Written by koshkha on 08 Mar, 2010
I usually like to prepare really well for any trip away, spending ages looking up all the attractions, working out how to get around the city and planning out my visit but time ran away from me and on the day before we were due…Read More
I usually like to prepare really well for any trip away, spending ages looking up all the attractions, working out how to get around the city and planning out my visit but time ran away from me and on the day before we were due to leave for Tallinn I was totally clueless about what to see when we got there. My research had pretty much stalled when I checked the weather reports and saw that the 'highs' (I use the term loosely) were predicted to be minus 3C. Somewhat less inspired than I should have been by discovering how cold it would be, I did a very quick bit of research on travel sites, official and not so official, and tracked down the Tallinn Card which seemed include everything that the city had to offer, pretty much all inclusive. The card can be bought for a range of durations, starting from as few as 6 hours (ideal for Finnish and Swedish booze cruisers) up to maximum of 72 hours and it covers all the local transport as well as dozens of museums and sightseeing attractions. Several guided or self-guided tours are covered including 'hop on hop off' buses and a few cruises. If it doesn't offer free entrance, then chances are that you'll be eligible for quite a chunky discount on any other attractions as well as cut prices in some of the shops and restaurants. For a small capital city with a population of just half a million it's quite astonishing how many museums the Estonians have squeezed into Tallinn. There are nearly 30 museums covering everything from maritime history to photography and art and design as well as Estonian history both old and relatively new. Sadly for us, a lot of the museums weren't open (for example the City Museum and the Kiek in de Kok Museum were both closed for renovations) or were just not very practical to visit in such cold weather (for example the Open Air Museum would have been more of a Cold Air Museum). Churches were a bit more accommodating and handy for getting out of the cold although all had complete bans on photography. Even more disappointingly a lot of the sights don't open at all in the winter including the Town Hall which I really wanted to see. We took the 'Official Sightseeing Tour' on Saturday morning and were picked up from our hotel which was very convenient. With just four of us on the tour, the poor guide was hopping back and forth between English and Finnish as we belted round the snowy streets of the suburbs of Tallinn. We had planned to take one of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours in the afternoon until the lady in the Tourist office explained that actually the system was less than useless since the low demand so early in the year meant once you got off, the next bus wouldn't be back for another 3 hours. Not so much 'hop off' as 'get off and abandon all hope of ever being rescued'. Hence we spent most of the afternoon bobbing in and out of any museum with heating leading to a fairly bizarre cocktail of mixed museums.My research had told me that we could get the Tallinn Card at the airport and then use it for transport into the city. Even though the bus is only 20 EEK (yes, we giggled – how many countries name their currency after mouse noises?) which is about £1.20, we figured we'd buy the card as soon as we arrived. The lady in tourist info at the airport sent us to a travel agency to buy the card where the assistant knew almost nothing about how it worked or what it offered. I think my half hour browsing the website the day before had pretty much qualified me for the distinction of 'best informed person in the airport' on the topic of the Tallinn Card.The six hour card costs just 12 Euros but offers a very limited range of attractions and discounts and excludes a lot of the tours. It's designed for Finns and Swedes who've arrived on the morning boat and are leaving the same evening after filling their cars with cheap booze and cigarettes. The 24 hour card costs 24 Euros with 48 hours for 28 Euros and 72 hours for 32 Euros. Lest you're thinking 'Wow, that's a big bargain if you buy for three days', it's worth being aware that you can only do each thing once during the duration of your card and your stamina for intensive cost-saving sightseeing could be seriously limited by over-consumption of the city's famous beer or nightlife. If you're thinking that you'd rather have longer, then keep in mind that Tallinn's really not very big and three days should be plenty to see most of the sites. And if you've got longer, then after three days bobbing around the city on the busses and trams, you should pretty much know your way around and be ready to do your own thing.Did we get value? Yes, but only just. I think if we'd been there in the summer we'd have blitzed the city and easily have run up three times the cost of the card on all the things we would want to see. I've kept the guide so we can plan better next time to do some