Favorite Quote

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel,
read only one page." St. Augustine of Hippo

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tallinn, Day 2 - Bastion Tunnels

In August of this year, I started planning my trip to Tallinn.  I wanted to see as much as I could since we were going to be here almost 2 weeks.  In my research I found that they have a Time traveling in the passages under the bastions tour but it had to be booked in advance.  The cost was only €5,80 which seemed like a good deal, so I signed up.  One thing they did not mention online, or when I actually bought my ticket at the start of my tour, is that you cannot take pictures unless you pay extra.  The tour guide did mention that as the tour started and I asked her if I could go back and get the "camera ticket" and she said no, there was no time.  But, if I promised to get the ticket afterwards, then I could go ahead and take pictures.  No flash was allowed though.  When I went to the desk to pay for it afterwards, I did see a small sign that was at the end of the counter, opposite of where I paid for my ticket about the extra fee.  It only cost €1 so make sure you ask about that if you do the tour yourself.

The first thing I saw when I got to the area where the tour was held was the Freedom Monument.  I read that the Freedom Monument was officially unveiled at midnight on June 22, 2009. The 85 foot (26 meter) structure is built from imported Czech glass in the shape of the Cross of Liberty, a medal that was given to people who helped Estonia get independence in 1920.  Winston Churchill received a Cross of Liberty. Below is the picture, but I hear that I need to go back and check it out at night when it is all lit up.

In a medieval city like Tallinn, you can certainly expect to find stories about legends, secrets and underground tunnels.  For centuries, Tallinners have shared stories that Toompea hill is full of  tunnels. The most persistent story is that Medieval time tunnel stretches from Toompea hill to the Pirita Monastery. That tunnel has never been found, but a few others have.

The tour started with a brief movie about the history of the town of Tallinn. Then we started down to the tunnels.  I apologize for the quality of the pictures.  When I booked the tour, I was thinking it was going to just be a train ride (not really sure where I got that idea from).  Unfortunately, once I got to Estonia I ended up in the hospital, and needed an outpatient surgery that left me in some pain and trouble walking fast.  Several times the guide had to tell me to walk faster to keep up with the group because there was another group coming up behind us.  So most of these pictures are taking as I'm walking, not much time to focus.  And we were not allowed to use flash.  If I had known that I would be walking up and down a lot of stairs for almost an hour, at a quick pace, I would have rescheduled for another time.

Here we are at the start of the tour.  We start out going down a long flight of steps.  The guide did caution everyone to be careful as the steps were all different sizes and wet.

Whoops, before I forget, these are endangered European Cave spiders.  We are to leave them alone.  YUKE!

These tunnels were built in the 1670s, along with the Swedish Bastion and the Ingermanland Bastion. Back then, Estonia was considered part of Sweden, and Tallinn was actually named Reval.  They were constantly worried about being attacked by Russia so Swedish military engineer and commander Eric Dahlberg (1625-1703) drew up a defense plan that included eleven bastions and six ravelins (a ravelin is a small outwork used to protect the inner defenses of a fortification). The hidden tunnels would have been used to shelter soldiers and ammunition from attack, as well as to spy on the enemy.

Unfortunately, they were never used for that purpose. When Russia finally invaded in 1710, most of the population had already died from a plague that was then sweeping the area. The people in the city were very weak, and they just gave the city over.  Below is a statue of Eric Dahlberg.

And we start off walking through the tunnel.  The tunnels were made of limestone. They are 4' 11" wide (1.5 meters) and they are 8 - 10 feet high (2 1/2 - 3 meters high).  The doorways however, are small and everyone had to duck going through them. The walls are 13 feet (4 meters) thick. The passages along the walls were provided with 8 feet (2.5 meter) casemates. The ceilings of the passages were provided with ventilation holes and different levels were connected by stairs.

While the tunnels were not used for their intended purpose, they were used in the 20th century.

As late as 1990-2000, the tunnels were used by the homeless people.  The tunnels were usually a constant 46-50 degrees F  (8-10 C).  Since the Estonian winters can be quite cold, the homeless could survive the harsh winters here.

Next, the tunnel is set up as bomb shelters.  The bomb shelters were split into two eras.  During the soviet era, the shelters were greatly improved with ventilation systems and telephones.  These tunnels also housed the local population during the extensive bombing of the city by the Soviets during World War II.  The bombing destroyed many of the structures in the city, but the Bastion Tunnels stood up against the shock of falling bombs.

Here are signs describing what to do in case you come in contact with mustard gas.

We continue on through the tunnel.  Here is what is left of the Soviet ventilation system.  Most of the metal items to include metal doors were stolen around Christmas 2004.  They think some homeless people were still living here at that time and scared the thieves away.

This is a water bowl that registers impacts from outside the walls, to detect digging or other movement that would signal a potential enemy approach.  

Unfortunately, I was too slow to hear who this is.  :(

This is a monk that was imprisoned here in 1758 at the ripe old age of 71 when he spoke out against the queen.  Our tour guide said it was rare for someone to be that old at that time in history.  There is no telling how long he would have lived if Catherine the Great had not become Empress in 1762.  At that time she instructed the guards to stop feeding him and giving him water and he died when he was 75.

You can get a better idea of how big his space was here:

According to the information sheet our tour guide gave us, (once again I was too slow to hear other information) below is "Musketeer Major C.J. von Hüene's Tallinn garrison, 1707-1710 (in the right), musketeer of Harju and Järva rural regiments in Tallinn, 1704-1707. Also the company banner of the Harju rural regiment.

Below are a few pictures of things that the guide just walked by without talking about.  :(

I really wish I knew what this was.  She just quickly switched on the light switch and then kept moving.  I tried looking online to see if I could find more information, but I could not.

And, I had to ask to be sure, but yes, these were the toilets for the bomb shelters.  VERY uncomfortable for women in my opinion.

At the end of the walking tour, we all got into a "futuristic time train" that was to take us into the year 2219. Why 2219?  Because the first limestone house in Tallinn was build in 1219.  So into the train I went.

And the top came down and we each had our own little tv screen to see into the future.  But it started back before the Earth was made.

And then they said this was Adam .... doesn't look quite right to me.

And he's thinking about food ....

And then my camera died so no more pictures.  Oh well.  They did eventually show pictures of what Tallinn may be like in the year 2219.  One of the pictures showed a big bomb crater like it may be destroyed.  Another showed sky scrapers in Old Town. You can get the general idea.  Personally, not only do I hope this town is never destroyed, I hope that they keep Old Town just like it is.  It's perfect.  More tomorrow.


  1. "These tunnels also housed the local population during the extensive bombing of the city by the Germans during World War II. The bombing destroyed many of the structures in the city, but the Bastion Tunnels stood up against the shock of falling bombs."

    The Germans never bombed Tallinn during WW II. The Soviet Army did, the biggest raid was at night March 9th, 1944. Many civilians were killed and lot of houses destroyed.

    Thank you for an interesting story and nice photos!

  2. Thank you for correcting my mistake! I knew that in my head but my fingers figured my head didn't know what it was thinking. :)