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Tallinn, Estonia – A World Heritage Site, No State Religion and Haunted!

Scenic summer aerial view of the Old Town architecture in Tallinn, Estonia
Scenic summer aerial view of the Old Town architecture in Tallinn, Estonia

travel with josh ash oneTallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 80 km (50 mi) south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn occupies an area of 159.2 km2 (61.5 sq mi) and has a population of 440,597. Approximately 32% of Estonia’s total population lives in Tallinn.

Enjoy some Estonian pop music by a popular artist, Luisa Värk.

Järva-Jaani, JärvamaaAudio: Luisa Värk – Palun pöördu tagasi

Music by Lauris Reiniks, lyrics by Luisa Värk. Microphone Records, 2013. “Palun pöördu tagasi” is the Estonian version of Lauris Reiniks’s song “I Wish I Could Pretend” , 2nd place winner of Irish Eurovision finals in 2009.

Streets in the Old Town of Tallinn

Founded in 1248 but the earliest human settlements date back to 3000 years BC, making it one of the oldest capital cities of Northern Europe. Due to its important strategic location the city soon became a major trade hub, especially between the 14th to 16th century when it grew to be a key center of commerce within the Hanseatic League. Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved and intact medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Another shot of downtown old town Tallinn

Tallinn is the major political, financial, cultural and educational center of Estonia. Often dubbed as the Silicon Valley of Europe, it has the highest number of startups per person in Europe and is a birthplace of many international companies including Skype.

Providing to the global cybersecurity it is the home to the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. It is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. The city was a European Capital of Culture for 2011, along with Turku in Finland.

Some locals you meet will tell you that Estonians are all tree-worshiping pagans at heart, but the truth is that this isn’t a very religious country at all. There is no state religion, and according to the 2011 census, only 29% of the population claims any religious affiliation. Of those that do, about 108,000 are Lutheran and 176,000 Russian Orthodox.

By the way, my voyage on the cruiseship on our itinery to Northern Europe, Estonia (Tallinn) was one of our stops before we reach Saint Petersburg, Russia and wasnt I shocked when I debarked and walked towards this “Harry Potter like” city…you’ll see more photos I shot of this quaint old town. Its now three times Ive visited here!!

Estonian Costumes

VIDEO: Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. Tallinn is situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, in north-western Estonia. Tallinn’s Old Town is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. The city was a European Capital of Culture for 2011.

EuropeEstonia
Map location of Estonia in Europe

The most important places to visit in Tallinn: Kiek in de Kök, Estonian History Museum – Great Guild Hall, Oleviste Church (St. Olav’s Church) and Tower, Estonian Maritime Museum, Bastion Tunnels, Holy Spirit Church Holy Spirit Church, Niguliste Museum (St. Nicholas’ Church) and many more.

tallinn

Ethnic groups

estonian tradional costumesAbout 68% of Estonia’s population is made up of ethnic Estonians, descendents of Finno-Ugric tribes that settled this area about 5,000 years ago. The largest minority in today’s Estonia is by far the Russians, at roughly 26% of the national population. Along with Ukrainians and Byelorussians, thousands of Russians moved or were sent here during Soviet times, and chose to remain after independence. Though some integration is taking place among the younger generation, language and cultural barriers tend to keep Estonians and Russian-speakers apart.

Language

Confused? Join the crowd. Estonian is completely unrelated to Russian, Latvian, Swedish, German or any other Indo-European tongue. Along with Finnish and Hungarian, Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages, thought to have originated somewhere beyond the Urals thousands of years ago. Luckily, the younger generation and those in the tourist industry speak English.

Modern name

Another shot I took of the alleyways

The origin of the name “Tallinn” is certain to be Estonian, although the original meaning of the name is debated. It is usually thought to be derived from “Taani-linn(a)” (meaning “Danish-castle/town”; Latin: Castrum Danorum) after the Danes built the castle in place of the Estonian stronghold at Lindanisse. However, it could also have come from “tali-linna” (“winter-castle/town”), or “talu-linna” (“house/farmstead-castle/town”). The element -linna, like Germanic -burg and Slavic -grad / -gorod, originally meant “fortress” but is used as a suffix in the formation of town names.

