Estonia Travel Guide

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Monday, Five Thirty: Sipping on Estonia's Flagship Booze, Vana Tallinn

February 17, 2014 at 5:35 PM | by | Comments (0)

In celebration of the most needed happy hour of the week, we're launching a new column called “Monday, Five Thirty” that will take a look at different vices from around the world, specifically boozes and beers unique to a destination. For this inaugural run, we zip over to Estonia for a taste of its infamous Vana Tallin.

Estonia is a relatively new country, having gained its independence from Russia just over twenty years ago in 1991. Its most wide-scale attraction, Old Town Tallinn, looks like it should be on the top of a wedding cake with its medieval castles, and our sis HotelChatter dished on some of its properties, including one where the KGB literally bugged the hell out of its guests.

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Let's Talk Tallinn: When Distances Aren't Exact on the Culture 'Kilometer'

July 13, 2012 at 4:25 PM | by | Comments (4)

Who goes to Estonia?! Well, our roaming correspondent John Walton does and, all this week, he's been filling us in on what's up way up there in this world capital on the Baltic Sea.

It's almost time, sniff sniff, to leave Tallinn, and we're kind of heartbroken. We've come to love this tiny city in the far north, but before we go, let's go for a walk along the fascinating Kultuurikilometer—Tallinn's 2.6km-long Culture Kilometer, a walking/biking path that links up a set of nifty things to see and do towards the northwest end of the city center.

Most of the area was a military restricted zone during the Soviet period, since it was a strategically important area on the Baltic Sea. Since Tallinn was European City of Culture in 2011, there's all kinds of awesome stuff scattered along the Culture Kilometer, from murals to art exhibits to random cafés and hipster hangouts.

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Let's Talk Tallinn: The City's Five Most Bizarre Soviet Buildings

July 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM | by | Comments (6)

Who goes to Estonia?! Well, our roaming correspondent John Walton does and, all this week, he'll be filling us in on what's up way up there in this world capital on the Baltic Sea.

Cards on the table: we love Brutalism in architecture. That's the angular, in-your-face, often concrete-formed style popular from the 1950s-70s, which often feels a little bit like a Star Trek: The Next Generation planetary facility. Slightly closer to home, Tallinn has a whole bunch of these awesome buildings. Which shouldn't be surprising—later Soviet architecture just loved the futuristic look of the things, but there are a few other architectural gems from the USSR days in Tallinn.

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Let's Talk Tallinn: 'There is Nothing Here' in the KGB Museum

July 11, 2012 at 4:16 PM | by | Comments (0)

Who goes to Estonia?! Well, our roaming correspondent John Walton does and, all this week, he'll be filling us in on what's up way up there in this world capital on the Baltic Sea.

We love hotels, we love museums...but the KGB Museum inside Tallinn's landmark Hotel Viru takes the hideous Soviet-era cake, and it's the best €7 we spent in Tallinn. (The museum, not the cake.)

Back in the days of the USSR, the top floor of the hotel was used as a KGB listening post. While much of the equipment was spirited away when Estonia became an independent state, there's still a fascinating amount of stuff up there.

It seems odd to be talking about a smell being part of history, but wait until you sniff the "Soviet Smell" as you walk into the old "photocopying room," which now holds all kinds of fascinating memorabilia from the days of the USSR. Don't miss the Complaints Book and the identical death notices for Andropov and Brezhnev.

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Let's Talk Tallinn: Walking the UNESCO Hanseatic League City Centre

July 10, 2012 at 3:02 PM | by | Comments (0)

Who goes to Estonia?! Well, our roaming correspondent John Walton does and, all this week, he'll be filling us in on what's up way up there in this world capital on the Baltic Sea.

Okay, so we're totally obsessed with the Hanseatic League, the 13th-17th century set of merchant guilds spread across northern Europe from Britain to Finland. If you know what you're looking for, you'll spot the signature Hanseatic architecture everywhere from Hull in England to Helsinki in Finland.

Oh look, here's some now!

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Let's Talk Tallinn: Lauluvaljäk! The Estonian Song Festival Grounds

July 9, 2012 at 3:04 PM | by | Comments (0)

Who goes to Estonia?! Well, our roaming correspondent John Walton does and, all this week, he'll be filling us in on what's up way up there in this world capital on the Baltic Sea.

Welcome—or Tere tulemast!—to Tallinn's Lauluvaljäk, the Song Festival Grounds where every five years over 100,000 people gather for one of the world's largest choral music festivals.

Yes, a hundred thousand people. In a country of just 1.3 million. Imagine a tenth of your country turning up and singing. Not only is that just plain awesome, but this is the scene of a key part of Estonia breaking away from the USSR in the late 1980s. For all the history, watch the fantastic documentary film "The Singing Revolution" by filmmakers Maureen and James Tusty.

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Foreign Grocery Friday: The Sovietskoe Shampanskoe of the Former Soviet Union

June 29, 2012 at 5:17 PM | by | Comments (0)

When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!

This week we're in Tallinn, Estonia, and our selection comes from the liquor aisles in pretty much any supermarket east of Germany, west of Japan and north of China: советское шампанское.

That's "sovietskoe shampanskoe", or "Soviet Champagne," and dates back decades to (you'll be absolutely stunned to know) the Soviet era in Russia and northeastern Europe.

