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Monday, March 6, 2017

Tallin Tales Part II

Katariina Käik

Our tale picks up from where we left off in the previous blog post, as we continued along Pikk (Long Street). Along the street can be seen buildings that belonged to Tallinn's guilds, most of them dominated by Germans. Number 26 is the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, an association of unmarried men whose unusual name was derived from their patron saint, Maurice. A likeness of the African-born Roman soldier can be seen on the 1597 building facade above the front door:



Further along is St. Canute's Guild Hall (1860) and its zinc statues of Martin Luther and the saint himself:



Taking a break in Tallinn's oldest operational cafe, Maiasmokk (1864):


There was more to see along Pikk, but everyone was tired after a full day of walking about, so we headed back to our apartment hotel for a rest before dinner. Learning a lesson from the previous evening, and taking the advice of a former colleague from my teaching days in Jiyūgaoka 自由が丘, we had made a reservation at Vanaema Juures, aka "Grandma's Place". I had the elk stew in beer, with fried potatoes and salted cucumbers, followed by Grandma's pancakes with jam for dessert. The latter I had paired with a Tallinn coffee, similar to Irish coffee in both taste and potency. This restaurant gets a coveted Kaminoge thumbs up:




We emerged from Grandma's Place after the meal to discover the streets covered in snow. The girls wanted to relax in the room, but I felt like taking a walk, so I set off across Town Hall Square:


Viru Gate connects Old Town with Tallinn's commercial center:


The snow and subzero (Celsius) temperatures were strangely energizing, so I walked out of Old Town and made my way down to the waterfront. I sought out and found the former Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where it was the main sailing venue. Now known as the Linnahall, this Soviet relic has been closed since 2009. It looked like an eerie abandoned temple in the billowing snow:


Looking toward the city from the Linnahall:



I returned to Old Town via the Viru Gate. On the way back to Town Hall Square I took a stroll through Katariina Käik, an atmospheric lane home to the Katariina Guild of artisans' studios:


On Saturday morning we checked out of the Old House Apartments and, leaving our bags with reception, returned to Pikk. The Great Guild Hall is the 1410 headquarters of the city's most eminent guild:


The building now houses the Estonian History Museum, a unique museum with informative and interactive displays on all things Estonian, including the short-lived national currency kroon, which was in circulation from 1992 until Estonia joined the eurozone in 2011:


Among the items pictured below is a 1555 edition of the fifth volume of Martin Luther's works:


A collection of military weaponry through the ages:


The main exhibit is called "Spirit of Survival - 11,000 Years of Estonian History":


The author of this anti-Stalin leaflet was shot in a prison camp in Siberia in 1942:


"Have Estonians Been Happy in their Own Land?" Apparently not:


A video history of the country, with scenes from the Estonian War of Independence:


Across from the Great Guild hall stands the 13th-century Holy Spirit Church. The 1684 blue-and-gold clock is the oldest in Tallinn:


The altarpiece dates from 1483:




"...(E)xquisite woodcarvings and painted panels..." (Lonely Planet):




A small exhibit on historic stained glass:



Back in Town Hall Square. Behind Amber and Shu-E is the apartment hotel building where we'd stayed for the past two nights:


Lunch at the Beer House, one of the places we'd tried to get into on Thursday for dinner but couldn't find an empty table. No problem doing so on Saturday morning before noon. Gotta love the menu...:


...and the beers within it:



Our last stop in Tallinn was a return visit to Freedom Square, open again after the previous day's Independence Day ceremonies, meaning we could get a close-up look at the gigantic glass cross commemorating Estonia's victory in the 1918-1920 War of Independence. That freedom from Russian rule was short-lived, of course, as Estonia (along with Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania) was forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940. Independence was restored in 1991:



At the eastern end of the square is a memorial stone honoring the Polish trade union Solidarity:


And then it was time to leave. We retrieved our bags and took a taxi to the airport, then boarded our airBaltic flight to Riga, where I sampled a Latvian beer while waiting for our connecting flight to Vilnius. Unlike the beginning of our vacation, everything went smoothly as we returned to our apartment early on Saturday evening:


When we first arrived in Vilnius last spring, we were advised by several people to take our vacations in winter, and to do so in sunny locales, in order to escape the long, dark and cold Baltic days and nights. Instead, at the urging of my wife, we traveled to Finland and Estonia in late February. And I'm glad we did. From the great fortress of Suomenlinna to Lapland (and the mesmerizing aurora borealis) to Tallinn's charming Old Town, we reveled in the wonder of winter.

Not that I can't wait for spring to finally come...

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