On a winter’s trip to Tallinn you are sure to encounter breath-taking views of a city covered with snow. But also, if you know where to look, you could discover off-beat cinemas, wholefood cafés which only serve/sell local produce (NOP Shop& Café) and edgy, graffiti-covered hostel bars named after fish (Red Emperor Hostel&Bar).
-Hell Hunt Pub-
There exists in Tallinn complicity between new, old and older. Glass trade centres, modern offices and flashy leisure arcades reflect the renowned Estonian technological prowess whilst the centuries old churches, preserved original pharmacies and medieval-themed restaurants along with the beautiful pastel buildings reminiscent of party rings in the old town are the zeitgeists of a time inhabited by opulent European royalty.
Two branches of the Art Museum of Estonia just fifteen minutes from the centre are perfect examples of this temporal duality. The first, KUMU, home to collections showcasing Estonian modern art, looms on one side of the road in all its innovative space-age architectural glory; the second branch sits opposite. Kadriorg Palace, originally built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great as a summer residence but now it’s an exhibition space for foreign works dating pre-18th century.
-KUMU, Kadriorg Palace and the surrounding area-
Back in town, the marks of the not so far removed soviet occupation can be seen in the simple grey block builds which line the streets leading to the bustling city centre. But rather than detract from the appeal of Tallinn, these political remains add to the interesting cultural dynamic at play. The Russian presence does not go amiss but there are also other nations bringing their cultures and food to Esto, Uzbekistan for example:
–Restoran Uzbekistan, Meistri 22, Tallinn, Estonia-
The food is as delightful as are the staff (very). Attentive but not smothering, the servers are more than happy to explain the menu (on which meat features heavily) and offer suggestions but they also give you the opportunity to enjoy your food and conversation in peace. French inspired restaurant and boutique Café Lyon is also on the same road as the “restoran” and there is a Chinese eatery close by.
Tallinn does not disappoint, just the characters stamped on native brand Kalev’s sweet treats sold in their unbearably cute airport shop are enough to make you consider conveniently losing your ticket to stay a little longer. The only thing left to say is go there. Even better, go there with a local who can show you all the haunts and all the fun- political, technological and artistic!
Whilst I had the good fortune to be graced by the fleeting presence of a popular Estonian star on the crazy long climb to a look-out point over the City, I still missed out on a number of culinary delights and other hidden gems. No problemo. It’s all good in this hood. Round two is booked for January 2015!