Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Travel back through time in Tallinn

Travel back through time in Tallinn’s old town

Close your eyes on the journey from the airport to the Old Town (unless you’re driving of course) because the grey concrete building and, relics of the Soviet era, are far from aesthetically pleasing and will definitely give you the wrong first impression of this magnificent city.

The Old Town is the heart and soul of Estonia’s capital, a quaint little area where medieval architecture and chic, modern boutiques are neatly assimilated into this eclectic pocket of the city. Due to the turbulent past of the city, with regards to ownership, it is rich in history and it is easy to detect traces of Russian. Swedish, Danish and German culture that has been left behind.

Women dressed up in Draakon
The most striking feature of this town is the slightly OTT devotion to the preservation of Medieval Tallinn. As you step through the gates to the city, cobbled streets splay out under your feet and the smell of cinammon wafts on the cool Baltic breeze as women dressed as medieval maidens sell spiced almonds. Yes that's right, there are workers in fancy dress around every corner. It is part of their job and they probably think it is just as weird as you do. Take it light-heartedly and try not be put off by the fact that the city is kind of like a medieval themed park. 

So what is there to do? You could easily spend an entire day just wandering, soaking up the atmosphere and snapping some kodak moments of the beautiful, old buildings.  If you’re feeling energetic and looking for a spectacular view, you might even want to climb all 115 steps to the top of Town Hall tower where Old Thomas lives, a legend in Estonian mythology. It was believed that he was a peasant boy who won an archery competition in which only nobility could compete and afterwards was dubbed the Guardian of Tallinn. He now watches over the city and leaves sweets under the pillows of the local children. Not in a creepy way. Like a young, beardless Estonian Santa.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Tallin has an array of cafés and restaurants waiting for the chance to delight your tastebuds. Although Estonia has no national dishes, they are certainly no strangers to hearty cuisine. H

Gorgeous little streets

ere are a few suggestions of where to go to satisfy your gastronomic needs. Firstly and most importantly is Draakon, where the servers are dressed in tradional medieval costume and the décor is in the same vein. Elk soup is dished up into clay bowls and served alongside meat pies and pickles which you have to spear out of a barrel yourself. The cost of such a meal? A mere €3. At Kompressor, ignore everything on the menu and focus solely on the pancakes, I guarantee they will blow your mind. Choose between savoury or sweet – I defy anyone to tackle both – and enjoy a monstrous meal brimming over with meat or fruit. Finally if you want to splash out, check out the Kolme Konne Grill, a traditional restaurant that serves typical Eastern European meat and potato based dishes as well as all sorts of cakes and pastries. I recommend the pear and coconut cake for something unusual but sublime.

Town Hall

My final piece of advice for getting the most you can out of this unique town is to do a walking tour of the city. They leave every day at 12pm from the tourist information centre and are led by student volunteers. This way you can uncover a wealth of information about Tallinn’s Old Town as told by a local including its military history from the middle ages to present, all sorts of KGB conspiracy theories and how Estonia made its way into the EU in 2004. The tour lasts two hours and the guides work hard for their tips so don’t feel shy about rewarding them!

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