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Around the Baltic capitals: Tallinn

As good travel lover I had to complete the puzzle of the Baltic States by bringing home a postcard from Tallinn. 

Estonia’s capital welcomes me in a dark night; when the fog is the master and everything is whitewashed by fresh snow fell in the last hours.

However, this gloomy air disappears in the morning when I wake up and despite the typical white and snow load sky I walked around the city. What I saw was definitely amazing.

I knew already the beauty of this medieval town, of which you can found trace in medieval documents dating back to XI century, the time when the whole city centre was built. The old town is festively decorated for Christmas with dozens of shimmering lights and brings us definitely back to an enchanting atmosphere, like those of fairy tales.

Anyway the available time is not much and for that reason it should be rationalized. I divide the city into three main conventional areas. The first is certainly Toompea or the upper town or fortress. This hill, where are concentrated some of the most attractive and evocative place of the city, according to the legend was build on the remains of Kalev an heroic Estonian king whose deeds are still told in all the Baltic countries. This part of town is home to many ancient noble Danish families of which you can admire the unique architecture and the Commander of the Teutonic Knights that is now the seat of the Estonian Government. Nearby there is a small passage, which is nothing but a slit in the wall and it allows the access to the Danish kings’ gardens. Keep on walking on the top of this hill you can see the Castrom Danorum i.e. the walls and ramparts of the old castle. Not far from that point you can visit the Orthodox Cathedral with its typical circular basis and coloured domes it is dedicated to Saint Alexander Nievski. The hill is the highest point of the city and if you look carefully between the old houses you can find some terraces that opens to your eyes great views till the see.

Going down along the Pikk street heading toward the sea you arrive to Saint Olav Cathedral, this is a Lutheran church that with its bellower high 124 meters is one of the tallest building of all Europe. Going further to the see before leaving the old town there is the Great Costal Gate that is a door once used to drive the peasants out from the walls of the city. The port of Tallin was in fact for many years the most flourishing and active in the area becoming a crossroads of different cultures.

The second area is called all-linn or old town. This part has been restored after the country regained its independence by the Soviet Union and it is also the part that gives it its romantic character.

This part runs, as normally happens around here, surrounding the town hall square called Raekoja which also houses the oldest European Pharmacy dating back to the first half of 1400. In this period of the year the atmosphere of the square is even more magic due to the little market full of warm wooden gloves, socks, jumpers and fur hat. During all the day you can buy candies and hot wine and enjoy some Christmas shows. From here on you have to only to get lost in the narrow alleys of the centre, making sure to flush out some of the characteristic buildings like the Church of Saint Nicolas that now hosts a museum of sacred art and the Corporation’s House. Thereabouts you will cross the Blackheads and the Three Sisters’ houses. Yu cannot miss Saint Kathrin’s passage one of the narrower and peculiar streets of the old town.

Last but not least you cannot fail to see the “new” part that lies beyond the walls and that centre on the Vadabuse Valjac or Freedom square dedicated to those who fought for the independence of the country. At its back the Tallinn Art Hall shows an authentic piece of the Berlin wall and a lot of contemporary masterpieces. in the same area there are also the Occupation museum the national opera, extravagant modern designed buildings and several nice parks.

The old city is surrounded by a wall long over two miles that separates it from the rest of the outside districts some of them made in Soviets time recognizable for the huge grey and squared buildings located on the outskirts of the city. Both modern and old district of the city enhance the desire for emancipation and growth of the country. Tallinn in 2011 won the title of European Capital of Culture in testimony to the vitality of its population, which average age remains below 40 years old, and the proposes of festivals and other activities throughout the year.

If you have more time to devote to this visit you can not miss a visit to the thermal baths and especially to one of the many saunas in the city, this will be the icing on the cake of a trip relaxing and rejuvenating.

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