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

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

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.

The radio room and its historically accurate door sign "Zdes' Nichevo Nyet" (There Is Nothing Here) are brilliant. With its Cyrillic typewriters, fascinatingly clunky security equipment, and official paper-embossing stamps, it's seriously awesome. Bring your postcards with you and emboss them before mailing them out.

Feel free to linger over the wall displays in the upstairs lobby, marvelling over the eminently regrettable food and the hilariously retro Soviet-era advertising. This used to be Intourist territory, and it shows.

And, since it's one of the tallest buildings in Tallinn, there's also a fantastic set of views over the Old Town and down to the harbor.

After the hour-long tour, you get to go down into the hotel's bar, which has all kinds of nifty mementos on sale. The sepia-tinted postcard set is a real keeper, and a "There Is Nothing Here" sticker (in Russian) is a cool yet lightweight souvenir. We will neither confirm nor deny whether one is currently adorning our hard-case luggage.

Make sure you book days in advance from the hotel's reception, though—the tour fills up quickly. If you're desperate, though, there may be some no-shows and you might get lucky.

[Photos: John Walton/Jaunted]

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