous children's book center, to preserve the books in their native language.
This is basically the view from my window, out onto cobblestone streets. (One thing they never tell you in fairy tales: cobblestones hurt! My feet are aching after walking miles each day.)
Tallinn has a great cafe culture and bar scene. Scandinavians and Baltics are introverted cultures. Multiple restaurants I've been to had piles of woolen blankets, available to wrap yourself in. Indoors, in September.
This is August, my new favorite cafe.
I arrived early in the morning, so I dropped my bags at the hotel, had pancakes at August, and then headed off on the free walking tour, to learn Estonian history from Chris.
Estonia first declared its independence in 1918, taking advantage of the Russian revolution. Next year is the centenary. But this monument symbolizes the end of the German and Soviet occupations, in 1991, the reindependence. This is the longest period of freedom and prosperity in Estonian history.
Not all the buildings look like Disneyland. There's a lot of restoration in progress.
These huge towers include Russian cannonballs in the thick walls. Some of the fortifications are 10 feet thick! One-third of the tower is underground. You can tour the catacombs. I think I'll skip that, in favor of the apothecary museum.
St. Mary's was the site of a 13th century massacre, during the cruisades. Fairy tales are often bloody and vengeful.
I'm going to hate leaving Tallinn tomorrow for Riga. But I know I'll find an excuse to return. Special thanks to Liz and Bill, who first came here on a Baltic cruise 15 years ago, sparking my interest in Estonia. Tallinn, while touristy when the cruise ships dock, is still considerably less fake than Prague. And the people who live here are friendly and caring, as if they have weathered the storm. I asked the librarian at the Children's Literature Center how Estonian had survived as a language, during centuries of occupation. "We're a stubborn people," she said.
Next time, I'll spend more than 72 hours. Anyone have any connections with Estonian software companies?