of the more far flung museums, cruises and things that need good weather. During our 48 hours we managed to knock off the following included attractions:• Bus to the hotel 20 EEK per person• Maritime Museum 50 EEK per person• Official sightseeing tour 300 EEK per person• Museum of Photography 30 EEK per person• St Nikolas Church Museum 50 EEK per person• Museum of the Occupations 30 EEK per person• Town Walls 20 EEK per personTotal cost without the card would have been 500 EEK which was 65 EEK more than we paid but quite honestly we'd not have bothered with all those museums if we hadn't had the card or if the weather had been warmer. For the summer, there are lots more tours available and I'm already planning a return trip to see the Open Air museum, the Botanical Gardens, the two big art museums in Kadriorg Park, the zoo and a couple of the Hop On Hop Off tours. Probably the only thing you get in winter that’s not available in summer is the ice rink but sadly I couldn't persuade my husband (who spent most of the weekend trying not to fall over on the snow and ice in the streets) to give it a go.If you want to be saved the bother of putting your hand in your pocket every few minutes for entry fees, the Tallinn Card is a nice easy way to spend some time in the city. It's undoubtedly much better value in the summer than in the depths of an Estonian winter when most of the city is hibernating. In most respects it's really up to you to make the most of the opportunities that it offers. Close
Written by fizzytom on 01 Mar, 2009
My guidebook described Rakvere as "set with a magnificent castle - and very large bull sculpture". That's good enough for me. Those were not the only factors in choosing to visit Rakvere. I was looking for a simple bus ride from the capital, Tallinn, and,…Read More
My guidebook described Rakvere as "set with a magnificent castle - and very large bull sculpture". That's good enough for me. Those were not the only factors in choosing to visit Rakvere. I was looking for a simple bus ride from the capital, Tallinn, and, with it raining sporadically, somewhere with something to do indoors. There is a regular bus service between Tallinn and Rakvere with the journey taking just under two hours; its not an especially scenic journey, unless miles and miles of monotonous forest floats your boat. I was pleased to read that this part of Estonia is not much visited and that Estonians from the rest of the country look upon the inhabitants of this area with not inconsiderable suspicion because of the proximity to the Russian border. It just gets better for me - a castle, a bull and lots of "nearly Russians". What more could one want? Arriving at Rakvere is like approaching any former Soviet city or town with the red and white striped chimneys of factories then the grim tenements where whole families live in two roomed flats. The bus pulls in at a small station in the town centre, surprisingly a busy looking place with several large stores and a supermarket. People are shopping too it seems, another surprise especially in this distant outpost; usually the supermarket is deserted while people are buying fresh produce at the market. A sign directed us to the tourist information office where two young women speaking impeccable English furnished us with a town plan that marked the main places of interest. It seemed like we were the first tourists to pass that way for many months; one can only imagine how they fill their days. Below the castle, between the foot of the hill and the new town centre, is Rakvere's small but very pretty old town with pastel coloured wooden houses; one of them houses the Citizen's House Museum and is a mock up of an early twentieth century apartment. In this part of town there are some small galleries and craft shops. Elsewhere one or two minor things of interest are dotted around town, mainly monuments to the great and good of Rakvere or war memorials and the like. There's nothing to get really excited about but it's still enjoyable to stroll the streets and the tourist office map does mark these sights and explain what they are. Beside each point of interest is a sign with a number and you can use your cell phone (if you have one) to dial for information about that monument. Alas, the leaflet failed to say whether the information was given in English or Estonian. The town itself can be explored in a day, two if you want to stretch it out. However, there are a number of attractive mansion houses in the countryside around Rakvere and this might be a reason to extend your stay. If you did, the centre has only two hotels but the tourist office might be able to arrange alternative accommodation. As the main town of this region of Estonia, Rakvere is well equipped with facilities for cultural pursuits (it has an acclaimed theatre though I suspect few plays will be in English) and with eating and drinking places.Amazingly this little town in the far east of Estonia has a restaurant that serves Thai and Chinese food as well as the ever popular pizza joint which had a steady stream of customers through the doors when we went in while waiting for