The weather in Tallinn was pretty much as predicted: cloudy, snowy and cold. And I am happy to report the wear to where selections I packed for the trip kept me perfectly warm while I shopped the Christmas market.
With just a handful of stalls in the main square selling sweaters, hats, gloves and Glögg - the Estonian version of mulled wine - the market is small. But set amongst medieval squares and cobbled streets, what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm.
|These spirits give mulled wine a taste of Tallinn.|
It wasn’t just the Christmas markets that charmed me, but the city as a whole. Not only is Tallinn the European City of Culture for 2011, its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medieval town has two distinct areas: Toompea Hill and Lower Town.
Toompea Hill is considered the birth place of Tallinn and though today the Estonian flag waves proudly above the Pikk Hermann Tower, it is acknowledged that the country's whose flag flies above the tower was the ruler of Estonia. Over the centuries, the flags of Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia have all held a place atop the tower, and though the flags of these occupying countries no longer fly over Pikk Hermann Tower, just a few feet away are other prominent remnants of Estonia's foreign "guests".
|Patriarch being helped up the steps of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral|
Kiek in de Kok is a 15th century cannon tower whose name translate to peep into the kitchen. It came by this interesting name because medieval soldiers claimed they could see into the kitchens of the houses below. It's now a museum, and if you get there when it's open (unlike me), it might be fun to see "what's cooking" in the Lower Town.
|The view from the top. Tallinn as seen from the viewing platform.|
|I was in Tallinn!!|
After taking in the views from the viewing platform, I headed for Lower Town, meandering my way down the winding, cobblestone streets. The Town Hall Square is at the center of life in Tallinn, just as it was during medieval times. The Gothic building dates from the 15th century, and Old Thomas, the weather vane that has been perched on top of the building since 1530, is the symbol of Tallinn.Town Hall Square is the Christmas market is located, and it's also where you'll find one of Europe's oldest pharmacies. The exact date of when the pharmacy opened isn't known, but records indicate that it was on its third owner by 1422. It still serves as a pharmacy, but part of the shop is now also a museum.
Not far from Town Hall Square is the medieval passage way, St. Catherine's. In this little walkway there are several artisan workshops, which offer much more unique findings than what was available at the Christmas market, and what remains of St. Catherine's Church, which is mostly tombstones that used to be inside the church.
When you walk out of the other side of St. Catherine's Passage, you'll be standing in front of Hellemann Tower. One of the many medieval fortresses in Tallinn, the tower now houses an art gallery. I took the tower tour so in addition to the art gallery, I was able to walk along a section of the tower wall and get another cool view of Old Town.
Viru Gate is the main entrance into Old Town. When I saw these twin towers, I audibly oohh-ed. Along the side is a little flower market, cafes and a park, where you could just sit and look at this beautiful piece of architecture. I didn't because it was too cold, but you could. I passed by the gate again when it was dark and it was all lit up for Christmas.
That almost made up for the fact that it was 3:30 in the afternoon. Almost.
Toompea Castle - Wikipedia
Christmas Market - Estonianworld.com