Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011 – Tallinn, Estonia – Sunny – 61F

St. Petersburg, Russia to Tallinn, Estonia: 159 Nautical Miles

A grand day in the Capital of Estonia

Tallinn 5-26 (Small)

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, the smallest and northernmost Baltic republic, was founded in 1154.  Tallinn is situated on the Gulf of Finland bordering Russia on the East and Latvia in the south.  It became an independent country following the demise of the Soviet Union. Today, it has a population of 400,000 people.  The language is Finno-Ugric, which is pretty much Finnish.  Finns and Estonians can easily understand each other.

Today, our companion ship is another German ship, the AIDA blu.

AIDA blu (Small)

AIDA blue and Jewel OTS (Small)

As we leave the ship, the wind is extremely strong (caused by the two ships generating a wind tunnel).  We went out ahead of our group to get a good seat on the bus.

Our tour today is the “Glory of Old Tallinn” and our guide, Anna, speaks excellent English.  It is “warm” day by Estonian standards, especially in the sun.  This is important since the entire tour involves walking.

 On tour Glory of Old Tallinn (Small)  

On our way…

The statue below is not that of Vladimir Lenin but rather Johan Plika.  We were told he was the founder of modern Estonia (he was a commander during the Estonian War of Independence – 1918-1920).

 Johan Plika founder of Independent Tallinn (Small)

Our bus took us to Toompea Hill (Castle Hill) the starting point for the walking tour.  This upper part of Old Town dates from the early 13th century.  The pink Parliament House (the exterior colors influenced by Catherine the Great during a visit here) stands in front of the original Toompea Castle on Palace Square.

Parliament House Castle Catherine the Great Remodel (Small)

Parliament House

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (of Nevsky Prospekt fame), a Russian Orthodox Church, was built in 1894.  Estonia, like much of the Baltic Countries, are not avid Church goers (the guide told us 17 percent of the population attend church).

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Small)

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Palace Square

The hill and in fact the Old Town is dominated by souvenir shops. 

H and Knight (Small)

Meet my friend, Sir Souvenir

Tall Hermans Tower on Toompea Hill (Small)

The Dome Church on Toompea Hill

Toomkirik, the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, is the oldest church in Tallinn.  It has a very unusual structure on one of its wall – a sundial.  Not a good choice for time keeping since Tallinn only gets about 70 sunny days a year (and we just used one up).

Toomkirk Cathedral oldest church in Tallinn 1 (Small) Toomkirk Cathedral oldest church in Tallinn 2 (Small) Toomkirk Cathedral sundial (Small)

Sundial on Toomkirik

The tour next walked to the lookout point, which afford a nice view of the lower old town.  Near the lookout, there are numerous souvenir shops but we wandered off to some of the side streets and discovered an even better lookout point.  Also present are vendors selling roasted almonds (with brown sugar and who knows what else).  I hesitated grabbing almonds with bare hands after others had done so but they looked awfully good and I was banking on everyone practicing good hygiene.  The almonds were really good and we both had several.  Hope my assumptions were solid.

E at Viewing Platform (Small)

Ellen and Lookout Point

From this vantage point, we could see St. Olaf’s Church and the Nuunatorn, one of the towers in the Medieval City.

View from Overlook (Small) Jewel OTS in distance (Small) H and E at Overlook (Small)

Lookout Point (top); The Jewel of the Seas through the buildings (middle); both of us at Lookout Point (bottom).

The walking tour continued down to the Lower Town – over cobblestone street and narrow stairways.

 Heading to Old Town (Small) E on Stairs to Old Town (Small)

Top: Heading to Lower Town; Bottom: Ellen and Cobblestone walkways.

First stop in the Lower Town:  The well with the wheel below called the “Cat’s Well”.  The townsfolk thought the well was inhabited by a witch so they threw cats down the well to vanquish said witch.  All that did was contaminate the water in the well.  Who knows what happened to the witch?

Cat's Well Old Town (Small)

We stopped at Town Hall Square.  This is a very picturesque square with colorful buildings and shops.

Town Hall Square (Small) Town Hall Square 1 (Small) Town Hall Square 2 (Small)

The yellow building below is site of the Apteegi Apothecary, the oldest pharmacy in Europe (ca. 1422); it is now a restaurant named “Molly Malone”.

Town Hall Pharmacy (Small)

The Town Hall was not only where town business was conducted but where public punishment was carried (not capital punishment – that was performed outside the city).  The public pillory was located in this building.  Another interesting feature of the building was the dragon down spouts situated along the top of the structure.

Town Hall (Small)

From here, the tour was headed for a concert at one of the local churches.  We told Anna that we were leaving to go on our own – she gave us a map and we were on our way.  The tourist information office gave us some options for internet and health spas within walking distance.  The old town was beautiful with stone buildings and stone walls (below).

E and old town walls (Small)

We did find the recommended health spa but she had no openings for the day – she did tell us there was free internet next door.  The internet place was run by a couple of students who spoke perfect English including slag and swear words.  The internet was free and we did catch up on everything.  

We did some more walking through the town, stopping at McDonalds (yes) for McFlurries (1.3 Euros each).  After McDonalds, we thought it would be wise to track down the shuttle pickup location, which we did.  Then it was back to the town to look for some souvenirs.  There was no bargaining in Tallinn so retail it was.

Tallinn seemed to have changed incredibly for the better since we were here in 2001.  St. Petersburg may be imperial but Tallinn is picturesque and very walkable.  Some of the sites are in the pictures below.

Shopping Street (Small) Old Town Gate (Small)

Entrance to Old Town shot from McDonalds

City Walls leading to shopping area (Small)

We eventually got back to the Shuttle Drop; initially, the shuttle guy wouldn’t accept our tour sticker as passage but he eventually took it.  The ride back was short. 

The day in Tallinn had remained weather perfect even during the sail away (below).

Tallinn sail away (Small)

Dinner was in the Windjammer Cafe (Ellen with Cafe artwork).

E at Windjammer (Small)

At dinner, we had a chance to chat with Betsy Bogart and Wayne Boyd, the Piano/Guitar/Vocal group on board.  They are from Burbank CA and are starting their contract on the Jewel OTS.  They told me they might make my next lecture.

Bob Trunell was the Showtime Headliner tonight.  He is a magician – comedian and we have seen him before.  He has simple yet entertaining illusions (even though I figured out how he pulled one of them off).  He is also very funny and always seems to find the right foils from the audience.

When we got out of the show, I was able to get another of those “White Nights” Sunsets (9:45 PM), including one with a jet contrail in the picture (far below).

Sunset 945 PM 5-26 (Small) 

Sunset and Contrail (Small)

Clocks move backward (yea…) tonight.

Seas are smooth.

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