In Russian, the spelling of the name was changed from Таллинн to Таллин (Tallin) by the Soviet authorities in the 1950s, and this spelling is still officially sanctioned by the Russian government, while Estonian authorities have been using the spelling Таллинн in Russian-language publications since the restoration of independence.

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The form Таллинis also used in several other languages using the Cyrillic script. Due to the Russian spelling, the form Tallin is sometimes found in international publications; it is also the official form in Spanish.

Other variations of modern spellings include Tallinna in Finnish, Tallina in Latvian and Talinas in Lithuanian.

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Traditional Costumes of Estonia

What can arguably be considered to be Tallinn’s main attractions are located in the old town of Tallinn (divided into a “lower town” and Toompea hill) which is easily explored on foot.

local people
Cylists everwhere across Tallinn City

The eastern parts of the city, notably Pirita (with Pirita Convent) and Kadriorg (with Kadriorg Palace) districts, are also popular destinations, and the Estonian Open Air Museum in Rocca al Mare, west of the city, preserves aspects of Estonian rural culture and architecture.

Toompea – Upper Town

traditional costumes of Estonia

This area was once an almost separate town, heavily fortified, and has always been the seat of whatever power that has ruled Estonia. The hill occupies an easily defensible site overlooking the surrounding districts. The major attractions are the medieval Toompea Castle (today housing the Estonian Parliament, the Riigikogu), the Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Lutheran St Mary’s Cathedral, also known as the Dome Church.

All-linn – Lower Town

This area is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and the authorities are continuing its rehabilitation. Major sights include the Town Hall square (Estonian: Raekoja plats ), the city wall and towers (notably “Fat Margaret” and “Kiek in de Kök”) as well as a number of medieval churches, including St Olaf’s, St. Nicholas’ and the Church of the Holy Ghost.

Kadriorg

estonian national costumes

This is 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) east of the city centre and is served by buses and trams. Kadriorg Palace, the former palace of Peter the Great, built just after the Great Northern War, now houses the foreign art department of the Art Museum of Estonia, the presidential residence and the surrounding grounds include formal gardens and woodland.

The main building of the Art Museum of Estonia, Kumu (Estonian: Kunstimuuseum, Art Museum), was built in 2006 and lies in Kadriorg park. It houses an encyclopaedic collection of Estonian art, including paintings by Carl Timoleon von Neff, Johann Köler, Eduard Ole, Jaan Koort, Konrad Mägi, Eduard Wiiralt, Henn Roode and Adamson-Eric, among others.

Pirita

estonian figureen

This coastal district is a further 2 kilometres north-east of Kadriorg. The marina was built for the Moscow Olympics of 1980, and boats can be hired on the Pirita River. Two kilometres inland are the Botanic Gardens and the Tallinn TV Tower.

tallinn-air-4_AAl

You don’t have to be a Casanova to realise that Tallinn is one of the most romantic cities anywhere. Take a walk down one of the cobblestone streets, through the numerous courtyards, or visit one of the many little parks that dot the city to see why Tallinn could unseat Paris as the romantic capital of Europe.

I for one was excited and amazed at how medieval and enchanting this city is…and having visited three times already on my travels on a cruiseship, there’s always a longing to return.

Its advisable that you click “play” so that the following paragraphs will be far more enjoyable to read:

Did you know that Tallinn is haunted??

Did you know that Tallinn, Estonia is HAUNTED???.

If you’re a sceptic, feel free to skip this part and move right on, but if you happen to be walking home late at night through the wrong fog-laden Old Town street and you get that prickly feeling as if someone’s watching you, don’t run screaming to us. What follows is a list of some of the haunted sites in Old Town. Read on …if you dare.

Rataskaevu 16, the Devil’s Wedding
If you happen to be standing near the so-called Cat’s Well on Rataskaevu street, look up and house number 16 and you’ll notice something odd – one of the windows on the top floor is bricked up from the inside, and has false curtains painted on the inside. This 15-th century house happens to be the subject of Tallinn’s most famous ghost legend, a story called ‘The Devil’s Wedding.

The tale goes like this: Long ago, the landlord of this house, desperate for money and near suicidal with despair, was approached by a mysterious, cloaked man who offered a huge sum of money to rent the upstairs flat for a party. The renter’s only condition was complete privacy.

