Monday, September 22, 2008
Tallinn, Estonia....via the Baltic Sea
In what will probably turn out to be the last of many memorable trips I have taken during my 2-plus years in Sweden, this past weekend I ventured across the Baltic Sea on a cruise ship to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and one of the best preserved medieval era cities in all of Europe.
Along with the other former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia (Riga) and Lithuania (Vilnius), Estonia is also trying to establish its own identity and break free of their recent Soviet past. While Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have made the quickest strides West, the Baltic countries are smaller and not as geographically-advantaged as their former Eastern Bloc comrades and have therefore, had a harder time gaining their independent identity.
Additionally, with a population make-up of many different types of ethnicities and ancestry, Estonians will probably always look multiple directions for their heritage. Consider Estonia part Russian, part Northern Europe, part Central Europe and add a small sprinkling of Western Europe. There you have a country full of intrigue for the traveler coming over from Sweden, down from Finland or up from Central Europe.
As an American, I’m a sucker for a good medieval city. Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic) and Brugges (Belgium) come to mind and Tallinn is right up there with them, except that Tallinn's old town is still part of the capital city of its respective country. The old city towers with their burnt red, cone-shaped tops as well as four different, high-steepled churches make up old city Tallinn’s charm from afar and good food, drink, handicrafts and creative capitalism attempts (along with all the normal historic and quintessential charm of an old European city) represent Estonia well from up close.
If traveling through Scandinavia, consider making the two-night and one day journey via the Tallink ferry from Stockholm (or from Helsinki for a four-hour ride). The cruise ship atmosphere and the reward of a still-undiscovered European old town are well worth the reasonable fare.
Here’s to Estonia and the other Baltic countries and their journey to continued identity independence and Western recognition.
1. Estonia iconic images are of the cone-shaped tower tops in the old city.
2. A pleasant and affordable ferry ride with cruise ship amenities provides a fun alternative mode of travel to Tallinn from Stockholm.
3. Tallinn’s Old Town Square with Old Town Hall, the center of attention all seasons of the year.
4. Just another cobbled European lane for this American who continues to romanticize these types of cities….
5. A fun way to get around Old Town Estonia.