the return bus. If you're feeling homesick there's an English-style pub the Old Victoria - we avoided it as we usually do on our travels. The highlight, though, was the cosy German style konditorei that served the most exquisite cream cakes and pastries. While I can't say that people were very interested in us, those people we did have cause to talk to were friendly and welcoming. I had expected to be seeing more signs in Russian or have to communicate in Russian but this was not the case and plenty of people spoke English. I am sure that Rakvere will become more visited as more tourists visit Estonia generally. It is an attractive town with just enough to do though I suspect it would be more enjoyable in summer. It's charms are understated and many travellers might find it a bit tame but open-minded travellers will find it offers a completely different side to Estonia than the capital and the western side. Maybe a few western Estonians should take the plunge and head to Rakvere too? Close
Situated just under 100 Kilometres from the Estonian capital, Tallinn, Haapsalu is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a charming little Baltic seaside town straight out of the days of the Tsars, a kind of Nordic Yalta, if…Read More
Situated just under 100 Kilometres from the Estonian capital, Tallinn, Haapsalu is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a charming little Baltic seaside town straight out of the days of the Tsars, a kind of Nordic Yalta, if you like. The town has a population of around 12, 000 but the main residential area with the customary post-war tenements are situated inland, while the picturesque attractions are clustered in the old town and at the edge of the water. In fact water features so much on the town that it is often described as the "Nordic Venice" although, personally, I found that epithet a little over the top. There has been a settlement at Haapsalu for centuries but the establishment of the church of St Nicholas and the adjoining fortifications in the thirteenth century were instrumental in developing a more permanent community; this was the seat of the Bishopric of Osel-Wiek for three centuries and the Episcopal castle has the largest single nave of any cathedral in the Baltic states. Over the centuries different peoples have left their mark on the town, most notably Swedish settlers who undoubtedly influenced the architecture. In the 1820s Carl Abraham Hunnius, believing the Baltic mud to have a curative effect, established Haapsalu as a spa resort and the aristocracy of St Petersburg came to Haapsalu for holidays. Tchaikovsky was a firm believer in the benefits of Haapsalu mud and was a regular visitor. He is commemorated on the promenade by a stone bench carved with musical notations that plays a loud blast of one of Tchaikovsky’s works as you approach it. The bench is perhaps the only tacky thing in Haapsalu. Life is relaxed, pedestrian even though this is not to say there is not plenty to do. Haapsalu is an ideal mix of outdoor and indoor, cultural and recreational activities. It is a great place for a day trip from the city but would equally make a convenient and pleasant base for a longer stay. What I liked best about Haapsalu was the feeling of peace and tranquility away from the capital. I was also struck by the variety and number of activities in this small place offering the perfect mix of cultural and physical pursuits. I would recommend a visit to anyone who appreciates a quiet but active holiday. Haapsalu can be reached easily by road from Tallinn. Buses leave hourly on weekdays, there are slightly fewer at weekends. The bus ride takes about one and a half hours. Even in the off-season there are enough bars and restaurants to offer variety for at least a couple of days and it’s not far to walk to the new part of town with its shops and services. Prices are cheap although you can spend more on a blowout at one of the grander waterside restaurants that open only in summer. There is a variety of hotels and a newly opened backpackers hostel (though backpackers beware, Haapsalu is not on the usual backpacking route and is not really geared towards the demands of hard-drinking Aussies). Close
Written by fizzytom on 30 Oct, 2008
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…Read More
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 Close
Written by Owen Lipsett on 27 Dec, 2004
The quiet streets north of Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) contain most of Vanalinn’s finest museums. These institutions are primarily located on Pikk tanav (Long Street) and Vene tanav (Russian Street), which run north-south. The area’s greatest charm, however, lies in the lanes…Read More
The quiet streets north of Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) contain most of Vanalinn’s finest museums. These institutions are primarily located on Pikk tanav (Long Street) and Vene tanav (Russian Street), which run north-south. The area’s greatest charm, however, lies in the lanes connecting these thoroughfares and popping into whatever building (there are many artists studios) or café seems appealing.
