Tallinn and 2011
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, began it’s co-reign as one of the European Capitals of Culture by hosting a fireworks extravaganza on New Year’s Eve. It even set up a new organisation some three years ago just to organise events throughout this year. And this is a big year for Estonia as well since, in August, it celebrates 20 years as an independent country. So there are two reasons why Estonia will probably welcome a greater number of tourists this year; they are estimating an additional 200,000 visitors.
Tallinn has a population of about 400,000 and its old town has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. The old town is one of the best preserved mediaeval areas in Europe with its mile and a half of city walls still standing some of it going back to the fourteenth century. There are what you might expect; cobbles, narrow lanes and imposing churches but there are unique features as well like St Catherine’s Passage with arches linking either side of the lane, the House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads with its impressive red, green and gold door and Toompea castle, today the seat of the Estonian Parliament . The focal point is the Town Hall Square with its elaborate houses used by merchants in days gone by. Today there are outside cafes and restaurants which cater to the interest of the visitor.
Modern Tallinn is to found in the Rotermann Quarter where you’ll modern architecture as the city converted an old factory complex to a cultural and business area. Don’t miss Freedom Square. Only open for a couple of years, a large cross celebrates the war of independence from 1918-1920. Around the square you’ll see art deco buildings blended with the more functional buildings seen from Soviet times.
As befits a port, cruise ships (about 300 a year)visit each year. 35 different cruise companies sent their ships there last year. Passengers like it because Tallinn is big enough to offer a variety of different things to see yet small enough to able to tour it if you are just there for a day. Perhaps that is also why it has been shooting up the list of city break destinations. If the shopping or the history, the port or the culture doesn’t appeal, then you have the option of going into the forested areas just outside the city or down to the sea and leisure area.
And finally, there is a British connection. Tallinn has been twinned with Dartford in Kent since 1992. Why? Originally it appears that it was because the British government was keen to foster contact with emerging central and eastern European democracies. Today it seems a little curious the main thing in common is that Tallinn has modern shopping and Dartford has Bluewater on its doorstep, one of the biggest shopping complexes in Europe!