The historic city Tallinn, capital of Estonia, dates back to the medieval times although the first fortress was built on the hill of Toompea in 1050. The lower town spreads out from the foot of the hill, still protected by the remnants of a city wall and around the city wall is a series of well-maintained green parks, great for strolling.
Tallinn was the first marked on the global map by the Arab cartographer al-Idrisi in 1154 and the old town was added to Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1997, acknowledging its unique value as it has been astonishingly well preserved.
Nokia N8 Panoramic photo
Invited by Baltic Computer Systems and the Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications to give a presentation on EUCIP for Competence and Career planning, my wife and I have been here for some days, combining business with pleasure. As we love to learn about others history, culture and traditions, Tallinn has truly won our hearts in several ways. Although it is a bustling town of 400,000 it keeps its heart alive in the old town section, here are some examples:
The charming old town:
Estonia considers itself a Northern European/Scandinavian country, with very close ties to Finland (ethnic, linguistic, and cultural), and visiting Tallinn you will find a mix of at least three architectures in this very visual city – old Europe (the city walls and rustic buildings), Soviet brutalism (crumbling apartment blocks), and modern Europe (click pics to bigify & enjoy):
Tallinn retains an inner charm seldom found anywhere else
The Town Hall Square:
Raekoja plats , has been the centre of this city’s life since markets began here probably in the 11th century.
It’s dominated by the only surviving Gothic town hall in northern Europe, and faced by pretty, pastel buildings from the 15th to the 17th centuries:
The Medieval Hanseatic Period:
By the mid-14th century, when the Danes sold Northern Estonia to the Teutonic Order, Tallinn was a major Hanseatic town with about 4000 people. A conflict of interest with the knights and bishop on Toompea led the mainly German artisans and merchants in the Lower Town to build a fortified wall to separate themselves from Toompea. However, Tallinn still prospered and became one of northern Europe’s biggest towns.
We found the Hanseatic period history and architecture especially interesting as Bergen in Norway is also a Hansa town. The Hanseatic league was a primarily German trade organisation in the middle ages. They used a network of shipping towns to exchange goods between the different countries with different resources.
Hansa’s major trade item in the trade with Norway was dried cod fish which could easily be shipped in barrels and ended for example in Portugal where they made their national dish of it; Baccalao. The Hanseatic League was an economical superpower in medieval Northern Europe and had a great influence in the development of their trading port towns. The Hanseatic League also traded in towns along the Baltic, for example Tallinn, and left a German influence on the town’s history.
We were fascinated by the architecture in the old town. Hansa warft in Bergen (click to read my post about it) is lined with historical houses which look just like the colourful old houses found in the Old Tallinn center. They truly look like sister cities.
The German name, Reval, coexisted with the local name until 1918:
In 1219, the city was conquered by Valdemar II of Denmark, but it was soon sold to the Hanseatic League in 1285. The city, known as Reval at the time, prospered as a trading town in the 14th century, and much of Tallinn’s historic center was built at this time. Talking about that, as a coincidence: we had our lunch one day at Reval Café:
The changing governments and occupation of Germany and then Russia has left its imprint on the Estonian people, making them fiercely independent today and proud of their national heritage. We have had an interesting visit to Tallinn and met many nice helpful people. They are friendly people who are happy to share their history and national pride with us. Stay tuned for more highlights from this special tour.