As its name suggests, Pikk tanav is Vanalinn’s longest street, running from the Great Coast Gate up Toompea (where its name changes to Pikk jalg meaning "Long Leg"). As you enter the Great Coast Gate from Raanamae tee, you’ll notice a white cross and a large granite monument inscribed with the names of the 852 people who died when the MS Estonia car ferry between Tallinn and Stockholm sank in the early hours of September 28, 1994, under mysterious circumstances that a contemporary official report ascribed to a leaky bow door. Just 137 of the people onboard survived the disaster, the worst in peacetime European history, and the occasion of its tenth anniversary led to renewed calls for the a reexamination of the evidence.
The Great Coast Gate is the northernmost and best-preserved of Vanalinn’s medieval gates, as well as the closest to its harbor. During the 16th century, it was further fortified by the construction of the so-called "Fat Margaret", a bastion with four-meter-thick walls that today houses Estonia’s Maritime Museum. The major guild halls of the medieval city line Pikk. The Great Guild, which comprised the city’s most prosperous merchants, had was located at number 17, today home to the pre-1850 collections of the State History Museum. The German artisans made do with St. Canutus Guildhall at number 20 (although note that the present structure dates only to the 1860s), while their humbler non-Teutonic counterparts made do with St. Olaus Guildhall at number 26. The Brotherhood of the Blackheads (unmarried merchants) is at number 24 and particularly notable for its fine carved door.
Visible from Pikk but actually located on nearby Lai tanav (Wide Street) is St. Olaf Church, originally built in 1267, whose landmark 123.7m tower once reached to 159m, making it the tallest building in the world. Local legend holds that dark powers were involved in its construction, and as with much in Tallinn, the tourist industry is only too eager to give it credence. (Please see my entry "St. Olaf's Church" for details.) The inside of the church itself is fairly uninteresting; however, the view from its tower is the best vantage point anywhere in the city (including Toompea). Consequently, it’s hardly surprising that the KGB had a surveillance point here! After climbing down, reward yourself with a pastry and coffee at Maiasmokk (Sweet Tooth), Tallinn’s oldest café, dating to 1865. It’s also the city’s finest, so you may have difficulty finding a seat in the beautiful Art Nouveau tea-room.
The excellent City Museum at Vene 17 provides an extensive collection, not just of Tallinn but also of Estonia generally. It covers the entire period from the city’s foundation to restoration of independence under a single roof. The building it occupies was once a medieval merchant’s home, which the exhibits make good use of, but its collection of artifacts range from the prehistoric to television monitors showing footage from the "Singing Revolution" and the country’s subsequent Eurovision Song Contest victory in 2001.
There aren’t many national capitals that can be visited from another national capital as an easy day trip in the way Tallinn can be from Helsinki. Then again, few capitals derive their names, as Tallinn does, from that of another country. "Tallinn" derives…Read More
There aren’t many national capitals that can be visited from another national capital as an easy day trip in the way Tallinn can be from Helsinki. Then again, few capitals derive their names, as Tallinn does, from that of another country. "Tallinn" derives from the Estonian words Daani linn, which mean "Danish town." While Tallinn can’t match Riga’s role as a cosmopolitan business center or Vilnius’s historic importance to speakers of Lithuanian, Polish, and Yiddish alike, Toompea alone contains enough multinational quirks to keep you amused, or at least occupied, for an afternoon’s sightseeing.
Tallinn’s name may be Danish, but Denmark’s flag is in a sense Estonian, both owing to the same battle on June 15, 1219, in which the Danes took Tallinn (or more accurately, the wooden castle the Estonians had built on Toompea). According to legend, the Estonians had routed the Danes, who were commanded by King Valdemar II, when suddenly a red banner divided into four equal quadrants miraculously dropped from the sky. The Danish bishop Anders Sunesen, present because Danish wars of conquest had papal approval as a Crusade to Christianize the pagan Estonians, regarded the fortuitous flag as a divine sign and raised the flag above the troops.
