Sights and Museums in Tallinn
The city is hardly awake as we walk towards Niguliste. There's a bright blue sky and a cold wind.
The golden crosses on top of the onion shaped domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are glowing in the sun, and square-built women in thick coats stand at the bottom of the stairs. They are not going into the church, but are standing like in prayer. One of the women has a plastic bag on the ground, and maybe it contains fish, because a big seagull is standing quite close looking very interested.
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The cathedral lies next to Toompea, the old fortress, and it is the city's highest area. There are many official buildings with ministries, embassies and the like. There are also some vantage points with a pretty view over the city and the harbour.
There are several boutiques with amber jewellery, but despite 30 to 50 % discount they are expensive - much more expensive than in Krakow, where they get (or used to get) much of the amber from the Baltics. I think even Danish amber is cheaper. Surprising!
People are sitting outside cafés on the large square, Raekoja Plats, and it is almost warm in the sun. This must be a nice place in the summertime!
We have a table with a view to Town Hall and enjoy a cup of coffee resting our feet. We're not in form for long walks, and it is tiring to walk on cobblestones and - some places - ice. A coffee costs 40 EEK. That isn't cheap, but on the other hand this square is Tallinn's answer to Piazza Navona in Rome or St. Mark's Square in Venice. Fair enough.
The tourist office is open now, and we pick up some brochures. An employee kindly explains how to go on a bus tour and asks where we are from. She writes down the answer.
Women sell knitting from stalls along the city wall in Müürivahe. They are wearing layers of clothes against the cold. You can buy pixie caps, gloves, socks, waistcoats and lots of other stuff. On impulse we buy a pixie cap for me and cute baby socks for the niece's expected baby.
The City Museum
The City Museum is in the street Vene in an old house. It is not big, but interesting. There's the universal city model, where you can press buttons and switch on lights. There is also a video about the city's history. Among the artefacts are many tools used by carpenters, stonemasons etc.
Back at the hotel we rest our feet and study the brochures from the tourist office. One of them is about a restored tower, Epping, in the city wall. It has 6 floors and an interactive exhibition.
That sounds interesting, and we decide to visit. The tower is in Laboratooriumi (homepage).
Besides striking a coin and making rings for chain mail there is no interaction. The exhibition is mostly posters with information about the guilds of old and in particular the stonemasons. A bit of a flop.
The tower as such is quite interesting and to get to the top floor you must ascend a narrow stone spiral staircase. We could probably just as well have visited the neighbouring tower. It doesn't advertise any exhibition, but admittance is free.
At a Patisserie
We return by Pikk. We seriously need to sit down and drop into a patisserie Vienna style just across the street from The National Museum. There are many people having coffee and cakes at small tables.
There are wooden panels and mirrors, and the ceiling is decorated. Helle captures a table, and I go to the counter. People in the line talk about the cakes on display. The girl in front points to a cake and asks in accented English if I know what is inside. I have no idea, but suggest that she buy it for a surprise.
I wonder how she knows that I'm a tourist? I haven't said a word, and the camera is in Helle's custody. The mystery is solved when she addresses the waitress in English too; she's also a tourist. I don't know the language she and her companions use, but it isn't Russian - maybe Latvian.
Estonia's National Museum
Just across the street lies Estonia's historical museum, and I guess it must be considered to be the national museum.
We enter. There's an exhibition with photos of buildings of national importance. I get the impression that they cannot afford to restore the buildings, so they are photographed before they collapse. Estonia gained independence in 1991 and national identity is important.
The next room is the minting room with old coins and notes, and then you enter the grand hall. It is beautiful with arches and columns and resembles a church. There are huge chandeliers in black iron, but besides that there isn't that much to see.
There are display cases along the walls with findings and artefacts, and you can easily see it all. It takes time to build collections, and Estonia hasn't had much time as a nation.
At the Seafood Restaurant Mõõkkala
At seven we enter restaurant Mõõkkala. The restaurant is empty except for a couple getting ready to leave. That was kind, because their child is crying loudly.
The interior is a mix of styles. There is art on the walls, and in the next room everything looks blue. A man enters with a book in his hand and gets the table next to ours. That makes three of us.
Mõõkkala is a seafood restaurant, but the menu doesn't say if the fish has been frozen or not. The swordfish for instance is most likely frozen. Combined with the absence of guests that makes us a bit anxious.
We order an Australian chardonnay, and I dutifully perform the tasting ritual despite the fact that cork taint is highly unlikely with a screw cap. The wine is sex-less and does no harm, but the better bottles were pretty expensive.
We order fish soup for starters. Helle's has vegetables and mine mussels, small squids and fish pieces. It also has a faint curry aroma. Quite good - there was no reason to be anxious.
We have both ordered pike-perch with vegetables for main course. The fish has texture and tastes good.
The waitress wants us to have dessert, but we have no room and ask for espresso and brandy instead. The brandy has a sharp aroma of alcohol and is called Ararat like the mountain in Turkey.
The bill says 1015 EEK service not included. On the way home we drop in at O'Malley's, but they are playing techno and it is not pleasant - we prefer sentimental Irish songs. They are preparing something on the stage and disco lights are spinning. We leave quickly.
Kuninga 4. Tel. +372 6 418 288
Email: info at mookkala.com
Open daily 12 - 24.
Okay seafood restaurant in the centre of Tallinn's old town.