A quick 3 hour ferry ride from Helsinki had us in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. Formerly part of the Soviet Union. This was a quick 24 hour stop! It’s cheaper to fly from Talinn to Oslo, our next destination than to fly from Helsinki to Oslo, so we though why not.
We stayed at the beautiful Telegraaf Hotel in the Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site. We strolled the winding cobblestone streets following the hoards of day trippers that come here every day. Walking up Toompea Hill there is a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church called the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Very similar inside to any other Greek Orthodox church except for the onion domed roof.
As always in these lovely old towns everyday life centres around the town square. Perfect place to people watch, have a drink or buy a souvenir. Tourism here is big business. There are at least three to four cruise ships coming through everyday during the summer.
We spent the day wandering the streets until our bellies veered us to a garlic restaurant just off the main square. Of course John had to try the Garlic Snails, Thomas the Venison & for dessert Garlic Icecream.
The things you do while traveling…. Of course sitting at home no one in or family would ever dream of trying archery. But of course travel opens the mind and all my traveling companions felt compelled to try a spot of archery in Tallinn. Thomas was the first Aussie to make it on the scoreboard.
After only 22 years of independence, during World War II on 6 August 1940 Estonia fell under Soviet Rule.
Many of the country’s political and intellectual leaders were killed or deported to remote areas of the USSR by the Soviet authorities in 1940–1941. Repressive actions were also taken against thousands of ordinary people. It was during this occupation that the KGB set up headquarters here to keep tabs on foreigners, diplomats and other politicians. The 23rd floor on the newly built tourist hotel called Hotel Viru were the secret headquarters for the KGB in Estonia up until it gained independence in 1994. The building only had an elevator up to the 22nd Floor and no one was ever allowed to ask what was on the empty level upstairs.
It was the tallest building in Tallinn at the time so was a perfect vantage point to install antennas and have a full view of the town. The hotel had over 2000 employees..guests were far less. There were many rules and regulations to follow, for instance no employee was allowed to hold a conversation with a tourist and no employee was to be found holding any foreign currency.
About 1/3 of the rooms had microphones in them and tiny holes in the walls with cameras. These rooms were normally given to tourists who seemed a bit suspicious.
On every floor there was a an older lady with a table welcoming guests as they came off the lifts. Her job was to document the movement of guests ie: when they left their room, when they arrived back.
Four months before Estonia’s independence the KGB made a hast departure and left a few things behind in the control room. These were discovered when the hotel was purchased by a Finnish businessman and he started renovations.
We also had a chance to visit the Seaplane museum before our flight out. This turned out to be a fantastic place for the kids. Tall ships, submarines and lots of interactive play.
We sure packed in a lot for 24 hours but it was fun all round for all of us……