Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The cruise's third port of call was the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Principal industries: tourism, textiles, battered old cars, unfashionable haircuts and recovering from communism. The main draw for tourists is the Old City, one of the most complete medieval cities in Europe.

There isn't a lot left of the original medieval aesthetic; just a crenellated tower here and a fortified wall there. But the architecture is there, buried under the renovations of dozens of generations. Baroque, Rococco, Art Nouveau... then it stops, around the time that the Russians swept in and created their usual bleak moratorium on renovation and restoration. Fortunately the Soviets don't seem to have shown much of an interest in obliterating the Old City, as they did elsewhere, instead limiting their trademark Brutalist concrete sprawls to outside the city walls.

Not surprisingly, two decades after the fall of communism, the Old City is now flawlessly restored and maintained, while the 30 year old Soviet stadium just outside is an abandoned and crumbling ruin.

Overall the Old City has a ridiculous chocolate box charm. No serious business is conducted within its walls, just the sale of trinkets and snacks for tourists. Even the churches seem to be there to add to the charm rather than to facilitate the worship of God. It creates an odd sense of disconnect when you realise that you can buy the same tacky snowglobe at thirty different stores but if you want a newspaper or a carton of milk, you're screwed.

It wasn't until we left the confines of the Old City and ventured into the surprisingly modern new central business district that we came to appreciate the tourist trappiness of the Old City. We stopped at an old-fashioned but stylish city cafe, and were gobsmacked by the low prices. 1.5 Euros ($2.10) for coffee. 1 Euro ($1.40) for a piece of delicious ricotta cheesecake. 0.65 Euros (90 cents) for a savoury pastry. This after we'd paid 3 Euros for a paper cup of hot but extraordinarily terrible wine at an Old City street stall.

One other thing I purchased in an Old City antique shop was expensive but irresistible: a tiny antique iron devil.

Admiral Ackbar is mortified.


Blogger Hatchet Hollie said...

I think I love Admiral Ackbar!

8:02 AM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

I know I do.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Cody said...

I want to buy the devil! Pleaaaase!

7:00 AM  

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