Taking a Break in Tallinn, Estonia

Tere tulemast Tallinnisse, Eestist! Welcome to Tallinn, Estonia! Welcome to the Baltics!

But wait…

Where is Tallinn? Estonia?? The Baltics???

Complete disclosure, I wasn’t quite sure where the Baltic States were before this trip. Eastern Europe? Near the Baltic Sea? (Obviously Taylor.)

The Baltic states are the 3 countries that sit along the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, with populations of approximately 1.3 million, 2 million, and 3 million people respectively.

Although the Baltics are a part of Eastern Europe, we learned that sometimes people don’t like being called “Eastern Europeans.” They might prefer to be associated with their Northern European friends, because they aspire to be more like their Scandinavian neighbors. It really depends.

Who are the Baltic States’ neighbors? Start from the north, going in a clockwise direction: Finland is north. Russia is east. Poland, Belarus, and Russia (see Kaliningrad) are south. And the Baltic Sea is west.

Picture from Quora.com

Estonia’s flag is both simple and symbolic: Blue symbolizes loyalty and the blue skies, seas, and lakes. Black symbolizes past oppression and the fertile soil. White symbolizes virtue and Estonia’s long struggle for freedom and independence (Source).

Unfortunately, the Baltic States’ geographic location made it extremely vulnerable to countless bloody occupations by neighboring powers, including Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia, and Germany. Even Tallinn was originally founded as a Danish settlement.

Despite centuries and decades of despair and violence, the people of Estonia were able to maintain their national pride through their rich song celebrations… and especially during the Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1991, which lasted for nearly 50 years. Five. Whole. Decades.

Their weapon of choice? Singing.

Singing to Freedom

A huge part of Estonian identity can be attributed to the country’s song celebrations.

When we visited the great Tallinn Song Festival Arena, we learned all about the Singing Revolution, where the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania used singing to pave a path to independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Every 5 years since 1869, approximately 25,000–30,000 singers perform at the Estonian Song Festival (Laulupidu) for crowds amassing up to 80,000 people in the Tallinn Song Festival Arena.

Tallinn Song Festival Arena — with no choir and no audience.

I’d like to write a entirely separate blog post on this topic because of it’s amazingly unacknowledged significance in history. You can learn more about the Singing Revolution here.

Posing with Gustav Ernesaks (12 December 1908–24 January 1993), an Estonian composer and a choir conductor who wrote the second (and unofficial) Estonian national anthem during the Soviet Occupation (1944–1991).

What was your favorite memory of Tallinn?

Hands down, the first sunset.

During this time of year (June), the sun doesn’t set till around 11 pm!! Our first night in the capital, Aunt Sue and I decided to go for a late stroll in this quaint capital.

Aunt Sue loved taking pictures of everything, including this beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral currently under construction.

Walking through the streets of Tallinn on a Sunday night was like moving through a peaceful and desolate movie set.

I thought I was being clever by standing in a door that was shorter than me…

It was so perfect and still.

Pikk Hermann or Tall Hermann is a tower of the Toompea Castle, originally built in 1360–70 (More than 650 years ago!)

The streets were empty,

the sun still sharp,

and teenagers were chilling by the edge of the sunset — laughing, drinking, and gazing at the sun.

Sunset in Tallin.

What else did you do in Tallinn?

We visited the great summer Kadriog Palace which was built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great.

Kadriog Palace was completed in 1725, almost 300 years ago.

Because Tallinn is located on the northern cost of Estonia, you can take a ferry to Helsinki, Finland in 2 hours. It’s not uncommon for people to travel over to Tallinn for birthdays and celebrations, because it’s cheaper than Helsinki. Many Finns are also investing in Estonia.

Surplus energy also gets exported to Finland.

A street in the Old Town of Tallinn.

It is also not uncommon to bump shoulders with tourists in Tallinn, especially in the Old Town. Tourists pour out of cruises on a daily basis and spend wistful afternoons exploring historic landmarks.

Tallinn Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats), located in the center of the Old Town.

By the way, who were you traveling with?

I am so glad I got to explore the Baltics and Poland with family and family friends.

They may be older, but they are never afraid to try something new — they are unbelievably youthful and energetic.

Happy Mom and Aunt Sue in Tallinn.

Pull out a map, find a few key places that pique our interest, and off we go!

We are tourists (no doubt), exploring and learning and eating and immersing ourselves every day.

Looking for our next destination!

In addition to all of the exploration, we also took a lot of breaks.

When I travel, sometimes I can get sucked into the whirlwind of newness and discovery. I want to go go-go-go! even though my body and my mind just wants to rest.

This was one of those vacations where I had to remind myself: We are on vacation!

Breaks are completely warranted.

What kind of breaks did you take?

Here are 10 types of breaks that we took in Tallinn.

1. Simple sitting breaks

Smile for the camera, Uncle Richard and Mom!

2. Generic flower picture breaks — Overflowing from the window sills, in the markets, on restaurant tables, in people’s hands… I was in flower heaven.

3. Marveling at local instrument breaks — This is a nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish musical instrument.

4. Admiring local art breaks — Beautiful art decorated many of the old city walls.

5. Food breaks — Beer, cider, deep fried garlic bread, local fruits (yellow berries, small green/orange apples), and various cheeses… yumm!

The restaurant deep fried the bread and smothered it in delicious garlic and butter. Yum!

6. Perusing the markets breaks — I always love the vibrant and diverse colors.

In the streets of Tallinn.

7. Gawking at the marzipan creations breaks — We passed several marzipan shops that were displaying super intricate designs. Marzipan is one of the oldest sweets made in Estonia. It was even once used as a medicine for its supposed healing properties! Would you eat a (marzipan) dog?

Peeking through a bakery.

8. Laughing at the modern day nesting doll breaks — I know these shops are catering towards the touristy audience, but does the world have an unspoken affinity for yellow characters?

Cartoon nesting dolls could be found in all of the touristy souvenir shops.

9. Driver breaks — Even drivers need breaks too.

Bicycle tours were everywhere.

10. Test out the tram tracks breaks — At the time of this picture, we didn’t realize the tram tracks were active… Oops!

So yes, breaks galore! It is an essential part to enjoying yourself and appreciating the beauty of travel.

Go at your own pace. Eat as much or little as you want. Sit at cafes in the busy town squares or the quieter side streets. Do it all or do as little as you desire.

Replace the “or” with “and” OR interchange them as you please.

As long as you are being conscious and respectful of the people, culture, and place you are visiting, I do not think there is any “right” or “wrong” way to be a tourist.

Travel respectfully, travel your way, and enjoy 🙂

The days flew by and before we knew it, we were on our way to the capital of Latvia, Riga.

The passage from Tallinn to Riga is nicknamed the “Green Tunnel” because of all the trees. In fact, more than half (52%) of Estonia is covered in forests.

Along the way, we made a pitstop at the Baltic Sea.

A seamless transition between forest and the Baltic Sea.

Surrounded by dense forests, serene water, and fresh air, I felt right at home.

Hello Baltic Sea!

Originally published at tayzau.com on July 7, 2017.

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