The newly inspired Danes subsequently won the battle, which is to this day celebrated in Denmark as "Valdemar’s Day", the king having also earned the epithet "The Victorious." It seems churlish to point out that this tale, told with equal gusto in Copenhagen and Tallinn alike, is completely fictitious. Nonetheless, it falls upon me to do so, although the subsidiary claim that Dannebrog (literally "red cloth") is considered the world’s oldest national flag (and one of the few to actually be named) is generally regarded as accurate.
Moving from one occupying power to another, it should come as little surprise that Russia sought to assert its power architecturally as well as politically during its lengthy period ruling Estonia (1710-1919). The onion domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, designed by Mikhail Preobrazhensky, in 1894 and completed in 1900, were part of a concerted program of Russification around the Empire’s Baltic provinces. Helsinki, Riga, and Vilnius all have rather prominent Orthodox places of worship. For all its impressive interior and exterior, however, the Cathedral sits on shaky ground—legend has it that this owes to its placement above the grave of the Estonian hero Kalevipoeg!
One hero, the location of whose grave on Toompea is not in doubt, however, is Admiral Sir Samuel Greig (1735-1788). As his name suggests, he was a Scot who first distinguished himself in the British navy during the Seven Year’s War (1756-1763) and subsequently took up Catherine the Great’s invitation to oversee the overhauling of Russia’s fleet, which had deteriorated since the reign of Peter the Great. He proved so successful at his task, and in defeating the Turkish fleet in the Mediterranean and the Swedes in the Baltics, that Catherine heaped honors on him, including a knighthood and an admiral’s commission. After defeating the Swedes, however, he died of a severe fever and consequently was given a Protestant burial in Toomkirik, where his body remains to this day.
Written by marif on 20 Dec, 2004
Medieval Tallinn is a fairy tale of narrow walkways, alleys, winding cobbled streets, tower ramparts, church spires and 14th-century buildings. Kept effectively hidden from the eyes of the West for more than half a century, it has finally reappeared as one of the most picturesque…Read More
Medieval Tallinn is a fairy tale of narrow walkways, alleys, winding cobbled streets, tower ramparts, church spires and 14th-century buildings. Kept effectively hidden from the eyes of the West for more than half a century, it has finally reappeared as one of the most picturesque and best preserved medieval cities in Europe.
Surrounded by 2.5kms stretch of defensive walls, most of which are still intact, Tallinn's lower town revolves around the Town Hall square named Raekoja plats. From here, Viru street, today a pedestrianised shopping mall and the centre of Tallinn life runs east towards Viru gate. This simple medieval structure, partly hidden by dense foliage is one of the six former gates which were once used as the entrances to the lower town.
Vene street leads roughly northeast past a cluster of tiny craft shops and numerous medieval courtyards. Pikk street which like Viru and Vene emerges out of Raekoja plats runs north towards the Great Coast gate and the Paks Margareeta, a round 16th-century thick-walled bastion which formerly protected this entrance to the Old Town.
While walking along Pikk, don't fail to inspect the splendidly restored medieval houses that line both sides of this particular walkway. Of special mention for their architectural beauty are the red-roofed corner building at Pikk 4 and the huge green and white elaborate structure at Pikk 26. The buildings at Pikk 17 and Pikk 20 are valuable more for their historical significance than for their architectural beauty. The former which is now occupied by the Estonian History Museum was owned in the past by the Great Guild, an association to which important 15th-century tradesmen once belonged. The latter which is externally adorned with statues of Martin Luther and St.Canutus was owned for several centuries by a German association of master artisans and craftsmen.
Walking further north along Pikk, you will finally reach the 11th-century Oleviste Church. There's nothing interesting inside but its 120 metres high tower is one of Tallinn's most important landmarks.
From the lower town, the easiest way to reach Toompea Hill is from the west end of Pikk street where the Pikk Jalg tower dominates the picture. If you continue straight ahead along Pikk Jalg, you'll soon reach Lossi plats, the beautiful square on Toompea dominated by Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on one side and Parliament House on the other. Both meticulously restored to their former grandeur about five years ago, they look wonderful, although their architectural styles are contrasting. The Russian Orthodox multi-domed Cathedral has typical Russian-style architecture while the pink-coated Parliament has a simpler classical exterior.
