Monday, September 3, 2012

Notes from Tallinn: Part 1

Right now I am in Estonia! I'm here to explore and discover and to catch up with several lovely Estonian friends that I've met here and there, and along the way I'm learning a lot of fascinating history and seeing some exciting art around town.

E and I arrived on August 26th from New York (with wicked jetlag). We are staying in the wonderful neighborhood of Kalamaja (which means "fish house" in Estonian), a neighborhood which was built up in the 30s to support an influx of fisherman and boat wrights who came in on the newly built railroads. All of the buildings are beautiful wooden 3-storey constructions of varying colors called "Tallinn Houses".

Traditional "Tallinn Houses" in Kalamaja

This neighborhood, just a bit northwest of the old town, is a very short walk to the Port of Tallinn, one of the larger ports on the Baltic Sea. Along the port is a structure called Linnahall, which is an amphitheatre that was built for the 22nd Olympic Games in Moscow. There was no suitable place for the sailing competition in Moscow, so that was done in the Port of Tallinn and spectators could watch from Linnahall.

That structure is grand and was probably once really amazing, but it is now falling apart and the city doesn't really know what to do with it. From the stairs of Linnahall, one has an interesting view of the Baltic and the port, which is really beautiful at sunset AND full of fascinating boats.

Kalamaja is also a very short distance from the old town in Tallinn, which was built up between the 13th and 16th centuries. It is hilly and the roads twist and snake, and the buildings are all beautiful easter egg colors. I especially LOVE the pink parliament building! (In fact, there are loads of pink buildings in Tallinn, and whenever I mention this to my friends who live here, they say, "I never really thought about it!" They are so spoiled by this wealth of pink!)

Pink isn't the only color to be seen, of course. One comes across aquamarine, dusty yellows and peaches, blues... and gorgeous red ceramic rooftops.

The old town is definitely the touristy area, packed with shops and restaurants and cafes--and sometimes huge crowds that have just arrived on cruise ships in the Port. But there are some sweet and quiet little spots in town too--places a little off the beaten path where you can have a quiet espresso and a piece of rye toast with salty herring and hard boiled egg (a combination that I find perfectly wonderful!) There are also many little twists and turns in the streets where you can get away from the cruise ship crowds and just be surrounded by beautiful old crumbly buildings. It's pretty magical

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