And yes, that's the price in Euros in Tallinn's Viru Keskus supermarket. Keeping it classy with our three-Euro sparkling wine.

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These Boots Are Made for Throwing, at Estonia's World Championship Competition

Where: Estonia
July 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM | by | Comments (0)

If you regularly take off your shoes after a long day at work and toss them somewhere in the house, have we got a sport for you. The annual Boot-Throwing World Championship will kick off July 8 in Viljandi, Estonia, for a fierce two-day competition.

The first world championship was held in Finland in 1992 and since then, boot-throwing has become a serious sport. In fact, boot-throwing athletes have been caught taking performance-enhancing drugs and now there are regulations against them.

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Beauty Contest With An Estonian Difference

Where: Estonia
January 16, 2008 at 9:00 AM | by | Comments (0)

Any language that gives cute names to national tourist attractions--like Kiek in de Kök--is a language we're prepared to love, and the language we're talking about is Estonian. Strictly speaking we have a feeling that Kiek in de Kök isn't a correct part of the modern language, but there are still oodles of cool-looking words in Estonian.

So we're more than happy that the Estonian government has launched a Beauty Contest for Languages. The whole contest idea apparently came about like this:

The idea for the contest arose out of an Estonian story that the country's language was once crowned the second most beautiful language in the world after Italian. The winning phrase then was "soida tasa ule silla" which means "go slowly over the bridge".

The contest will involve kids from around the world recording a phrase in their language of seven words or less, and judges will decide which language sounds the prettiest. It's all timed to coincide with Estonia's 90th birthday as an independent state, so we can presume that some cute Estonian phrase will rank highly in the winners' list.

Related Stories:
· Estonia Announces Language Beauty Contest [Vagabondish]
· Estonia Travel coverage [Jaunted]
· Tallinn: Let Me Kiek in Your Kök [Jaunted]

[Photo: Not A Ballerina]

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When In Estonia ... Eat African

March 12, 2007 at 10:30 AM | by | Comments (0)

While African cuisine doesn't rate quite as highly on the "know it and love it" scale as, say, Chinese or Indian, we do need to nourish our stomachs in a multicultural way. So next time you're traveling through the Baltics and pop by Estonia's gorgeous capital Tallinn, take the chance to check out the tasty African Kitchen.

Not only are the prices great, but there are also plenty of interesting dishes, and definitely things you'll never have heard of. What we love is the equality-based cocktail menu: 23 countries of Africa are represented, each getting a cocktail named after them. The Algeria, for example, is full of strawberries, strawberry liqueur, cherry brandy and vodka (yum!), while the Libya mix has Jack Daniels and cream sherry topped up with treacle and fruit juices.

None of them have much to do with their namesakes, but they'll put you on the tasty path to inebriation nonetheless. If you're not sure whether to choose between a Madagascar or a Mozambique, the African Kitchen are quick to point out that "traditional" cocktails are available too. Grab a Rwanda for us while you're there.

[Photo: Cremo]

Related Stories:
· Croatian Cocktails Take to the Skies [Jaunted]
· Tallinn: Let Me Kiek in Your Kök [Jaunted]

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Tallinn: Let Me Kiek in Your Kök

Where: Komandandi 2, Tallinn, Estonia
November 27, 2006 at 10:22 AM | by | Comments (0)

The 2007 Lonely Planet Bluelist is full of what these big travel guide publishing types think will be hot (and not) in the coming year has an interesting selection of cities in its Top Ten: all three capitals of Baltic countries Estonia, Lativa and Lithuania make the list, among others. One of our favorites is Estonian capital Tallinn, and according to Lonely Planet there's more than one good reason to head there:

The flair of the streets is decidedly fashion-forward, with boutiques bearing the imprint of rising Estonian designers, in contrast with centuries-old artisan traditions. The capital also boasts the largest wine cellars in the Baltics and plenty of medieval settings in which to imbibe.
Imbibing is well and good, but we can do that at home too--we recommend catching a distinctively Estonian sight, like the Kiek in de Kök, a 15th century cannon tower renowned as one of the most powerful towers on the Baltic coast. You'll find it on the Toompea Hill, still part of the medieval Old Town of Tallinn, and we love it especially for its name. Apart from the fact that Kiek in de Kök sounds damn cute, the meaning is also great: "peek in the kitchen", because that's what the guards could do into neighboring houses.

[Photo: dgaponeko]

Related Stories:
·   Cities on the Rise [The Australian]

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Putting Students in their Place: The Clink

Where: Tartu, Estonia
August 1, 2006 at 9:40 AM | by | Comments (0)

The southern Estonian town of Tartu is a good stopover if you're doing a Baltic city hop, lying as it does mid-way between Tallinn and Latvia's Riga. It's a university town with all the young people's trappings that go with it, but be on your guard at Tartu University. It's the home to a long-used Student Lock-Up--fortunately now only a tourist attraction.

In previous centuries misbehaving students got locked up here for hours, days or weeks at a time, depending on the seriousness of their crime. Turning up late for class too often gave them just a couple of hours of captive time--still enough though to contribute to the artwork and poetry inscribed in the ceiling and walls. But not returning your library books on time could score you two days lock-up just for a first offence. Talk about tough love.

[Image via jbelluch/Flickr]

Related stories:
Web Cams in Tartu [Tartu City Government]