The landlord readily agreed. During the evening in question, loud noises were heard, as if a hundred guests were tramping up the stairs, and an ungodly racket issued from the room. Precisely at one o’clock, the sound abruptly stopped, as if the party had simply vanished. The next day the landlord ‘s servant, who had been spying through the keyhole, was found mortally ill. Before dying, the servant claimed to have seen the Devil himself having a wedding party in the flat.

For centuries, people passing this house late at night have heard unexplainable party noises, and these only stopped once a later owner of the flat, tired of the complaints, bricked up the window.

Raul Reemet, one of the owners of Sushi House restaurant, which now occupies part of the building, told us a different version of the story – that it was thundering footsteps on the stairs, not party noises, that were heard through the years. He also said that the window was bricked up for more prosaic, legal reasons.

However, he did inform us that, during the recent, extensive remodelling of the building numerous artefacts were found hidden in the walls, including coins, documents and, in one wall in the back of the restaurant in what’s now the employees’ room, human bones.

As others have cited, they managed to visit the apartment behind the bricked up window and found nothing Satanic – just a comfy, modern living space!!.

 

Stable Tower (Tallitorn), a haunted prison

The small, round tower next to the above-mentioned Lühike Jalg Gate Tower also seems to be infested with spooks. It served as a prison for minor offenses in the 16th and 17th centuries. Town records from November 1626 tell of the son of Burgomaster B. von Gerten, who was locked up for something called an ‘engagement offence.’ According to the records, the young man was so afraid of the ghosts that reputedly haunted the tower, that he was given special permission to have his servant accompany him.

c0872e820a3563f2a93063b0422122aaBoth were found pale and extremely shaken the next day, claiming to have been harassed by spirits, and were relocated. In a more colourful version of the story, a sceptical councilman, tired of the prisoners’ complaints about a glowing skeleton that tormented them during their internment, decided to debunk the case by moving the prisoners out and spending the night there himself. Unfortunately, nobody knows what he saw. He was carried out the next morning in a catatonic state, and died a few days later.

Gustav Adolf Gymnasium, spectral nuns

As if school kids didn’t have enough stress as it is, the kids at the Gustav Adolf Gymnasium also have to worry about being spooked between classes. This school, located at Suur-Kloostri 16, has the proud distinction of being Tallinn’s oldest, established by the education-minded Swedish King Gustav Adolf in 1631. Earlier, however, this had been the site of St. Michael’s Convent, which began operating back in 1249.

The nearby Nunne (nun) street gets its name from this important institution, but it seems the convent has left its mark in another way as well. Through the years, students and staff at the school have reported noises that sound like the ringing of church bells, and spectral figures of women in nun’s habits have been seen moving through the corridors.

Uus 23, the Man in Black

In one apartment of this house near the corner of Uus and Olevimägi streets, the figure of a man dressed in black appears from time to time for no apparent reason. He doesn’t say anything, seem benign, and simply observes.

Toomkirik chancellery, the knock of death?

According to the above-mentioned Professor Mäeväli, the chancellery of the Dome Church, which is housed in a separate building on Kiriku behind the church itself, has a creepy belief linked with it. From time to time, an unexplained sound of knocking is heard in the building. Whenever that happens, locals believe, someone inside is about to die. I have absolutely no documentation for this one, but the idea itself was so disturbing I thought I’d share it with you anyway. Pleasant dreams.

Ghostly street

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Believe it or not, Old Town actually has a street named for ghosts. Vaimu (Ghost) street between Pikk and Lai first showed up in 17thcentury records with the German name Spukstrasse. In Russian it was called Strashnaya ulitsa (scary street). It’s not clear why residents believed the street to be haunted, but we do know that at one point they objected when the town governor wanted to change the name to ‘Evil.’ During Soviet times, anti-superstitious officials renamed it ‘Vana’ (Old), but the original name was restored after independence. Pleasant dreams….:-))

 

So..the next time youre round and about Northern Europe and happen to drop by Tallinn, Estonia, just remember not to forget to join in the official ghost tours!! Do hope you all enjoyed this travel article on Tallinn and do keep a lookout for the next “Personality Plus” feature…a doctor and his Botanic Science health products and service!!.

“He who helps himself will be helped by others – kes aitab ennast ise, seda aitavad ka teised” – famous Estonian proverb

 

tallinn

 

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