CURSES EVENTUALLY COME TRUE
One of the landmarks we will be able to admire almost from everywhere in the city, is the tower of the Church of San Olaf (1267). It was the tallest building during medieval times in Europe.
The tower is 124 meters high and it used to be 154 meters, but it was struck by lightning and lost to fire. Due to this, it was reconstructed lower in the XVII century.
A legend tells that it was built this high, so that maritime merchants were attracted to it, in order to bring their goods to the city of Tallinn.
The nobles of the city intended to turn the port into one of the most prosperous in the Baltic Sea, but such a big construction had a problem. It was rumored that whoever managed to finish the church would die immediately. That is why no master builder wanted to take part in this work.
One day, an unknown craftsman arrived, ready to assume the challenge. He asked a lot of money for it. Of course, the city could not deal with that, but the stranger craftsman promised to forgive the debt in case they could guess his name before finishing his work.
The citizens accepted undoubtedly and tried to guess his name. When the works were about to finish, the nobles of the city sent a spy to the house of the master builder, hoping to find out his name.
The spies heard his wife singing "Sleep my baby, sleep that Olaf will come soon with enough gold to buy you the moon".
At that moment, everyone went to the church, and at the precise moment when he was laying the final stone, they start shouting his name and when he heard that, he lost his balance and fell to the ground. So, the curse was finally fulfilled.
The interior of the church is really simple, austere and unadorned.
Once we are inside, we will go directly to the bell tower, through its claustrophobic spiral stairs, with 250 steps.
After a great effort and having previously paid 5€, we will reach the top of the tower. We will be delighted by a beautiful 360-degree view of the city.
From up there we will perfectly appreciate the old and the new city of Tallinn and its wall, towers and characteristic red roofs.
Location: Lai, 50
A MEDICINAL MARZIPAN
If you have a sweet tooth and you like almonds, this is the right time to enjoy!
According to historians, marzipan originated in Persia or Italy, but the Estonians, and more specifically the citizens of Tallinn, disagree on this issue!
They claim that it was in Tallinn where the first marzipan was made, specifically in the pharmacy located in the Town Hall Square.
This pharmacy is said to be the oldest in Europe, and opened to the public in 1422.
It became so well-known that even the Russian Tsar used to come to this pharmacy to get his medicines.
During medieval times, the most popular medicines were snake skin potion, mummy juice or powdered unicorn horn. But it also had items of daily use, such as wine, gunpowder, tea and marzipan, of course.
Today, it is a modern pharmacy, but it has a large room where medicinal elements from the XVII to XX centuries are on display.
Local history tells that a nobleman of the city became seriously ill and he asked the pharmacist for a remedy. The pharmacist asked his apprentice, called Mart, to make the potion. But the inexperienced apprentice, replaced the bitter ingredients with the sweet ones.
This remedy not only cured the nobleman, but he liked it so much that he ordered to be produced it large quantities. Quickly, this remedy became famous, not only in the city, but also in the surroundings.
It looked like bread, so it began to be called Mardileib, or Mart´s bread; that is the origin of its name.
Currently, there are only 5 marzipan museums in the world, and one of them was found in Tallinn. It´s called Maiasmok, which means “delicious mouth” in Finnish.
The great marzipan temple was initially a cafe opened in 1806 where marzipan and chocolate were sold practically exclusively. Over the years, its offer expanded, and it became the small museum that it is today.
It has a large room with the history of marzipan, in addition to a large collection of 200 figures with molds and tools to work this sweet.
Today, in addition to the museum, they sell marzipan hand-painted by Kulli Mihkla, a famous marzipan painter, with his brushes bathed in colored caramel. If you are lucky, you will be able to see her working there.
A place with decoration from more than 100 years ago and worth visiting, not only for the curiosity of marzipan or for the building and decoration of its rooms, but also to have a sweet day.
Location: Maiasmokk, Pikk 16
NOT A FISHING ROD IN THE RIVER
Of course, everyone wants to take a souvenir from any trip!
In Tallinn, you will feel like taking the whole city, but since this will not be possible, we will choose one of the artisan souvenirs you will be able to buy in one of the street stalls of the city or in open markets.
Amber from the Baltic Sea, ceramics, woolen products, felt, wood, glass ... and all this handmade !!We can even see the artisans working on these pieces in KATHARINA LANE.
Hats will surely attract our attention the most. You will find a wide range of hats in the stalls or in the shop windows because of the weather, as it is one of the most used garments.
Bright colors, muted colors, with a wide brim, no brim, topped with a pompom, or two, with a scarf included, for summer, for winter, lined, with or without flowers, a cap, bell, hat ... so on, always made of wool or felt.
Felt is not as well known as wool but it is widely used in northern Europe and especially in the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. Felt is still wool, but not spun and not woven, simply entwined.
The word felt comes from film, a Germanic word that means "non-woven cloth or compressed wool".This technique dates back from prehistory, and it is considered as the first textile product of mankind.
Crusading knights used it to soften the interior of armor. It was also used to make boots and crafts.
