We woke to sunshine and despite a howling wind, we had a lovely day wandering the streets of the Old Town.
We went to the Upper Town, or as The Navigator called it the "even older town". The official name is Toompea (Dome Hill) and this is where the original town was built in the 13th century. It is now the centre of government and includes the Parliament, President's offices and many consulates.
We took refuge from the wind in the Aleksander Nevski Catherdal, a Russian Orthodox church with its onion dome towers. The Eastern Orthodox churches are spectacularly decorated, with bright and vivid paintings across the templon (a wall which separates the nave from the sanctuary) and silver icons on the walls. A service was in progress, spoken in (we assume) Russian and we watched as mostly older ladies lined up with shawls covering their heads to kiss a flower adorned icon. Some worshippers also kissed the floor.
The Lower Town has the businesses, restaurants, the more touristic shops and homes. We overheard one tour guide say: "It is like a house. The apartments are upstairs and the businesses are downstairs." The guide also said that nearly 5,000 people inhabit the Lower Town.
Just by the grand President's Office is a viewpoint with a spectacular panorama of the Old Town. We bumped into Australians who were on the NCL cruise boat still docked in town. They were diverted from Berlin due to yesterday's bad weather and had their St Petersburg stopover rescheduled. "At least we're still going," they said.
We stopped at Reval Cafe for lunch and sat in our window seat eating pancakes. Oh my goodness - so delicious. This café was a highlight unto itself. We were able to have three courses of food for the same price as single course in other restaurants. The atmosphere up in our bay window was delightful. "Come back at Christmas time," said our waitress. "We have lights up over the street and markets." That sounds like a fantastic idea.
After lunch we went to look for the walk along the city walls but could not find the entrance. Instead we ended up in a ceramic workshop housed in one of the towers, complete with wheels and tables for students. We are coming home with work by Tiziana from Malta. The working potter encouraged us to go up the five levels through the conical medevial tower and we spent ages exploring the workshop which was wonderful. The Navigator dropped his wallet. Thank goodness we saw it before we left.
The Hotel Telegraaf very kindly gave us a late check out at 3:00pm. It helps we have Marriott gold status (thanks to our American Express Platinum Card). This allowed us to come back to the hotel and refresh before we boarded the ferry. The Navigatrix rates Hotel Telegraaf as one of the best hotels ever. It is perfectly located and the rooms are spacious, comfortably and beautifully decorated in a Baroque style. The staff are wonderful - even down to the "welcome back" greeting we received every time we walked in.
There were significantly more people on the ferry compared to when we came across from Helsinki. Today's tip is to turn right as soon as you board and go past the duty free store to the forward lift, which not many people know about. Then go up to the ninth floor and the Sunset Bar, which has comfortable lounges.
The strong winds meant the first hour of sailing was a bit rough but things settled down as we got closer to Finland.
We had a lovely time in Tallinn. The Old Town is beautiful and can be easily explored on foot and without a guide over a couple of days. The view from the taxi suggests there is lots to see in the newer part of town as well. When we spoke to the hotel Concierge about the German lady who went bird and bear watching, he got very excited and wrote some suggestions for us. He also highly recommended Lithuania and Latvia. Next time then.
Apart from the occasional Soviet style experience of customer service (i.e. none... without a smile, either) the Estonians are very friendly. Our taxi driver is Helsinki had told us to watch out for pickpockets but we did not feel unsafe for one moment even on darkened streets.
Tallinn and Estonia should be high on your list as a place to visit.