Talinn is 57 miles over sea to Helsinki and half way between St Petersburg & Stockholm so will lots of cultural influences since first stronghold in C10th. Closest to Finland language and economy. Seized by Swedes in 1561 for 150 yrs and taken over by Russians who industrialised medieval town. On hill, overlooking the sea, Old Town is cobbled. Walking tour + C14th gothic town Hall, pink parliament buildings and Toompea Castle near Alexander Nevsky Cathegral (11 bells). Afternoon free: lots of colourful knitted & linen handicrafts.Seaport Hotel.
Left hotel at 9am having met our Explore guide and our local guide and the rest of our group (14). Walked into the Old Town, a short distance from the hotel. Our guide was poor: she prattled with nervous energy, was not focused and wasn’t logical in her presentation. She also had lots of anecdotes (much of which was unintelligible) and ramblings with poorly explained context. She also tended to talk ahead of herself ie away from us which, as she was at the front, was next to useless unless you were beside her.
That said, we saw a few things we didn’t see yesterday and certainly from a different perspective. We mingled and start to get to know 2 or 3 of the group: plenty of time for that in forthcoming days.
We did go into the Marzipan Museum. This purports to be the oldest working shop in Estonia and comprises a rambling café, a shop and a tiny museum area where there is on-going work. I chatted to the lady confectioner painting little figures. She had been doing the same job for more than 20 years and loves it. She even pointed to a pretty young woman in a photo over her head saying “that is me”. As the photo was at least 50 years old, that definitely wasn’t the case ! Would love to have made purchases but definitely impractical to transport at this stage of the trip.
Another surprise was the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church: a very small church built in to the city wall with a heavily studded entrance. The Sisters who run the church were officiating in a completely over-flowing chapel where there was lots of singing and trying to peer over shoulders. We discretely moved straight into the pretty little garden where there were a number of wooden icons hanging as well as old domestic metal tools for extracting water from the stream.
Sue & I went off for an early lunch at Pika Jala by the sign of the long boot and just down the hill from Toompea Castle. I had a very good warm beef, bacon and potato salad. There was 1 x WC with a permanent queue (which eventually turned out to be the norm for most restaurants in Baltics !).
Went to Church of the Dome with all its heraldic shields and then the Russian Orthodox Church almost next door with its traditional excessive gold and silver icons.
After wandering some more we went to The Pepper Sack for tea (aka beer and G&T). The main medieval-style eating area was rather dull so we moved into the patisserie side to have tea and a cake each which we split. There were both disappointing. Lesson learned.
Each capital in the Baltics has a museum dedicated to KGB Cells which were horrendous places of torture, incarceration and subsequent deportation, frequently death. I was particularly drawn to this (having been to Auschwitz and the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial, not forgetting my matrimonial background). The 10 or so cells were in the basement of an elegant but “ordinary” house in an “ordinary” street. A thought provoking display using specific examples of those who had been interrogated there.
It took us 20 mins to walk back to the hotel ie not much more than it should have taken us yesterday! Sue reckons we walked in the wrong way ?
As most restaurants local to our hotel were shut for the national holiday week-end, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant which was fine. It was raining and 17 o C – not cheerful !