Welcome to my blog where I share our travels to interesting and sometimes to remote places together with stories of local people, food, wildlife and haikus.
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Estonia - Medieval City of Tallinn, August 2019
We only had 24 hours to see the Hanseatic town of Tallinn in Estonia.
This magnificent medieval city on the Baltic sea,
feels like “Autumn in August”. It was conquered first by Danes in 1219 then by
Germans in 1230 and only gained independence in 1991.
What makes the city architecturally interesting is
that it is built in two sections. With the arrival of German merchants
the city was divided into the Upper and Lower Towns which are connected with
“short” and “long” legs.
I find inspirations every time I travel. Please visit my web site to learn about my art.
Oak and linden trees shade the squares of the Upper
Town, known as Toompea. This “Town of Nobility” is home to elegant
government buildings, such as the seat of the Parliament and the Tall Hermann
Tower lining the curving cobblestone streets.
From the viewing platforms visited by pigeons along
with tourist groups, red rooftops of the town below are seen. The red
color is a remnant of the past and is still enforced for new roofs.
Wind vanes in shapes of golden birds and sail ships
are in perpetual motion above the roofs.
Estonia was one of the countries in
Russia which had gone through the common Russification, a cultural assimilation process during which they had to give up
their culture and language. An immense Russian church Alexander
Nevsky Cathedral built in early 19th century was to be demolished in 1924 to
rid Tallinn of Russification. Luckily this plan was never carried out and now
it reaches the skies.
The oldest church in town is the Cathedral of St Mary
the Virgin, built in 13th century by Danes. We admired the simple beauty of
the Gothic church slowly walking around it. Inside coats of arms were
The curving road of the “long leg” connects the harbor
and the Toompea Hill. It was built
during the 14th century for riders and horse-drawn carts.
The city below is designed around the Town Hall Square
surrounded by medieval buildings. It
is the center of the Lower Town since the 13th century.
It is a delight to walk the small side streets that
meet at the square at some point.
On one these streets is the "House of
Blackheads". The Brotherhood of Blackheads was a guild for unmarried
merchants and ship owners. This opulent 15th century Renaissance building was
their meeting place. There are also buildings for confectioners making
chocolate and marzipan, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, merchants and
In the late afternoon music by street performers fill
the lower town. The area around the Holy Spirit Church with a large green clock
and stepped gable is one such point where musicians or tour guides in medieval
clothes appear and disappear.
Massive tombstones were on display along the walls of
the narrow alleyway next to the Church of the Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
Now by the side of this church which belongs to the members of the Brotherhood
of Blackheads and Great Guild of Hanseatic merchants are cozy pizza
Across from the 800 year old pink building where we
stayed was the Niguliste church, which houses an impressive collection of
religious artworks. Dance Macabre by the German artist Bernt
Notke depicts the universality of death. It
functions as a memento mori, the admonition that all must die. On
the only remaining fragment of the original 30m painting is the dance of death
with the pope and the nobles. The section with the dance of death with peasants, fools, or infants disappeared.
Most of the other artworks at the Niguliste Museum
show the lifestyles of the elite since it was popular to depict luxurious
objects in art to gain prestige in the community. The ideals of poverty and
simplicity however remained valid among the followers of the Christ and many
buried their deceased naked without any possessions. “Dance Macabre” addresses
the insignificance of material possessions.
During the last few hours of our time in Tallinn, we
visited the Kadriorg palace. At the end of the 18th century, Tsar Peter I
ordered its construction for his beloved wife Catherine. Set in front of a dark
forest, and surrounded by luxurious gardens, the Palace now is a museum for
European paintings. The painting of Friedrich the Magnanimous by Lucas Cranach the
Elder’s workshop in the German room was my favorite among all.
As the big finale of our trip, we enjoyed coffee
and a slice of gooseberry cake at the oldest café in Tallinn, Maiasmokk. Since 1864, a turning teacup
cartwheel decorates its windows.