In the XVI century, to be able to work with felts, you had to become a craftsman by becoming an apprentice in a workshop for at least five years. Only then, do you become a master craftsman.
In the Baltic and Scandinavian countries felt was worked at home, but there were also factories, because it was an ideal material for long winters. Even in Viking times, felt has been found.
During World War II, it was used for military purposes, both for making uniforms and caps but also as cushions to prevent the vibration of weapons and improve the brakes of cars and airplanes.
So, you can not leave Tallinn without a felt hat! And you know, you will find it for all tastes and pockets.
Location: Katharina Lane
GOLD THROUGH THE CLOUDS
One of the places you cannot miss in Tallinn is the Alexander Nevshi Cathedral. Even if Even if you are not religious, this building will knock your teeth out.
It was built during the Russian domination in 1900, and declared a World Heritage Site in 1197.
It was on the verge of being demolished in the 1920s, when Estonia gained independence, because for Estonians it was somehow related to those years of Russian occupation. The excuse for the hypothetical destruction was that Russian architecture did not fit with the Hanseatic architectural line of the city.
It was built on the hill of Toompea, where it is believed that a statue of Martin Luther stood, and it was built precisely in this place as a symbol of the political and religious power of the Tsarist Empire over the city against Lutheranism.
The building is made of red and beige granite from Finland. It has all the traditional decorative elements of Russian religious architecture: arched roofs, blind arches, domed towers and crowned with gold crosses. Yes, yes, you read correctly, golden crosses, as the central mosaics in the facade made with gold paper.
Orthodox crosses, of course with 8 arms, in contrast with the Catholic one which has two more crossbeams, one of them would correspond to the tablet with the inscription "Jesus, the Nazarene, king of the Jews" and another twisted one that would symbolize paradise and hell, an authentic luxury in gold at the height of the sky.
The bell tower has 11 bells brought from Saint Petersburg, and one of them is even the largest bell in Tallinn, with 15 tons of weight.
Its interior contrasts with the ornamented facade, having a very sober decoration, based on mosaics and icons.
Orthodox Church does not admit three-dimensional images for veneration, only flat images in contrast to the Catholic one, and this is something that draw normally our attention.
The cathedral has no benches, because a church is a way to heaven, and logically, when you walk to heaven, you cannot be seated.
So, in Tallinn you go to heaven surrounded by gold...
Location: Lossi Plats
FAT MARGARITA AND THE KITHCHEN WATCHMAN
One of the most privileged parks in the city of Tallinn, is undoubtedly TORNIDE LALJAK, which means Tower Square because is the place where the defensive bastion of the city is located. However, it is almost completely destroyed after the Soviet invasion of Estonia.
It is the only place from where it is possible to see the seven towers of the Tallinn Wall, colloquially known as the “park of the seven towers”.
From there you will be able to see part of the wall that surrounds the city as well.
Tallinn´s wall was built between the XIII and XVI centuries and was fortified with 35 towers, 25 are preserved today, most of them circular.
Nowadays, only a section of almost two kilometers is preserved.
Most of its towers are circular. They have some curious names, as they took the names from the things that were used throughout its history, such as the KIEK IN DE KOK tower, which in the German dialect spoken in the village meant "kitchen watchman". Due to its 45 meters height, you could see the roofs of the city and the kitchens of the houses, in order to avoid fires.
Another one is the NEITSITORN, the maiden´s tower for having been used as a poster for prostitutes.
The most famous of all of them is PAKS MARGAREETA or Fat Margarita, because of its 24 meter-length in diameter and at least 4 meters thickness, which had been built as an artillery tower. We have to mention also the "sauna tower" or "tower of the golden leg" among others.
This square, throughout history, has changed its name on numerous occasions. At first, it was the grazing place of the city. During the Middle Ages, the place belonged to the convent of the Cistercian nuns, since it was the convent´s garden and it became public only in 1930.
LET YOURSELF BE CARRIED AWAY BY THE BALTIC WIND
Are you ready to fly over Tallinn as if you were a bird? If you want to let yourself be carried away by the wind and enjoy the views soaring through the sky ... in Tallinn you can!
You will find in Tallinn a balloon that reaches 150 meters high. The balloon is tied to the ground with a cable and is controlled by an electrical system. Two specially trained flight operators, one on board and one on the ground, will always be doing their job providing you a perfect flight.
We will fly in a large octagonal basket, with capacity for 40 people. This always depends on the wind that blows, because the more wind it gets, the fewer people can travel.
But don´t worry! You will only travel when the weather will be safe, as the crew constantly monitors the weather conditions and the wind.
When it snows or rains, it also flies, because this large basket has a large cover to protect us in these cases.
Our adventure lasts approximately 15 minutes, without counting the time it takes to embark and disembark, obviously.
We will see at our feet the entire city of Tallinn, the Baltic and the entire territory that surrounds the city. A view that will leave us breathless, always feeling the tranquility and silence of the sky.
Even if it is a very clear day, we can see neighboring Finland in the distance, only 50 km away.
