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A medieval walled city, historic churches and landmarks, narrow picturesque side streets, inexpensive shopping, and English spoken everywhere. All in a country that developed skype and established a free wifi network from coast to coast.  Where in Europe might you guess?  It is Estonia and its’ capital of Tallinn.

We visited the small Baltic country during a long weekend trip to Helsinki, Finland and both my wife and I enjoyed it! Bordered by Latvia to the south and Russia to the east, it also sits 50 miles across from Finland, separated by the Bay of Finland. Tallinn is just a two hour ferry ride from Helsinki, the Finnish capital and where we were staying, so we decided to make a day trip of it. We chose the Linda Line because of the early departure time, it was also shortest trip to Tallinn (1 hr 40 min), and it left from the Makasiiniterminaali which was central to Helsinki. Other options included TallinK, Viking, and Eckero line. The Linda Line Merilin was fast and comfortable and the boat was less than half full. The return trip, however, was not nearly as pleasant. This ship, the Karolin, was larger yet completely booked and took 2.5 hours to return to Helsinki. 

Linda Line – ferry to Tallinn

 Estonia has a very Interesting history going back to the times of the Vikings and the Middle Ages when it was fought over by various countries including Demmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia. The capital of Tallinn actually means Danish town or castle.  Estonia became independent during the fall is the USSR in the early 1990s, and at that time the economy and infrastructure were lagging far behind.  The new independent nation realized the power of computers and the Internet, and by 1997 had established Internet connectivity at 97% of its schools.  

Next came a wireless network available around the country and Estonian developers launched Skype.  Electronic commerce became the standard for everyday life – prescriptions, cabinet meetings, tax returns, and voting; citizens even carry a smart ID card for personal services.  The latest innovation is the ability to become an “E-stonian” E- resident, allowing citizens of other countries (namely entrepeneurs) use of Estonian services.

 While all of those E-things are very neat to read about, it was not the reason we visited.  This was to see the Old Town, which dispite the troubled history is very intact and was not damaged during WWII (even having changed hands so many times). 

  
We started our journey on Toompea Hill at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  The beautiful Russian Orthodox Church was almost torn down at one point, and we were glad to have it still standing to see it.  The architecture was stunning and so different from the churches in Western Europe.  Inside the church was a chaiotic scene with a priest giving a service, die hard church goers (many old ladies), and tourists.  We walked around other parts of Toompea and also saw the bell tower church and parliament building (Toompea Castle), enjoying the nice weather and empty streets early in the day.  

 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

  

Toompea Castle, home of Estonian Parliament

  

Bell Tower Church

  We walked down towards old town about this time and saw the popular sites of the Town Hall, square, St Olafs and St Nicholas churches, and the Viru Gate.  We had a very nice light lunch just off the town square, including an Estonian snack plate, three types of Bruchetta, and drinks for only 20 Euros.   

Town Hall Square

 One nice aspect of Tallinn in visiting with a family are the smooth sidewalks in addition to the cobblestones.  This keeps the beauty of the old cobblestones while making it much easier on you and your child!

   

St. Nicholas Church

  

Town Hall

 With its rise in economic status, Tallinn is now a popular cruise stop and the shore excursioners soon came flooding into the city.  We left the busy town hall square area towards lower old town, stopping to shop at the markets by the Viru gates and picking up a wooden trivet to take home.  We passed through Katherina Kaik, a restored narrow street which was incredible to see and to  imagine  the city back in time. Before leaving old town we had some delicious coffee and chocolate at a nice place tucked away on a side street.  

With our day in Tallinn complete, we walked back to the terminal and headed back to Helsinki.  We saw plenty in a day to get an appreciation for the history of this new (yet very old) and innovative country.  You could spend much more time and see more of the city.  We very much enjoyed it and certainly may come back at some point.  Time will tell where the country is headed next!

 

Viru Gates

   

3 Sisters Church and Estonian flag

  

Jeff and Indi in Old town

 

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