Tallinn Old Town

In the Flat

Downstairs from our flat was a Thai restaurant; during opening hours exotic music came from it and a beautiful but very UnSiamese girl stood outside in scarlet and gold silk tempting passers-by with spicy kebabs. On our way up or down, we usually had to manoeuvre round a member of the restaurant staff sitting on the stairs for a cigarette break. The flat itself was spacious, with a living room and two bedrooms; there was also a curious tiled chimney in the corner, which seems to be an Estonian architectural feature. We were very impressed with the amount of space we'd got, but the flat soon filled up. First we came back from our first excursion to find Creina's cousin Jenny Meg being assigned a mattress on the floor in the living room, then next morning Guy Phillips and Juliet Lygon were installed in the other bedroom.

Thursday was sunny and hot. Our first mission was to find the church where we were due in the afternoon for Mark and Klaire's confirmation. Creina had been given instructions on the phone, but could remember only that the name of the church was something like 'bulimia', and that it had recently caught fire. We set off for the nearest church, which was the size of a cathedral, as most Estonian churches seem to be. At first it appeared deserted, but we eventually found two security guards, who, when they understood our gestures, told us that this was not the church that had caught fire. Bulimia turned out to have been Pühavaimu. We had lunch in a courtyard next to an open-air theatre. The stage was all set for an execution, with guillotine and spears for displaying the severed heads on afterwards.


After the confirmation, we sat outside an Indian restaurant in the Raekojaplats, the Old Town's main square, having a drink with Mark and Klaire and their families. Tallinn was in the middle of a festival called Old Town Days, which meant that wherever you went you came across a concert. Sometimes it would be a troupe of incredibly small children in white shirts and red ties singing folksongs, sometimes a woman belting out Liza Minelli numbers in Estonian. At the moment there were medieval musicians performing on a stage in the square, with courtly couples dancing very slowly in doublet and hose for the men and heavy velvet dresses and wimples for the women. The effect was less incongruous than it might have been because a significant proportion of the inhabitants of the Old Town wear medieval clothes anyway. (Some are waitresses drumming up business for the medieval-style Olde Hansa restaurant in the same way as our pseudo-Thai lady, but I don't think that accounts for all of them.)

In Tallinn in June it never really gets dark. At 11 clock at night we were on Toompea, the hill which overlooks the Old Town, gazing at the view in the twilight. Toompea has two cathedrals, a Lutheran one, gloomily splendid and full of shields bearing the coats of arms of 17th-century Swedish noblemen, and a Russian Orthodox one complete with onion domes. We went back to Toompea next day, and watched a wedding in the Orthodox Cathedral. The priest sang all the time and two attendants held crowns over the heads of the bride and groom.

On Friday evening we attended the cricket match, the first time the entire wedding party had been assembled.

For more Tallinn pictures (from the rainy end of our trip), click here.

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