It has cobbled streets and gingerbread façades, steeples, spires and a marvellous medieval wall … Get ready to step back in time.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are generically referred to as the Baltic states, but since independence they should, of course, be called the Baltic countries.
Estonia is a tiny country, occupied since 2500 BC, making it the longest settled of the European countries. Since the 13th century it has been conquered by Germany, Denmark, Poland and Russia, but in 1991 it finally shrugged off years of Soviet domination and is now going ahead in leaps and bounds. It is on the same latitude as St Petersburg and has the same warm summers with long stretches of soft twilight and short, cold and dark days during winter.
Tallin, on the Gulf of Finland to the north, is the capital and its old town is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in northern Europe. Craftsmen created the city from limestone. It was a thriving trading centre with cobbled streets and gingerbread façades, steeples, spires and a marvellous medieval wall. Tallinn is a high point of any visit to Estonia.
Authorities work hard to protect and maintain Estonia's unique charm: no advertising, no neon lighting. As a result hundreds of thousands of tourists are drawn to this small country. It doesn't lure them with lavish beauty, though it does have its fair share of attractive scenery. What it has is quite subtle. A winding rocky peninsula, tiny lakes, pine forests, fishing villages and the beautiful greys and blues of the soft limestone cliffs edging the Baltic Sea, which is speckled with tiny islands.
Under Soviet rule, Tallinn's churches were closed, but people were smart enough to secrete precious artefacts and icons before anyone had the chance to loot them. Now after more than 50 years in hiding they are proudly on display.
Everything was grey and lifeless in the Soviet era. There were no flowers, no outdoor cafes. But what a difference independence has made! Away from the Old Town you will see glass skyscrapers, elegant boutiques and a cosy café society.
Pikk tänav, or Long Street, which runs to Tallinn port, has many houses of medieval German merchants and gentry dating back to the 15th century. There are also old guild buildings which were mostly German. The Great Guild is now the State History Museum and the Brotherhood of Blackheads (unmarried merchants named for their patron saint Maurice) and Oleviste Guild are used for concerts. It also has the former KGB headquarters, now the police department.
Pikk tänav has the sea museum and the Great Coast Gate, Fat Margaret, a rotund 16th-century bastion which protected the entrance to the town.
St Olaf's Church is the hub for old Tallinn's Scandinavian population. It is dedicated to the 11th-century king Olaf II of Norway.
There is plenty of accommodation: camping, hostels, private homes and hotels for all budgets.
The Park Consul Hotel Schlössle in Old Town's main building is from the 14th century and the smaller building, the 13th.
A great place for a night out is the Olde Hansa, a medieval-themed restaurant. In 1370 it was a granary, the 1800s saw it as a hall where merchants took their goods and since 1997 it has been a restaurant. The staff wears medieval costume, the ambience is cheerful and Estonia's four distinct seasons allow for a great variety of fare.
The capital of Estonia, in the Baltic countries.
Well Connected Travel has three-night personalised tours of Tallinn staying at the Park Consul Hotel starting at $1100 per person.
Austrian Airlines flies daily to Vienna with connections to Prague. They have put together a special fare for Getaway
viewers. Return economy airfares, per person, are $1399 ex Sydney and Melbourne (plus $272 and $257 tax respectively), $1549 ex Brisbane (plus $321 tax), $1549 ex Adelaide (plus $301 tax) and $1619 ex Perth (plus $290 tax). On sale until March 28, 2005, for travel between October 4 and 11 November, 2005, and January 17 and February 24, 2006.
Czech Airlines fly daily to Tallinn from $453 per person, including tax.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
Well Connected Travel
Ph: (02) 9975 2355
Fax: (02) 9451 6446www.wctravel.com.au
Tallinn Tourism www.tourism.tallinn.ee
Park Consul Hotel Schlössle
10123 Tallinn, Estonia
Ph: 0011 372 699 7700
Fax: 0011 372 699 firstname.lastname@example.org
Vana Turg 1
Ph: 0011 372 627 9020
Fax: 0011 372 627 email@example.com
It is recommended travellers to Estonia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are are specific vaccinations recommended for Estonia. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au