Next to Parliament House, you can still see three of the four corner towers built by the Knights of the Sword in the late 13th century.
Continue north on Toompea past Toomkirik, Estonia's oldest church, until you reach one of the three lookout points that overlook the lower town. One such lookout point is next to a restaurant that has tables outside, from where you can enjoy a superb view while taking a drink or a snack. The gorgeous view from any lookout point reaches as far as the harbour and the ferry terminals. Don't forget to bring a camera along with you to take aerial photos of the medieval red-roofed buildings and the round defensive towers that line Lai, Pikk, Uus and Aia streets in the lower town.
Written by dangaroo on 13 Jan, 2009
Basics=====Tartu is Estonia's 2nd biggest town, with a population of around 100,000 it's hardly Tokyo though! What it is though, is a very pleasant country town with nice buildings and a calm atmosphere. 185km South east of Tallinn, it's relatively close to the Latvian border…Read More
Basics=====Tartu is Estonia's 2nd biggest town, with a population of around 100,000 it's hardly Tokyo though! What it is though, is a very pleasant country town with nice buildings and a calm atmosphere. 185km South east of Tallinn, it's relatively close to the Latvian border and the capital of the south. Tartu is built upon the Emajogi River, a clean river that connects Estonia's largest lakes (Peipsi Jarv and Vortsjarv). The city is a university city and therefore populated by a lot of students and the cultural centre of Estonia.History=====There are archaeological findings proving life in Tartu from the 5th century and a wooden fortification on Toome Hill from the 7th century or slightly earlier but the first written accounts of existance are in the 11th century when in 1030 Yaroslav the Wise, Prince of Kiev took over Tartu and named it Yuryev and took taxes from the local villagers in the area of what was then known as Ugaunia who were themselves known as robbers and warriors by their neighbouring Sackalians (now Viljandi area) who in turn are suspected of burning Tartu to the ground in 1061(either them or Soopoolitsens, it's not clear!)By 1224, Tartu at that time known as Tharbata came under the Livonian Order after being conquered by German crusaders and had a name change to Dorpat. During this time Tartu became a mecca of commerce and culture as it became the capital of the semi-independent Bishopric of Dorpat, a place that the German nobility were fond of and remained so until the 19th century, most stunning structures like the University and townhall were built by Germans and the population was also mostly if not completely German. German names still remain today.In the 16th century, Livonia and therefore Tartu came under the Polish rule of King Bathory who introduced a Jesuit grammar school and translator's seminary but this was interrupted by a war with the Swedes who eventually beat the Poles and took over Tartu. It was during this time that the great university was built.1721 marked the beginning of Russia as a great European power, they signed the Treaty of Nystad with Sweden in which Livonia, Estonia, Ingria and parts of Karelia as well as Baltic islands became Russian in return for Finland and 2 million Swedish daler (like dollar from the german word thaler). This meant that Tartu came under the rule of Tsar Peter I and was renamed to Derpt (another silly name by all accounts!)Huge fires in the 18th century led to the damage of many medieval buildings and the city was rebuilt in a Late Baroque/Neoclassical style. Towards the end of the 19th century, the still oddly named Derpt believe it or not became the centre of romanticism and national feeling, the first Estonian song festival took place and a National Theatre and Writers Society was founded.In 1893, the city was changed back to it's original Yurryev name (must have been a huge sigh of relief after years of Derpt!). After the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks gave Estonia their freedom in 1920 and withdrew territorial claims "forever", well it sounded nice but in reality it only lasted 19 years as Estonia became under Soviet rule due to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.Tartu suffered badly at the hands of the Soviets during WW2 and in 1944 in particularly was almost totally destroyed. Following WW2, another 46 years of Soviet rule took place which saw the population double as many Russians moved to Estonia.Estonian independence in 1991 returned Tartu to it's former glory and it is once again a great place to be.Transport========Tartu's train station is a bit derelict but there are 4 trains a day to Tallinn (2-3 hours depending on whether it's express or not), 1st class provides you with free coffee (often biccies too!), free internet and comfy seats and only costs 140kr. There's no train direct to Latvia, one goes to Valga and then you have to walk about 4km over the border. Buses are much more frequent and take 2.5hrs, there are over 40 a day and cost about the same as the 1st class train ticket. The bus station is bang in the centre of town where as the train station is about a mile out. Tartu is