Tallinn: Medieval Christmas Wonderland

Tallinn was a city that I’d wanted to visit for a while, and finally I managed to get over there only 2 weeks before returning to Australia. I was also supposed to go to Helsinki for a day but there was a storm and the ferry was cancelled.

Tallinn is a very interesting city, and although looking back on these photos it’s not really reflected, it’s a city that very clearly, to me, had three stages visible. The first is the medieval old town, built from the 13th to 16th centuries. It’s one of the finest examples of a completely intact medieval town and is entirely UNESCO heritage listed.

The second stage is the Soviet stage. Brutalist architecture, huge council estates, lots of concrete.

The third is the modern stage. Glass skyscrapers, houses and installations that wouldn’t look out of place in Scandanavia – all very cutting edge. In fact one of the nick names for Tallinn is the “Eastern European Tiger” – the Singapore of Eastern Europe.

All of this history means that Tallinn is a very interesting city to explore. We were hoping to see snow, as the old town is meant to be amazingly beautiful when it is covered in snow but unfortunately the temperatures were (relatively) mild. Nonetheless we still had heaps of fun, and I got to try ice skating for the first time in my life. One of the locals who was an instructor offered to help us out and give us some tips – on my first attempt at a pirouette, he told me that I “looked like Robocop”. Overall though, I didn’t suck at it which, given my general lack of coordination when playing sports, was a surprise to me!

On this first update, I’ll be focusing primarily on the old town.

Paratei Prison was opened as a sea fortress in 1840, and used as a prison from 1919 until 2004. It has a reputation as being a place where the Soviets didn’t treat dissidents to well at all. I really wanted to check it out, but unfortunately it was closed to visitors during the winter. Still, the vibe around the area was foreboding and dreary to say the least.

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

Just up from the prison is the old town. Absolutely beautiful and although full of tourist traps, the architecture, streets etc are completely authentic.

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

tallinn medieval old town

The Tallinn Christmas market. Supposedly this is the exact spot where the modern idea of a Christmas Tree was born. The markets are pretty cool, and filled with food and trinkets. It was great to warm up the body with some Glogg (mulled wine with almond and sultanas).

Click here to read Part 2 of my Tallinn adventure, which focuses outside of the old town, on the Soviet and Scandinavian influences in the city.

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Paul
Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences. Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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