Nowadays, you can only get to Helsinki by ferry, but a railway tunnel is being built. It connects the two capitals, and it will be the longest tunnel in the world.
The price is 25 euros for adults and 15 euros for children.
It is advisable to book online, because of the demand, especially in high season, and tickets are limited (balloontallinn.ee).
Without a doubt, a unique experience!!
It is located in the port, very easy to find next to terminal A, and very accessible walking from the town hall square, because we can reach this place in 10 minutes.
OLD THOMAS WATCHES OVER US
No one leaves Tallinn without having passed the town hall several times. But surely, we will not notice the presence of a weather vane in the Clock Tower. It is a weather vane shaped like a man with a large mustache. It is old Tomas!!
You could even think that this is a common weather vane but it is not. It was placed on top of the town hall in 1530.
Local legend tells that every spring during festivals in the city, a great archery contest was held.
It was about shooting down a parrot on top of a tall pole, a tradition of course, just for men of noble families of the city. At one time, none of the nobles succeeded but among the crowd there was a boy from a very poor family named Tomás. He had learned to shoot with a bow when he was a child.
So, encouraged by his teammates and thanks to his great courage, he went straight to the point of fire and shot the arrow.
At the first attempt and without hesitation, he brought down the parrot. Everyone thought that he was going to get into trouble, because it was a forbidden activity to the low class. But instead of being punished, he became immediately a guard trainee.
Over the years, he became an expert soldier and during the Livonian War, he became a great hero. He grew old as a soldier.
Over the years, the inhabitants of Tallinn realized that the male figure on the weather vane had the shape of a soldier and a large mustache.
From then on, they began to call this weather vane "Old Thomas". Over the years, it became a protective symbol of the city and much loved by all its inhabitants.
So, do not forget to look carefully at the weather vane when you pass through the town hall square.
Location: Raekoja Plats
BACK TO THE MIDDLE AGES?
What if we were to take a walk in a medieval atmosphere?
Crossing the walls of Tallinn and taking a walk through the city is like moving quickly back to the Middle Ages.
One of the most characteristic entrances of the city is the Viru Gate, which is one of the most well-known, and the place where we will cross the wall. In the first section of the street, we will not stop admiring the flower stalls and when they finish, we will be right back at the entrance of the wall.
Continuing along Viru Tanav, we will take MUURIVAHE TANAV street, a street that borders the city wall to our right. Along the street we will find small stalls placed in a medieval way.
Afterwards, we will find the CAATHERINE’S ALLEY or KATHERINE´s passage. As you enter this alley, it will seem we are entering directly in medieval times, as it preserves the atmosphere of the residences of the XV-XVII centuries that surround it. This alley, restored in 1995, is full of small craft workshops where you will see the artists working with ceramics, glass, jewelry, wool, and much more.
This passage is a part of the ruins of the old Dominican convent, with irregular stone walls and vaulted coverage.
The alley runs parallel to the wall of the church of Santa Catalina, built here more than 700 years ago, when it was the main church of the city. Today, you will be able to see several tombs bordering this narrow alley, some of them dating from the XIV century. This alley leads us to VENE street.
Undoubtedly one of the most evocative walks in the city full of charm and medieval flavor, with cafes in the corners and wooden carts of caramelized almonds to entertain our walk.
The vendors are dressed as if they had been transferred from the past.
Our walk ends at APTEEGI street, and it is here where you will find the oldest and most famous medieval pharmacy in Europe. You could usually find at the door a troubadour singing ancient songs; a luxurious final touch for our medieval walk.
WINE AND BLANKET
Few things more pleasant in our trips than enjoying a relaxing moment surrounded by beauty is watching those who pass by.
The ideal place is the Town Hall Square. Its colored buildings contribute to create a unique atmosphere.
Inside the totally squared plaza, where we can find the city hall, is the most important building, the Market Square, which is what it is actually called, because of its original location of where the market used to be.
Nowadays, during Christmas Season, the square is full of stalls with Christmas products as it was in the Middle Ages.
The square is surrounded by old stone merchant houses built in the Middle Ages, and in the lower part you will find small shops, restaurants and terraces that make the square very lively any time.
The Town Hall, is in Gothic style, being considered one of the most beautiful non-religious buildings of this style in the northern European countries.
I recommend you to stop for a break in one of the terraces of this square.
During summer, the sunlight will make the square full of tourists, families, children enjoying the famous Tallinn caramelized almonds ... but during the winter when it gets colder, you would think it will be empty, but it´s not like that!
All the terraces are covered and have heaters that will allow you to have a pleasant time, in addition, if this would not be enough, we will be kindly offered a blanket to cover us if necessary.
And what will we drink? During the summer, nothing is better than a craft beer to refresh ourselves.
In Estonia, it is said they have around 99 commercialized craft beers, many varieties for all palates.
In winter time, we will not stop trying the famous GLOGG, a mulled wine with cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest and all mixed with rum, or Vana Tallin.
So, let´s get a blanket and have a snack!
Location: Raekoja Plats
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