Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
ON TOUR: Tallinn
Simon Warburton has been off on his travels again, this time to Tallinn. Readers may be interested to know that the British government never recognised the wartime Soviet takeover of Estonia and although the UK took part in the Moscow Olympics of 1980 this did not include the yachting which took place in Tallinn.
”Just three hours flying time from the UK, Tallinn is certainly in with the younger crowd these days, but do not let that put you off if you are not so youthful. It is one of Europe”s most fascinating cities.
True, the city is increasingly popular with British stag parties in search of cheap beer, but Tallinn, once so important as part of the Hanseatic League for trade, carries enough of interest to provide for an ideal long-weekend break.
As with so much of the Baltic States and Poland, Estonia has for centuries been the subject of numerous invasions culminating in the ping-pong occupations by Germany and the former USSR. The former saw Tallinn bombed during World War II, but left relatively intact ” especially the Old Town ” while the latter has bequeathed many dubious monuments to Soviet-style architecture especially on the city”s outskirts.
But Tallinn and Estonia have been largely successful in shaking off the Soviet yoke and today is a thriving young democracy, keen to reassert itself especially, through the European Union. Its younger citizens are more likely now to speak English as a foreign language, although a sizeable number of the population continue to communicate in Russian.
And this duality extends not surprisingly to politics as well. President Bush”s recent visit to neighbouring Latvia aired the debate as to whether Russia has sufficiently acknowledged that the end of World War II actually imposed a new dictatorship on the Baltic States, rather than simply ending fascism. The European Union”s assertion that democracy really only came to the former satellite countries, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, has equally not been well received in Moscow.
Away from politics, the Old Town, with its imposing square and churches such as Oleviste (once the medieval world”s tallest church), the longest intact, medieval city wall and the oldest functioning apothecary in Europe, are all a reminder of this country”s important past.
The square at the heart of the Old Town (left) forms the epicentre of tourist activity in Tallinn, and is thankfully free from almost all traffic, as are the narrow, hilly lanes that wind through the city. Just a stone”s throw from the square as well, is the Occupation Museum, surely a must-visit site on any itinerary and do allow a good couple of hours to fully appreciate it. For further information, see the excellent ”Essential City Guides ” Tallinn” booklet available in most Tallinn hotels.
The museum exhaustively details both German and Soviet occupation of Estonia, but is never dull or uninteresting. Several televisions with commentary in many languages including English, detail the waves of invasion that the country endured, as well as documenting the ”stagnation” period under Brezhnev. Downstairs is an eerie collection of Soviet-style statues that stare spookily in the half-darkness like so many silent and resentful characters from history.
Estonian Air serves Tallinn from Gatwick. Partly owned by SAS, the five-strong Boeing 737 fleet serves many European destinations and has just inaugurated Tallinn ” Manchester. The airline is also reinventing itself and although it will offer premium class travel with complimentary catering passengers in economy will now be able to purchase snacks and beverages. easyJet has also successfully introduced a route from Stansted.
Hotels of all budgets are available in Tallinn. But perhaps away from the 20-storey chains, you could look at the Schlossle Hotel (left), in the heart of the Old Town. Oozing with history, this 13th century building is the last word in luxury, with crackling log fires, a vaulted cellar restaurant and rooms that truly reflect the ancient nature of what was once the heart of a street (Puhavaimu), that bustled with merchants” houses for more than 500 years.
Tallinn is Europe, but is a world away in terms of history and culture as far as the UK is concerned. Definitely worth a try".