Republic of Estonia – The Historic Viking Homeland
Estonia is completely unique in term of cultural habit but it shares a similar geography and history with Latvia and Lithuania. Its closest ethnic and linguistic buddy is Finland, and although they may love to get naked together in the sauna, 50 years of Soviet rule in Estonia have separated the two.
For the last 300 years Estonia’s been linked to Russia, but the two states have as much in common as a barn swallow and a bear (their respective national symbols).
After a few days touring around Helsinki, we decided to join the others (adventurers) into a day trip into Tallinn (old city), Estonia.
A Great Sea Journey with Tallink Silja
We choose Tallink Silja Cruise (a well-known modern fleet for Baltic sea region) as our back and forth sea trip to Estonia. The journey took us almost 2 hours from Helsinki to Tallinn (Estonia).
Not only can accommodate up to thousands of passenger at one time, Tallink Silja also can load hundreds of vehicle into the lower deck on each trip!
How to spend time while you are abroad in Tallink Silja? This luxury five-star cruise do offer every leisure convenience to the passenger, you can choose where and how you spend your time on the cruise by visiting the restaurants, lounge, mini casinos and shops, or check in on the wide deck for the fresh air.
Personally recommend travelling with this cruise since it does not include any sea sickness in the package! 😉
St. Olaf Church
St Olaf’s Church in Tallinn, the city’s biggest medieval structure, took its name from the sainted Norwegian king Olav II Haraldsson.
The church was first mentioned in 1267. It became one of the main churches in the Lower Town and formed its own congregation, which at first mostly comprised of Scandinavian merchants and craftsmen and few Estonians.
We are allowed to climb thru the church old staircase (charge roughly 2-3 euros) to have a fair grasp on the city view!
Some fun facts about this tower: Lightning is known to have struck the tower of the church around ten times, three of which led to extensive fires – in 1625, 1820 and 1931
The climbing process can be described as “Hell Mode” where most visitor (including us) have to raise a white flag and rest in the hallway! 😉
Best scenic view while on top of St Olaf Church tower with gentle wind blow on the face occasionally, The Tallink Silja Cruise still can be seen clearly afar from here!
St. Catherine’s Monastery
Perhaps Tallinn’s oldest building, St Catherine’s Monastery was founded by Dominican monks in 1246.
In its glory days, it had its own brewery and hospital. A mob of angry Lutherans torched the place in 1524 and the monastery languished for the next 400 years until its partial restoration in 1954.
Today the ruined complex includes the gloomy shell of the barren church (which makes an atmospheric venue for occasional recitals) and a peaceful cloister lined with carved tombstones.
Would say it is definitely an interesting place to visit with heaps of historic monument scattered all around the place.
Finally, the secret is revealed where Blizzard Diablo Game scenery (haunted monastery) ideas came from! 😉
Holy Spirit Church
The Holy Spirit Church was originally founded as part of the neighbouring Holy Spirit Almshouse, which tended to the town’s sick and elderly. Throughout medieval times it remained the primary church of the common folk.
After the Reformation, it was here the first sermons were ever given in the Estonian language (as opposed to German), and a catechism published in 1535 by the church’s pastor Johann Koell is thought to be the first book in Estonian.
The elaborately painted clock on its façade is Tallinn’s oldest public timepiece, dating to the late 17th century.
Don’t miss the carved wood interior which includes such treasures as a unique 15th-century altar by the famous Lübeck artist Bernt Notke, and one of the oldest pulpits in Estonia, dating to 1597.
The beautifully decorated window which soothes every visitor’s mind (at least for us), feel free to make your prayer and take some time sitting on the long bench enjoy those melodic organ rehearsals which it was indeed fantastic! 😉
St Mary Cathedral & Bell Tower
In Tallinn St. Mary’s Cathedral (first mentioned in 1233), you find gravestones from the 13th-18th centuries and coat of arms epitaphs dating from the 17th-20th centuries.
The most famous people to be buried in the church include Swedish military officer Pontus De la Gardie; his wife, Swedish King Johann III’s daughter Sophia Gyllenhelm; Admiral Samuel Greigh; and Admiral Adam Johan von Krusenstern – the first man to lead a Russian round-the-world voyage.
In addition to enjoying the beautiful interior of the church, visitors can climb its 69-metre Baroque bell tower and admire an excellent view of the city.
