Favorite Quote

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

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tallinn, Estonia Day 1

It's been a while since I've added to the blog but that is because we've been traveling the whole time.  We have been to so many places and it will take me months probably to get them all added.  In the mean time though, I will start with the here and now.  We are still traveling and currently, we are in Tallinn, Estonia.  If you have never been to Tallinn, I recommend putting it on your bucket list.  This is our 3rd time here and each time we come, I am more and more enchanted with the city.

First, just a little bit of history that I am actually going to copy from the book "Tallinn, The History of an Unusual City" as it paints a perfect picture of what is here:

"One could never confuse this city with any other.  Throughout history, Tallinn has been conquered by the Russians, the Germans, the Swedes, the Poles and the Danes, and each in turn has left its own historic footprint on the city's architecture.  Today, Tallinn is a blend of the Gothic and Baroque, a mixture of knights' castles and monasteries, Orthodox sanctuaries and medieval buildings, all  living together in perfect harmony.  Wandering the labyrinth of serpentine, cobbled streets, visitors are transported back to the distant past of legend and folklore.  And, as the sunset's purple glow falls on fifteenth century buildings and torches and lanterns begin to flicker across the pavement, the cheerful atmosphere of noisy fairs and markets echoes in the streets, enchanting visitors and surrounding them with the ambiance of ancient times."

This is so true!  I feel like I am back in time when we are here in Tallinn.   We are staying in the PK Ilmarine Hotel (formally know as the Domina Ilmarine Hotel .... and as you can see below, that name is still on the hotel) and it is a very short walk into the old city.  

I exit the front doors and walk along the hotel to the end of the street.

Then I turn to the right and follow the side of the hotel to the main road.

I cross the street

Take the first right, and the old town is right in front of me.

The Town Wall of Tallinn took almost 300 years to build.  In 1355, a magistrate produced the first list of towers of the Town Wall and at that time, there were 11 towers.  During the second half of the 14th century and the early 15th century, many new towers were built until finally there were a total of 46.  Today, 26 of those towers have survived as well as 1850 meters of the wall.

In 1510, construction began on "Fat Margaret's Tower" which you can see on the left of the picture below.  It was placed at the Great Sea Gate.  This was an artillery tower, which would defend against attack from the sea.  The walls are 5 meters thick, the tower is 24 meters in diameter, with portals for guns located on the first floor.   The tower was rebuilt several times, and was used as an armory and served as a prison for 12 years until it was gutted by a fire.  The tower houses the Estonian Maritime Museum, with its collection of rare artifacts: antique diving and fishing equipment and various objects retrieved from the seabed, among other things.  I'm hoping that I will be able to go inside next week as I had heard that at the top of the tower is a viewing platform, that provides a wonderful view of the sea.

 Here is a better picture of the Great Sea Gate.

 I was VERY surprised when I came upon this restaurant!  For a moment, I thought I was in Texas!

This made me smile "Green stands for Vegetarian (another word for bad hunter)".

Lots of shops for buying wool sweaters, socks, hats, amber, linens and wooden objects.

Last night I asked Ron if he knew if there were any antique stores in Tallinn.  He said he was pretty sure there were not, but if there were, then he was VERY sure that they were closed for the winter.  Oh ye of little faith, Ron.  I can ALWAYS find antique stores - and it's open.

And here is the House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads.  According to Wikipedia's article about the Brotherhood of Black Heads:  The Brotherhood of Black Heads (Ron asked me if they all had acne problems) was an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners that was active in Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia) from the mid 14th century till 1940. The Brotherhood of Black Heads was founded as a military organization, however, the non-military aspects of the association gradually became more pronounced until the Brotherhood became a predominantly social organization after the end of the Great Northern War.

The brotherhood traces its origin to a group of foreign merchants who, according to the legend, had participated in the defense of Tallinn during the St. George's Night Uprising between 1343 and 1345 when the indigenous population of Estonia unsuccessfully tried to exterminate all foreigners and eradicate Christianity from Estonia. The earliest documented mention of the Brotherhood is an agreement with the Tallinn Dominican Monastery from 28 March 1400 that confirms the Black Heads' ownership of all the sacred church vessels that they had deposited in the St. Catherine's Church of the Dominicans. In the same agreement the Black Heads commit themselves to decorating and lighting the altar of St. Mary that the brotherhood had commissioned for the church, and the Dominicans in their turn undertake to hold services in front of this altar to bless the souls of the Black Heads. On 12 September 1407, the Tallinn City Council ratified the statutes of the Brotherhood, also known as the Great Rights.

We always love trying out new restaurants when we are in other countries.  But I have never seen a "Garlic Restaurant".  I wonder if that is because there are vampires here since it is such a medieval town?

Yum!  A coffee roastery and chocolaterie! Coffee and chocolate!  :)

And places everywhere selling these cute little marzipan treats.

Now I can see the town square.  The first thing I should mention though, is those are not Estonian flags flying.  The are Irish flags in front on an Irish Pub.

And now we are in the Town Hall Square.  The Old Town has always been the heart of the city of Tallinn.  The winding cobblestone streets enchant visitors with their fairy-tales scenes.  While it's a well-known fact that "all roads lead to Rome", in the city of Tallinn all roads lead to the Town Hall Square. 

This first day in Tallinn was quite cold and I had a woman come up and try to talk me into eating lunch at 10:30 in the morning.  I told her I had just finished with breakfast and she asked if I would like some tea, coffee, hot chocolate or mulled wine.  I was freezing and thought mulled wine sounded wonderful.  For those that don't know, mulled wine is wine that has been simmering for several hours so there is no alcohol in it and in Estonia they add fresh orange, dried cranberries and nuts to the glass.  It was wonderful and it did the trick.  Nice and toasty.

