Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 2: Tallinn, Estonia

Tom and I woke up and went for a walk around the city.  We took a free walking tour of Tallinn that showed us most of the big sites in the city including my first Russian Orthodox Church.

Around 1900 the Russian Empire was nervous about talk of Estonia separating from the Empire.  In order to symbolically place their hold over the country they built the Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Toompea Hill, directly across the street from the seat of government.  Toompea Hill is the traditional place from which Estonia was ruled, and making a Russian religious building the centre-piece of the hill had obvious, political connotations.  This is still a bit of a sore spot for Estonians, as the cathedral is on the highest point in the city and can be seen from all around, making it, essentially, a permanent symbol of the Russian subjugation of the Estonian people, even after just over two decades of autonomous rule.  Tom and I went in the cathedral and he said it is a relatively plain church, as Russian Orthodox churches go.  

Religion in Estonia has been a little strange.  The Reformation reached the country in the 16th century and by the 1920s 80% of the country was Lutheran.  Then came the Soviet occupation and state-mandated atheism.  For some reason this atheism took hold in Estonia more than in any other part of the Soviet union.  To this day, only 20% of Estonians claim religious affiliation.  Of those most are Lutheran, followed by Russian Orthodox and then Catholic (the Catholic cathedral I visited had a sign advertising mass in Polish, Russian, English and then Estonian; Catholicism may be a religion of non-Estonians more than of Estonians.

This pink building below is the Parliament building; it is built on a site which goes back to the middle ages (and a medieval castle can be seen on the other side).

Tom and I over looking the city. 
All buildings in Old Town have to have red-tile roofs and either natural stone or one of three shades of yellow, a colour palette traditional in Estonia.

This is the outdoor stage, part of the Tallinn City Theatre.  I joked that the puddle was left over from  a production of  Metamorphosis, and then twenty minutes later I saw a poster for the show (turns out I was correct!).

St Olav's Church.  For part of the 16th and 17th centuries the spire here was the tallest building in the world.  The problem was that such a large spire was a natural lightning rod, and the building was struck by lightning and burned down twice.  The current spire is not as high as the previous one.  Also, the original is said to have been built by a man who sold his soul to the devil. 

On Tallinn's Town Hall Square there is a Town Hall building that is (I believe) the oldest, continually operating Town Hall in Europe.  The building is beautiful and is topped by a spire with this little guy.  his name is Brave Thomas (Voorna Toomas).  In medieval Tallinn there was an annual archery contest that only the nobles could enter.  The object was to shoot a wooden bird off a post.  One year no nobles were able to do this; a non-noble boy, Thomas, stepped forward and shot the parrot.  Instead of being punished of breaking the rules, he was given a job as a sentry on the town walls.  Thomas grew up to be a great soldier, and in his old age was known to be nice to children, always giving them candy.  After his death people noticed that the statue on the spire looked like Thomas, especially his moustache.  Parents started telling their children to behave, as Thomas could still see them from high up on the tower.  

Under one side of the Town Hall is this bar.  It is set in the medieval vaults of the Town Hall and has a medieval theme.  The two small rooms are lit only with candles and they sell mulled wine, meat pies, beer and soup (all very cheap and very good).  We spent many hours there, drinking wine and playing cards (more pictures of that later on).

Bears drinking!  Just a sign from a bar that I liked.
This is a medieval themed restaurant that I wanted to go to, but was very expensive.  
Tallinn even has Hare Kishnas.  They walked through the town everyday we were there , starting about 4pm.  
Tom and I love Indian food!  Since he has been in Russia he has craved Indian food, spicy food and any food that is not bland (which seems to be the national flavour of Russia, according to Tom).  Tom went to a restaurant a few weeks ago and was really excited to see that the menu included something that was supposed to be spicy.  He asked the waitress if it was actually spicy, and she said it was really quite spicy.  She lied.  For a few weeks before meeting in Tallinn, Tom researched Indian restaurants and found a great one, called Chakra.  It was fantastic!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment