One of the things I love most about travel is visiting somewhere that completely challenges your preconceptions. Before we visited Tallinn on our cruise, my knowledge of Estonia was limited to Eurovision. What we found was a charming fairytale town, with yellow-painted houses, cobbled streets and gothic spires, but also, a dark and troubled history.
No 1 Son is very good at map-reading (I’m hopeless) and so we decided to explore on our own. We walked to Peter the Great’s palace, Kadriorg, before stumbling across a stunning beach, and then heading back to the stunning medieval Old Town for lunch.
There are lots of bars and cafes in the Town Hall Square so we stopped for a sandwich (delicious but overpriced), before visiting the city museum. There we learned all about the extraordinary history of Estonia – including how life changed for the citizens under the Nazis, and the Russians, and how many people were deported or simply disappeared.
We also learned how in 1989, two million people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined together in a ‘singing revolution’ to protest against occupation. Many of them were children or teenagers, no older than No 1 Son. It was incredibly courageous and helped contribute to the nations independence from the Soviets.
Tallinn may look chocolate box pretty, but as we discovered, it has a bitter-sweet centre.