Tallinn - Old Town
Estonia, a country I didn't know much more about than that everything there is cheaper than in Finland. By now I've learnt such interesting things as the fact that Estonia has two Independence Days. First in 1918 when Germans lost the First World War and second after the Soviet Union had been demolished in 1991. Tallinn has been an unknown center of some pretty major historical events, such as the sailing competitions in the Moscow Olympics in 1980. For this occasion the communists built one of the ugliest things my eyes have ever had to endure, Linnahall. It used to be a concert hall on which you can climb and look around the harbour and the sea. The idea is so lovely that I cannot comprehend how they could fuck it up with such an abominable structure. The view's nice though. Another highlight for Tallinn was in 2011 when it shared the status of the European Capital of Culture with the almighty city of Turku. How splendid!
But my favourite thing about Tallinn (so far) is its Old Town. It is like Prague in miniature! And that's a compliment!! Big squares lined with colourful little houses and big churches and halls. The Tallinn Old Town has been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1997. It is teeming with cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars, something for everyone! Some of them, usually the very good ones, not right on the main roads so do stray. I particularly love the sense of irony that the Estonians had when they placed a pub underground right next to a church and called it Hell (Pörgu). There are also places where you cannot make me enter even if you were threatening me with a gun: Finnish karaoke bars, one brilliantly named Helsinki... Boring much?
The most famous building in the Old Town, in addition to the fortress of Toompea, is the St. Olaf's Church. Between 1549 and 1625 it was probably the tallest building in the world. In today's standards, though, it looks rather cute than impressive. The building in the Old Town that I find somehow intriguing is the Tallinn Town Hall at the edge of the main square. It has a tall and skinny tower that somehow haunts you wherever you are in the area. You can see it from behind every corner and towering above all the buildings. It belongs to the oldest town hall in the whole of the Baltic region and Scandinavia.
On top of the tall tower there is a weather vane shaped like a little man. Since 1530 this Vana Toomas (Old Thomas) has stood there watching what goes on in the Old Town. Oh dear the things he must have seen only in the recent years, how many drunken fist fights between Finns and Russians... Anyway, legend says that the model for this Toomas was a peasant who won big time in the springtime contests firing crossbows, throwing mobile phones (or was that this century?) and other such activities. But owing to his status as a low-life he couldn't be awarded anything substantial so he was promised the place above the town as a watchful eye and there he still stands braving the never-ending rain. I feel for him.