October 1st, 2015

Today was our chance to explore Tallinn, Estonia. We planned out the main sights we wanted to visit last night and we quickly realized a day was not enough. Unfortunately, we have a ferry booked for Stockholm and one day was all we were going to get. So we fit in everything we could…which was a lot.

We were out the door at 8:30 am only to find out that nothing really opened in the town until 10:00 am, as you can see below the streets were still empty. So we decided to walk around a see what we could find to do.

Our first stop was Katariina Käik which is a local market for hand-made goods. The shops were just starting to open so we didn’t get to take a more in-depth look which was probably a good thing for our budget.

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Then we found ourselves on the old town wall. In medieval times there was a wall that completely surrounded the old town of Tallinn. Though some of the wall has been destroyed there are still portions of it around. These portions have been restored and are open for exploration. So we did a little climbing…

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After exploring the wall we decided to grab a quick lunch before our tour. We had lunch at a local restaurant called III Draakon, it was a medieval themed restaurant that was incredibly good and very cheap. We had soup, pickles and pies, the soup was served in bowls with no spoons! Which meant we were left to drink it directly out of the bowl. It was a fun experience and we actually decided to go back later for dinner.

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Melissa getting pickles out of the barrel..yes you had to stab them.

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After lunch we joined a local, free tour of the old town. The tour was put on by a history student and it runs every day. Though we didn’t get to stay for the whole tour we enjoyed it and learned a lot. Here are some fun facts from the tour…

Wabadus is a local cafe that has quite a history. Men used to come to the cafe in the morning before work. While they had their morning coffee they also had their pants pressed. So every morning men could be found on the street in bathrobes drinking their coffee.

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This is the country’s independence statue. Most Estonians are unsure about the statue for a number of reasons. One particular reason is that it happens to look a lot like the Nazi Iron Cross, Estonia was under Nazi occupation for a period of time. A few other fun facts about this statue, the glass is graded to withstand a nuclear blast, it’s had a few instances of glass panels falling off and electric problems, a bacteria developed behind the glass and turned the whole statue pink for a period of time and the man-made hill behind it collapsed on it. The maintenance on this statue since it was built about 10 years ago is approximately 6.5 million euros, the amount necessary to build it originally.

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Then we visited Kiek in de Kök. An artillery tower that used to be a stronghold in the wall surrounding old town. Now you may have noticed that the name of this tower sounds like something entirely different in the english language. When we made it to the tower Ryan was smirking and the tour guide decided to call him out on it, it happens every tour apparently. So the tour guide proceeded to tell Ryan “it’s not what you think it is…”, of course Ryan had researched the name before hand and responded “doesn’t it mean a peak in the kitchen?” That is in fact what it means but the tour guide was clearly not expecting him to know. The tower is so tall that the guards on duty used to be able to see into the kitchens of the surround homes through the chimneys, so Ryan actually did know exactly what it meant. The tower was attacked by Ivan the Terrible but to no avail, as the canon balls deflected off it. The Swedish who controlled the tower at the time decided to decorate the tower with the used Russian canon balls as a show of the towers might.

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We came back to Kiek in de Kök later in the day for some tunnel exploration but before that we finished up our tour by visiting a few churches and taking in some views.

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Then we headed back to Kiek in de Kök to explore the tunnels. The tunnels had several uses throughout history they were used in the medieval times to transverse the city, they were a place for punks to hide their illegal music during the Soviet era, they were home to the homeless, they housed a mystery prisoner of Catherine The Great of Russia and they were bomb shelters.

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After our visit to the tunnels we had one more stop to make for the day, Sea Plane Harbor. It is actually a local maritime museum and is  one of the best museums we’ve been to. The museum is set up with real boats and water craft suspended in the air. The top floor of the museum is meant to be “at water level” so anything that falls below the top floor is perceived as underwater. They also have water depth marks on the floor of the museum to give more perspective. Here’s a look at a very interesting museum…

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After our museum visit we headed back to our apartment. On the way we had dinner again at III Draakon and made one more stop before going to bed. We had our local drink, Vana Tallinn Cream.

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It was a great day. Tomorrow we’re up early to catch our ferry back to Helsinki where we’ll then catch another ferry for Stockholm.

Happy Travels,

Ryan & Melissa