Riga to Tallinn

Tallinn - 2 nights at St Pietersburg Hotel

Click on any of the photos below to get a bigger version of that photo

We stayed at The St Petersburg Hotel, which was handily situated in the Old Town of Tallinn. A very "traditional" hotel, where they put little white towels on the carpet either side of the bed when they made up the room every night. The most noteworthy thing was that they managed to "loose" our car. It was taken away by a porter when we arrived, but when we came to leave that porter was not on duty. It took the combined efforts of the reception staff a good hour to find the car - happily we were not pressed for time.


Drive north from Riga to Tallinn was not long, but for the most of the way was through a tunnel of pine forest on either side of the road. Only once or twice did we find a way though to the Baltic. This stretch of the coast was almost deserted apart from a few motorists like ourselves stopping for a break and/or a swim. We quickly reached Tallinn and had the usual pleasures of trying to find the hotel - why is it that virtually no hotels give clear instructions on how to find them, including one way streets, way marks to turn at and so on.
Tallinn is only 50 miles south of Helsinki, so the bulk of its tourism comes from there. It was much more "touristy" than Riga, and the main square's restaurants had that annoying trademark of a tourist town - touts trying to lure you into their restaurant. One of my tenets in life is never to enter a restaurant that touts for business

Historically, the city has been attacked, sacked, razed and pillaged on numerous occasions. Although extensively bombed by Soviet air forces during the latter stages of World War II, much of the medieval Old Town still retains its charm. The Tallinn Old Town (including Toompea or "Cathedral Hill") became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.

On 24 February 1918, the Independence Manifesto was proclaimed in Tallinn, followed by Imperial German occupation and a war of independence with Russia. On 2 February 1920, the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed with Soviet Russia, wherein Russia acknowledged the independence of the Estonian Republic. Tallinn became the capital of an independent Estonia. After World War II started, Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1940, and later occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 44. After the Nazi retreat in 1944, it was again occupied by the USSR. After annexation into the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of the Estonian SSR.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics, the sailing events were held at Pirita, north-east of central Tallinn. Many buildings, such as the "Olümpia" hotel, the new Main Post Office building, and the Regatta Centre, were built for the Olympics.

In August 1991 an independent democratic Estonian state was re-established and a period of quick development to a modern European capital ensued. Tallinn became the capital of a de facto independent country once again on August 20, 1991.

Certainly Estonia and Tallinn have very diverse roots. In 1285 Tallinn became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League – a mercantile and military alliance of German-dominated cities in Northern Europe. The Danes sold Tallinn along with their other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Knights in 1346. Medieval Tallinn enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. The city, with a population of 8,000, was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers.

In 1561 Tallinn politically became a dominion of Sweden. During the Great Northern War, Tallinn along with Swedish Estonia and Livonia capitulated to Imperial Russia in 1710, but the local self-government institutions (Magistracy of Reval and Chivalry of Estonia) retained their cultural and economical autonomy within Imperial Russia as the Duchy of Estonia. The Magistracy of Reval was abolished in 1889. The 19th century brought industrialization of the city and the port kept its importance. During the last decades of the century Russification measures became stronger.

We wandered through the large park away from the city centre, which has among other things the Presidents Palace complete with ceremonial guards, and extensive gardens which appear to be used by brides for their wedding photography.
And there is the city's very modern Arts Museum which apart from paintings had an extraordinary collection of sculptured heads, exhibited in one room. Everybody from Stalin to long forgotten Estonian poets appear to have be carved in a variety of materials
Emerging back into the park from the Art Museum, we came face to face with brides by the car load. The name of the bridal game in Tallinn seems to be to take wedding photos in a number of key points around the city. The result is that it is a conveyor belt of brides and bridal limousines, each waiting their turn for photographs at particularly outstanding positions.
As is the wont these days the offspring of the happy couple appear to have been invited to the wedding. At this lake where we paused for refreshments in a cafe overlooking the water, one could quite bizarrely see several brides at a time, so the photographer must have had his work cut out not to take the several other couples.
The Occupation Museum here was not as well done as in Riga, though the basement did have a selection of statues of Soviet leaders whose statues had been removed from the streets. Overall a pleasant stop, but I preferred Riga between the two. I suppose Riga was more "real", whereas Tallinn was more "touristy". You cannot knock it though. In 2010 Estonia was the richest of the Baltic States, and is the only one (dear help them) using the Euro.

Our Itinerary in the Baltics