Later on, the weather heads south.
I visit St John’s church (well, I look at it from outside, I’ve been inside churches all over the world).
A typical street in the old town.
In old times, this was a meeting place for unmarried merchants called the brotherhood of the blackheads.
There are symbols on the outside, but I understand having a black head, was a reference to working hard, and any ethnic group (with money) was allowed to join.
Walking down another traditional street. It was like being back home in Chester.
This stone marks the independence of Estonia in 1991.
During the revolution that ended the cold war, this rock was one of many manoeuvred onto key roads to stop tanks and other vehicles from entering the city.
The parliament building.
One thing I found fascinating, was in the middle of the cold war, they had built a modern western style hotel called Viru.
The idea had been that foreign people doing business would stay in the hotel and bring badly needed currency into the country.
In reality the hotel had to be booked through Moscow, and the money went to Russia.
The hotel had a significant cold war history, so they had set up a section of it, as a living museum.
Our guide took us up in the lift and we were allowed to go on this special viewing platform. More a talk than a museum she pointed out that the KGB would have spotters here with binoculars to track people and see where they were going.
As we walked up the stairs, our guide showed us some pictures from the cold war era.
At the time, she said working at the hotel had been popular. The hotel had all the nicest cakes and after an event, staff could smuggle some out.
The black market was such that a mechanic’s daughter might be having a birthday party, and he might have held back some key parts that he was prepared to trade for the cake.
It was said that in those days, it was better to have 100 friends than 100 roubles.
People were so poor that many local woman would dress up and try to get into the bar to meet western women.
Some were prostitutes, others looking to meet a husband and travel abroad and many somewhere in between.
The hotel had a printed list of known “culprits” who were not allowed in the bar (they had removed the surnames, as many of the women still lived in Tallinn, and had married and moved on with their lives).
So strong was the fear and propaganda of the communist’s that putting a sign on a door that said “There is nothing here” was all that was needed to near guarantee compliance.
On one occasion a cleaner had accidentally wandered into the room and had a pistol pointed at him (at which point he left).
In 1991 a few days after the cold war ended, the staff wandered upstairs to see what was in the “special rooms” on the top floor.
The Russians had flown the coup, and the room was filled with listening equipment (the entire hotel was bugged).
There was a joke at the time, that an American had been in his room, and commented to his wife that the towels in the bathroom had not been changed.
Within 5 minutes there was a knock at the door with a staff member with towels. Pretty obviously they’d been listened in on.
On of the people on the tour had stayed there in the 1970’s. He said the staff had been friendly, but there had always been a bit of an atmosphere around the place.
Desk setup with memorabilia. Two newspaper front pages, with identical articles about someone, but the pictures were different (so a made up story).
The tour ends in the hotel bar, where I buy a souvenir, have a drink and then its off out exploring.
Back out in the open air, we wander through the main entrance into the old town.
We head to St Catherine’s passage, one of the oldest places in the Mediaeval old town.
There were lots of artisans and crafts for sale (basically a tourist trap).
Old shrines and tombstones are built into the wall.
Not something I wanted to be photographed next too.
The way out of the tunnel.
Considering it was built hundreds of years ago, I thought it was pretty impressive.
Our last evening.
We end our trip to a traditional Communist bar.
Low cost of travel and accommodation.
Loads of history both medieval and communist.
The chance to visit Helsinki, this really is a top destination.
Fantastic place, highly recommended, go there this weekend.