Tallinn Stories and Tips

The Tallinn Songbowl - Where Freedom Was Won

The Song Bowl (Lauluväljak), Tallinn Photo, Tallinn, Estonia

Known in Estonian as the Lauluväljak, the tallinn Songbowl is one of the most important (if not THE most important) locations tied up in the fall of Communism in Estonia. Singing is hugely popular in the former Baltic coast Soviet States and the Tallinn bowl is where national competitions and festivals have been held; the first Estonian song festival was held in 1869 though of course the song bowl is not that old. At that time Estonia was already part of the Russian empire and a man called Johan Jansen was responsible for establishing the festival and, in so doing, awakening a sense of Estonian national pride in her people.

When, in September 1988, 300,000 Estonians gathered at the song bowl they sang traditional Estonian songs that had been discouraged under Communism because they celebrated a national pride for Estonia and didn't embrace the Soviet collective ideals.

The overthrow of communism in Estonia was known as the "Singing Revolution". In 1990 it is estimated that a staggering half a million people crammed into the song bowl for the 21st festival, the last one to be held before independence was achieved.

Concerts and Song Festivals still take place here but it is possible to see the Song Bowl even when there is no special event taking place. It's situated a short walk from the Old Town, about twenty miuntes walking along the bay.

You enter the park though the big iron gates and go up the hill to the building - it's right in front of you as you enter. Take either side - it doesn't matter which and walk around to the front of the song bowl where you can either keep walking up the grass bank and admire the graceful curve of the canopy from a distance or go through one of the open gates and climb on to the steps of the song bowl where the singers sit during performances.

There's nothing more to see than the actual structure itself but it is quite striking and it is a major part of Estonia's recent hisotry and therefore it's enough just to be there. And I'm sure there can't be many visitors who haven't tried at least a verse or chorus of one of their favourite songs while standing on the song bowl steps!

Take buses number 1,8,34 or 38 from the centre and alight when you see the Song Bowl on theright

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