After that, I just wandered around the small streets by the Town Hall.

The Olde Hansa is a Medieval Restaurant that Ron and I ate at when we were here last year in July on our Baltic cruise.  I remembered enjoying  the food and decided that maybe I could come back here for lunch a little later.

The menu included such things as Rose Pudding, Forest mushroom soup and Poultry Liver Pâté. 

And for the adventurous ....

And for the shoppers ....

I was a little hungry, but not ready for lunch yet and found a place where they made candied almonds.  YUM!  So I had to have some because the smell was just incredible.

 And then I just wandered around, taking in the sights while nibbling on my almonds.

Look at what I found Ron!  2 antique stores so far and they were both open!


Tallinn was actually known as Reval from the 13th century until 1917.

I almost bought some Practical Blown Glass but figured it wouldn't really be practical at all as it would probably break in my suitcase on the way home.

This gentleman was asking for money.  I would have taken a picture of the front of his sign, but I thought if I did, I would have to give him money.  On the sign, it says in English, "Please give me money for beer".   Uhhhh ... I don't think so!  He got lots of laughs and money from other folks though.

I finally started getting hungry and decided to stop here for lunch.  It is the only part of the old Town Hall building that is open in the off-season.

€1for "Ovenhot Beloved Pies"

€2 for "Hotblooded Wine" .... hmmm ... does that mean it has blood in it?

€2 for a "Decent Bowl of Elk Soup"

First thing as soon as I went in, I needed to use the bathroom.

And this is how you flush the toilet.  :)

And the toilet itself .... doesn't "quite" look medieval.

And to wash your hands.

Then I ordered lunch.  A bowl of elk soup, an elk and boar pie and a cup of hot cider.  When I went to pay she said it was €5 plus if I felt like it a little more to help her buy silverware.  Huh?  She said "someone stole me silverware so you have none for your lunch".  Ok ..... so I tipped but still didn't get any silverware.  I guess they didn't have it back in medieval times and what was good enough then was still good enough.

And she told me I could help myself to as many sour cucumbers as I wanted.

Oh ... she meant pickles.

They had quite a few kinds of pie.  Apple, mushroom, carrot, Holy Pie (she said that one had spinach and pigeon in it), cow with boar and lastly, elk with boar.  Each pie was only €1 except for the Holy one.  They wanted €2 since it was Holy I guess..

She told me that the inn was exactly as it had been "back in the day", no changes to it.

I enjoyed my lunch and as I got up and was walking out the door I said "I'm here for 2 weeks so you'll probably see me again" and she said "You won't be welcome back here if you just leave your dishes there.  Where are your manners?  Can't you clean up after yourself?".    I said "Sure, where do you want things?" and she told me to put them in the next room.  So I did.  And got another chuckle while doing it.

There was also a hard wooden bench with a pillow with this sign over it (guess I could have taken a nap if I had wanted to)

There use to be a whipping post in the center of the square where thieves and criminals sentenced to death were beaten before being executed.  Today you can still see a metal collar attached to the building of the Town Hall as well as a set of small rings for arms and legs, layered they say, not with centuries old rust but possibly with the blood of their unhappy victims.  This was a place for people who were accused of the minor crimes such as dishonesty in trade, failure to repay debts and fraudulent commercial practices.

Oh look Ron, 3 antique stores I have found without going out of my way to find them!  And they are all open!

These caught my eye ... so I took a picture so I could think about them.

Now I am at the Holy Spirit Church.  It is the smallest and oldest church in Lower town.  It was first mentioned in 1316 and, originally, was a refuge for the poor.  The church was reconstructed and expanded many times and in the 17th century an octagonal spire was added.

 Tallinn's oldest clock has been keeping time for the past four centuries.  It is the only street clock in the city.  It is decorated with carvings and figures of the evangelists and was created by Christian Akkerman.

 In the 17th century, pictures were painted on the choir stalls which include 57 pictures from the Biblical plot "Biblia Pauperum" (The Paupers' Bible).  These will be spread out in the following pictures of the church.

The Holy Spirit church occupies a special place in the history of Estonia.  The first sermons ever to be conducted in the Estonian language (instead of German) were delivered here, and the famous Estonian chronicler, Baltazar Russov, conducted worship services in the church.  

The church benches are from the 16th - 19th centuries.

The painted and carved choir lofts and banisters are from the 16th-17th centuries.  The numerous chandeliers are from the same time.

The pulpit is from 1597.

I like the dove!

A catechism, published in 1535 by the church's pastor Johann Koell, is thought to be the first book published in the Estonian language. 

There are quite a few pictures around the church but I couldn't find any information on them.

This is not a very good picture, (I'll see if I can go back and get a better one) but this is the altar of the church.  It is one of the church's most valuable works of art and it was created in the year 1483 by Lübeck master, Bernt Notke.  In the center of the alter is "The Descent of the Holy Spirit" and the side panels are decorated with paintings and sculptures of the saints.

I just read somewhere that services in English are held here on Sundays at 11.00 and 15.00.  I think I may check it out tomorrow.

 A small Orthodox chapel, built in 1909.

 Lots of signs everywhere so it's easy to get around.

This is called the Green Market.  The name does not refer to the centuries-old trees growing nearby.  The name "green market" goes far back into history, when the vegetables and "greens" market was located here.  Tallinn's oldest tree, surrounded by a low fence stands nearby.

And one last look in the shops before heading back to my room.  Wouldn't our granddaughter look perfect in one of these?

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