only small really, so there's little chance you'll need to use the public transport. If you are by car then the roads to Viljandi and Tartu were pretty good but the roads to the Latvian border were being repaired last time I visited, divertions were reasonable though.Nightlife======Krooks is a good rock pub in a medieval sort of style, Wilde Pub is the Irish pub where Guinness can be found incredibly cheap, Hansa Tall is an old country worldy place which also has an old fashioned sauna in the pub! Maalim is an insane place with crazy decorations on the walls, good food and student parties on Thursdays. Püssirohukelder is a gunpowder cellar that features live bands, great beer and a cosier tier below where embraced couples drink wine. There is also a fair amount of coffee bars and clubs of which I've never visted but I've heard Atlantis is probably the most well known one.Sights=====I'm not hugely into the names of the sights but everything is within walking distance in the old town, walk around and you will be impressed! I recommend The Tartu City Museum.Personal Experience===============If you have just come from Riga, Tallinn or even St. Petersburg then you'll be a little surprised at the quietness of the town in comparison to those three but Tallinn is quaint and pleasant and the locals have a lot of time for you. There are things to do and nice places to go but you have to enter the doors, if you just walk around admiring buildings, you'll found yourself sat on a bench by the river wondering what to do next!I've only ever been there with an Estonian friend, so that was a major benefit but what I can tell you is not to bother going to the Indian Restaurant, revolting food with poor ingredients, cooks and cooking equipment, very disappointing indeed. Close
Written by EsslingerBrian on 28 Oct, 2006
Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone riding the public buses in Tallinn is that you must validate your bus ticket once you board the bus. Sounds easy (and obvious) enough, but if you make a mistake, you probably won't…Read More
Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone riding the public buses in Tallinn is that you must validate your bus ticket once you board the bus. Sounds easy (and obvious) enough, but if you make a mistake, you probably won't be happy with the outcome.After arriving in Tallinn after a 10-hour overnight bus ride from southern Lithuania, we were a little frazzled and sleepy upon arrival in Estonia. To make things worse, the tram that would take us from the Eurolines station to the station where we needed to catch the bus to our hostel was in-operational, so we had to make our way blindly about one kilometre on foot. Oh well, that journey made another story.Anyways, we bought our bus tickets from a newsstand near the bus stop and boarded the bus. I stuck my ticket into the little validation machine thinking that it would automatically stamp it (as the machines do in Germany and Australia), though this was not our luck. We waited until someone boarded the bus two stops later and watched them how to validate it. You simply had to stick the ticket in, and then pull the green thing towards you to punch holes in it. After validating our tickets (and feeling pretty dumb that we didn't figure that out ourselves), we sat in for the ride to our hostel.Before reaching the next stop, though, our bus pulled over on the side of a fairly busy street next to a red van. Out of the van stormed about five people in black clothing (I thought that the bus was going to get robbed) and entered the bus from every door. They began to ask (or rather demand) to see the passenger's tickets. Because we saw someone do it the prior stop, my friends and I had all ours validated, though there was some unlucky bloke at the back of the bus who wasn't carrying a valid ticket. Two of the workers grabbed him by the arms and forced him out of the bus and into the back of the red van. Now, I don't know what happened to him, but I'd also rather not know. Thank God for the woman who had validated hers one stop earlier, showing us how to do it!So, what seems like a relatively straightforward task of validating your ticket can turn into an interesting experience. Whenever we rode the bus in Estonia, we made sure that our tickets were properly validated, as none of us wanted to see the back of the red van. Close
Estonia is the cheapest of the Baltic countries and when compared with nearby Helsinki, it comes less than half the price. That's why in summer so many Finns flock to the ferry terminal in Helsinki's harbour on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings to take one…Read More
Estonia is the cheapest of the Baltic countries and when compared with nearby Helsinki, it comes less than half the price. That's why in summer so many Finns flock to the ferry terminal in Helsinki's harbour on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings to take one of the regular ferries across the Baltic. The convenient 5pm trip every Friday on the 'Wasa Queen', operated by the Silja Line is usually invaded by Finns who come over to Tallinn for a drinking spree on Friday night and cheap shopping on Saturday morning.
