Friday May 25, 2018

QUESTION: WHAT SMALL CITY IS WIDELY REGARDED as the most stunningly-preserved walled capital in Northern Europe?

Answer: TALLINN.

And, when we woke up on Friday morning, Tallinn, in the tiny Baltic state of Estonia, is where we found ourselves.

Like many small nations in this region, tiny Estonia (pop 1.5 million) got unfairly pushed around (by the Danes, then the Swedes, then the Germans, then the Russians) before gaining its freedom in the early 1990s. You’ve probably never heard of Tallinn – right? – but for over 700 years, this one-time coastal fortress guarded the Baltic approaches to Russia from behind thick defensive walls. And today it’s a medieval jewel that simply oozes with atmosphere!

Our route took us, first, around the coast for a look-see … then back into the cultural heart of this UNESCO World Heritage Site … along narrow cobblestone streets to St Mary’s Gothic Cathedral, crammed with hundreds of really old Coats of Arms … around those ancient stone walls with their fairytale turrets (two of them nicknamed Tall Herman and Fat Margaret) … into the Upper Town’s Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, famous for its gorgeous domes, mosaics and icons … then up Toompea Hill to the Palace Square where we peered over the Lower Town rooftops.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the flowers were blooming, and a top Tallinn day was had by all.

Oh, a word about the weather: we’ve been exceptionally lucky thus far, with blue skies and warm days everywhere we’ve been. Not bad when you consider that this part of the world gets only 30-50 sunshiny days each year – and freezes rock-solid in winter. One of our guides summed up their weather patterns as “nine months anticipation followed by three months disappointment”. And another guide reckoned their weather was “like a baby’s bottom: you never know what will come out next!”

COMING UP: Our much-looked-forward-to weekend in Russia, featuring the spectacular highlights of St Petersburg. Don’t miss this, whatever you do …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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