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Destinations · Europe · estonia · Tallinn · Essence ·

Essence

Author: Jānis Notte0 COMMENTS

Essence

It is an entirely outdated notion that in Tallinn, apart from its medieval Old City, there is nothing else to see. The capital of Estonia has developed rapidly during recent years and shaped into a modern Northern European, if not a Scandinavian city. It features novel and bold architecture, chic cafes and trendy restaurants. Moreover, Tallinn has proven to be a striving business centre and boasts success story of Skype. It is pleasantly compact at the same time, with all the spots to see being within easy walking distance.

Baltic region, although comparatively small, offers a notable diversity. The three capitals, Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, are different and unique, each in its own way, and not only locals are aware of that. Tallinn is the smallest, yet the most modern and well organized among those three Baltic metropolises. Being quiet and discreet city, its loveliest spots take time and efforts to be discovered. Lots of places of interest, however, concentrate in its historic centre, which certainly is worth attention. Even if you don't have a soft spot for medieval stones, you will find it fascinating. And it is totally walking-friendly sizewise too, as the Tallinn's Old Town is approximately half of that of Riga.

Hardly any Art Nouveau houses are to be found outside its historic centre, most of them being destroyed during the World War II. Therefore, some Tallinn areas with dull gray and snuff-color Soviet-style concrete buildings may seem not very attractive. Yet, rapid changes are taking place there, too. Lots of new and modern houses are built instead of old monstrosities, chiefly designed by Estonian architects. For the most part, they concentrate in the business area, approximately 10 minutes walking distance from the Old City. Mixing among multi-story apartment and office buildings, some are not so tall, like for instance Emporio Armani store and restaurant Vertigo, one of the best in Tallinn. A nearby Kaubamaja is another proof that stale Soviet style store can be successfully transformed into a modern shopping centre. Contemporary art and new architecture is not confined to the city centre only, a must-see spot of Tallinn being also KUMU Modern Art Museum, situated at the Kadrioru Park.

Beyond doubt, the most agreeable time for visiting Tallinn is summer. Long daylight hours and multitude of open-air cafes is just one reason for that, while Tallinn's major advantage is its excellent location by the sea. Although water is hardly ever warm enough for swimming, it is still nice to have a tranquil walk along the beach. Suburbs follow one another along the seaside and are worth seeing as well. There you will discover that Tallinn, in fact, is more than its central part, and Pirita, Viimsi and Nomme and other areas, spreading out in the outskirts, paint entirely different features of the city. It is also where the most successful and bold samples of Estonian architecture rise. Individual projects, not limited by corporate standards that apply to modern buildings of the centre, present fresh trends in architecture. It proves that many Estonians have found their identity - akin to Scandinavian, yet so singular.

In wintertime, as furious winds from Finnish Bay scare away beach walker, it's worth indulging ones cultural curiosity, and Tallinn is rich in events to offer. Annual POFF Film Festival takes place in Tallinn in the beginning of December and offers the best art house films, Estonian as well as foreign. Taking place at the same time, Sleepwalkers Student Film Festival features short films and audio-visual works. Lots of valuable cinematographic works whole year round and free of charge are available at the already mentioned modern art museum KUMU. Gary Hustwit, a director of an acclaimed graphic design documentary Helvetica was its guest in 2007 when Tallinn, the only one among the Baltic region capitals, was chosen venue for its premier. David Lynch recently gave a public lecture there, too. Tallinn has for a small city an abundant choice of cultural events to offer, yet you have to find out what, where and when, as often events are not vastly advertised.

Speaking of Tallinn, one cannot avoid touching a subject of technologies. It is known that most Estonians have mobile phones and it is pretty common to have internet connection at home as well. Moreover, guests of Tallinn should know that free of charge WiFi is available almost anywhere - in the city and beyond.

Lots of lovely and stylish cafes, scattered throughout the city disprove with a popular notion that Estonians are constantly online, communicating among themselves only through Skype. Cafes are popular meeting and mixing spots, especially the newly opened ones. Yet the most favored nightlife venues mostly stay the same and offer never-failing quality. It is worth knowing that Tallinn is tolerant and open-minded city. The most popular gay club Angels is sited in the very heart of the Old City, being a favorite amusement and meeting place and draws variety of visitors. Most cafes are located in the Old City or the central business area, yet worth a visit locations are situated outside the centre as well.

Being not so loud and bubbly perhaps is an advantage of this city, as it has something else to offer. Quality entertainment and density of cultural events, available to everyone, ensure that you will wish to return there again.

Text by Jānis Notte, Una Meistere

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