There's nowhere cheaper in Tallinn than the Keskturg. Located on Lastekodu tanav and reached from the city centre in less than 10 minutes by Tram 2 or 4, it is a daily outdoor central market which is always crowded with locals who come here from all surrounding areas. It is mostly a paradise of food stalls which specialize in fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, dairy products, pastries and more. There's also a wide range of clothes, shoes and bags for sale; you'll not find however, the designer fashion clothing you may be looking for. Even if you do not intend to buy, come here at least once, push yourself against the bustling crowds between rows of market stalls and see how the locals bargain to get their money's worth. There are also two other similar but smaller markets not far away from the city centre: the indoor Kadaga market and the Balti Jaama Turg, next to the railway station.
Don't think that shopping in Tallinn is limited to markets only. Since the fall of Communism, numerous department stores, fashion boutiques and beauty parlours have emerged everywhere and made shopping more fun. Tallinna Kaubamaja at Gonsiori 2 occupying a whole block in the new city centre behind the high-rise Viru Hotel is a big department store keeping with West European standards, while the excellent Stockmann at Liivalaia 53 near Hotel Olympia renowned for its wide range of imported products compares well with Helsinki's Stockmann, though prices are much cheaper.
If you are looking for something special with the touch of Estonia to take back home, visit one of the numerous shops that line the streets of the Old Town, particularly those along Vene, Viru and Harju streets. The top place to go for designer clothes and handmade garments is Demini, the beautiful four-storey corner building at Viru 1. With three full floors displaying the widest range of designer fashion clothing in Estonia, Demini Shopping Gallery opens 7 days a week with shorter hours on Sunday. Likewise, Max Mara at Harju 6 is another fashion boutique which specializes in Estonian hand-knitted garments and handmade suits. To complement Max Mara's fashion, the nearby Dolores beauty parlour at Harju 3 offers the widest range of natural cosmetics and mineral beauty products in Tallinn.
For Estonian handicrafts, ceramic souvenirs and leather products, Uljas ja Tutred on the Old Town square and Rewill at Vene 7 are the best places to go. You even have the opportunity to see how Estonian handicrafts are manufactured if you visit the small factory shop Teasponi Pesupood at Muurivahe 52/54. Decorative glass, crystal and fine porcelain, all imported but inexpensive by Western standards are sold at Luumera at Viru street 24. Susanna at Dunkri street 5 sells similar products.
Tallinn's alcohol and liqueur shops are a haven for those seeking top-quality vodka and local or imported wine and beer. There are many shops selling alcoholic drinks and tobacco products both in the Old Town and outside. Near the Old Town square, Ararat at Suur-Karja 17/19 and Alkoholimyymala at Suur-Karja 2 have the widest range of alcoholic drinks in Tallinn. Try Davai or Ulemiste Vodka, both made in Estonia and much cheaper than the widely available range of Dovgan Classic Russian Vodka. Or why don't you buy a bottle of grapefruit or peach gin, so unusual and yet so refreshing when chilled? If you want something lighter, there's a wide range of local beers from which to choose; however, they’re not as light as you may think. The 2 picks are unarguably the blue-canned Saku or the red-canned Koff lager. If you really want to go back home with a taste of Old Tallinn, don't leave before buying a bottle of 'Wana Tallinna', a local liqueur with a high alcohol content.
Enjoy Tallinn's wonderful shopping scene!