*There is cathedral event ongoing on our visit day so no luck on snapping the interior pictures. 😉
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This spectacular, onion-domed structure perched atop Toompea Hill is Estonia’s main Russian Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It’s also by far the grandest, most opulent Orthodox church in Tallinn.
Built in 1900, when Estonia was part of the tsarist Russian empire, the cathedral was originally intended as a symbol of the empire’s dominance – both religious and political – over this increasingly unruly Baltic territory.
The cathedral was dedicated to the Prince of Novgorod, Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky, who led the famous Battle of the Ice at Lake Peipsi in 1242, which halted the German crusaders’ eastward advance.
The church’s towers’ hold Tallinn’s most powerful church bell ensemble, consisting of 11 bells, including the largest in Tallinn, weighing 15 tonnes. You can hear the entire ensemble playing before each service.
*Although it is free to visit during the day, we immediately stop taking photo while inside the cathedral after realising there were mourning services ongoing. Still definitely highly recommend visiting this cathedral since it has a similar spectacular view inside.
The Tallinn Town Hall
Apart from the magnificent gothic town hall, the Tallinn’s main square is also one of the best attraction in the town.
While bustling with all sorts of leisure activities and daily groceries. Basically, you name it they have it! 😉
The Parliament of Estonia & Tall Hermann
Toompea Castle was erected on the foundations of the crumbling eastern wing of the fortress built on this site in the 13th and 14th centuries. The castle with its late Baroque façade was built between 1767 and 1773.
The history of Toompea is the story of the rulers and conquerors of Estonia, each of whom moulded and reinforced the place to their own needs and according to their own taste.
Today the castle is home to the Riigikogu (the Estonian parliament). The blue, black and white of the national flag can be seen flying on top of the 45.6-metre Tall Hermann tower as the symbol of Estonia’s independence.
Tall Hermann (Pikk Hermann) is the defensive tower standing at the south-western corner of Toompea Castle in Tallinn. It is thought to have been built in 1371. It obtained its current height (45.6 m) and shape in the late 15th century.
A narrow stone staircase of 215 steps leads to the top of the tower. At the top of the tower, 95 metres above sea level, flies the flag that symbolises the ruling power in Estonia. The blue, black and white of the national flag were first seen here on 12 December 1918 and after years of Soviet occupation, again on 24 February 1989.
Interesting Facts: The flag is raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset, except on Victory Day and Midsummer Day on June 23–24.
Tallinn Old Town Heritage Sightseeing
Visitors from all over the world drop around to admire the beauty of Tallinn, the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe boasting Gothic spires, winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture.
Once a home to wealthy merchants settling from Germany, Denmark and beyond, Tallinn Old Town today is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, with restaurants, bars, museums and galleries bringing much life to this historical city centre.
Unlike many other capital cities in Europe, Tallinn has managed to wholly preserve its structure of medieval and Hanseatic origin.
Due to its exceptionally intact 13th-century city plan, the Old Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, joining the ranks of the world’s most recognised landmarks.
Here you’ll find original cobblestone streets dotted with medieval churches and grandiose merchant houses, barns and warehouses many of which date back to the Middle Ages.
Just spending a day in an authentic medieval milieu and you will soon realise why visitors have described Tallinn Old Town as mystical, mesmerising and addictive.
Interesting Lifestyle & Culture in Estonia
Can you believe there’s actually a Museum of Torture? Especially open in business for those who actually love medieval S.M perhaps.
Maiasmokk (Sweet Lip) Cafe – The oldest cafe in Tallinn a beloved meeting point since 1864.
Monge Picante Street Stall rumoured to be selling the best-roasted almond in Tallinn with an irresistible refreshing flavour!
The next new generation of “Beetles” would like to see them appear in the upcoming Euro got Talent show! 😉
How about a nice signature “Goodwin” beefy steak meal in a nice cosy restaurant? Says the handsome oink on the bench.
Mercedes or Ferrari? The answer is very obvious from those Italian tourists! 😉
Fun Facts About Estonia:
This is what you need to know while travelling in Estonia:
- Estonia’s capital Tallinn is the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe.
- Estonia speaks Estonian as well as English, Russian, Finnish and German.
- Estonia is about 50% forest.
- Estonia has a population of just 1.3 million but is larger than Denmark and Holland.
- Estonia has over 2000 islands.
- Estonian Song Celebration dates back to 1869, attracting thousands of singers in every 5 years.
- Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world.
- Estonia is a digital society from voting to signing documents online.