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The Baltics: Historic, Delightful Estonia


The northern-most of the 3 Baltic countries, Estonia is the most prosperous. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, definitely deserves its UNESCO World Heritage site designation.

Tallinn, an UNESCO World Heritage site Parnu, a delightful seaside resort

The northern-most of the 3 Baltic countries, Estonia is the most prosperous. Our Tauck guide attributed that, in part, to its proximity to Finland which meant that even during its Soviet domination, it could stay in touch via the radio with its Nordic neighbor, Finland, and thereby a taste of freedom.

When crossing the border between Latvia (the middle Baltic nation) and Estonia (the uppermost Baltic state), there is a Patrol Station (far left) that is a residual from the Soviet Era.

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, definitely deserves its UNESCO World Heritage site designation. The old town is medieval, having been built from the 13th to the 16th centuries. It is still mostly intact within its original walls. There are 2 divisions. The lower division includes the Town Hall Square. The upper section, known as Toompea, is the center of the government. Further afield from the town is Kadriorg Park with other attractions including Peter the Great’s cottage, now a museum.

The apothecary shop in the lower town of Tallinn dates back to 1422.

In the evening my husband and I ate at Gloria’s, located in a medieval building. Be forewarned: the interior is opulent and rich, but a bit on the bordello side. I wonder if this is a carry-over from its previous function as a restaurant that served the upper Soviet echelon. Surely, it is the most expensive restaurant in Tallinn, but still modest by American standards. The food was superb as was the wine.

The entrance to Gloria’s Restaurant in Tallinn.

On the way from Latvia to Tallinn, we stopped at Parnu, a seaside resort. The Baltic breezes encompassed our bodies and the pine smell from the trees just inland from the sea engaged our nostrils. The result was magical.

The sand dunes at Parnu. The Baltic Sea is in front and a pine forest is in back.

Our base was the renovated Ranno Hotel just across from an old and dilapidated Soviet building. One sees this juxtaposition so often in the Baltic countries.

Making your Estonia trip a better experience:

Evelin Kass was our guide for Tallinn and terrific. She is a native of Estonia. Her e-mail is ealliksoo@gmail.com.

We stayed at the Swissotel Tallinn at 3, Tornimae, telephone 372-624-0000. It was very comfortable and good value for the money.

Tallinn is much less expensive than Helsinki. One way to save money is to stay in Tallinn and take a boat to Helsinki for the day. It is a 2-hour ride one way. One option is the Tallink-Silja ferry, but there are many more. We were in business class when we crossed to Helsinki. It was very comfortable, though the internet worked only in port and not on the journey itself as advertised. If you choose business class, make sure to try some of the Estonia liquors that are available to test free of charge. They are delicious.

All photos by author.

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