We had a chance a week ago to visit the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, for a short three-day weekend. Tallinn is a relatively short (55 miles; 2 hr) ferry ride across the Baltic Sea from Helsinki. Tallinn is a much older city when compared with Helsinki – it was founded by Danes in the 10th century. In the 13th Century it was part of the Germanic (Hanseatic League) and became an important Baltic trade center. Since that time the city and surrounding parts of Estonia have fallen under Swedish and then later Russian rule. Estonia was independent for a short period of time after World War I, but during World War II was occupied by Russia in 1940 (the Russian border is approximately 110 miles away from Tallinn) and then later by Germany. After the Second World War, Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union. Estonia finally regained independence in 1991. Multiple museums including the Museum of the Occupation and the KGB Dungeons are dedicated to this time frame. Many Estonians were deported to Siberia and elsewhere and the fate of many family members remained unknown. Today Estonia is part of the European Union and is a favorite place for Finns to visit (alcohol is cheaper in Estonia – https://news.postimees.ee/3188469/finns-buy-third-of-estonia-s-booze )- and we saw lots of evidence of this on the return ferry ride.
Tallinn is well known for its medieval old town that dates back to the 13th Century. The medieval city is surrounded in part by the original city wall. And Freedom Square hosted parades and other events during the Soviet occupation. We ate at Olde Hansa, a restaurant that specializes in traditional game foods, and it dates back to medieval times. We especially enjoyed the Eurasian elk (our moose) and tried the wild boar and bear sausages as well. We also spent part of a day at the Estonian Maritime Museum. It occupies a renovated seaplane hangar that houses a 1930’s Estonian submarine and a retired ice breaker that worked the Baltic Sea up until the mid 1980s. The museum also houses remains of Estonia’s oldest medieval ship (15th century).
I will be returning to Tallinn this Spring to give a keynote address at the joint meeting of the Finnish and Estonian Societies of Toxicology.