Atlantis Alumni

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Baltic Cruise: Surprising Tallinn

Only since the fall of the Soviet Union’s empire, mostly after 1991, did some of the countries in Russia’s sphere open up to tourism. Tallinn, the capital and main city in Estonia, is one of the most picturesque. The Old City features an amazing congregation of Medieval and Renaissance buildings, all surrounded by fortifications. We walked from the ship into town, and passed through the gate near a huge round tower which the locals have called “Fat Margaret” since the 18th century. The lower town, with many churches, shops and restaurants, all situated in old Medieval alleyways and houses, was the provenance in former times of the merchant class. This former Hanseatic League town also included an upper town, called Toompea, where the knights and higher church clergy dwelt. There were tensions between the two parts of town, and at various times different foreign countries, such as Germany, Sweden and Russia, controlled Estonia.

In Toompea we saw the castle, which on one side includes the present–day Parliament. We visited the Nevsky Cathedral, a 19th century addition built by the Tsars to symbolize Russian power over the Estonians. In the lower town the most outstanding church is that of St. Nicholas, (or Niguliste in Estonian) which dates from the 13th century, though much was leveled by Russian bombs aimed at the Nazi occupation of Tallinn in 1944. The church is now a museum and contains many Medieval paintings, including a wonderful “Dance of Death” by a 15th master from Lubeck, Bernt Notke.

After our visit to the Old Town, we walked back to the ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.

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