Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trip to Tallinn, Estonia (July 2015)

Russian Orthodox Church

It was a long drive day. We woke up early to load our luggage and depart by 6:00am. We were given a sacked breakfast. A green apple, a yogurt and a sandwich with cheese and a couple of salamis. Not very tasty.

We arrived at the Russian border by 9:30am but it took us more than one hour to clear the immigration to exit the country. Then, we arrived at the Estonia border and were able to clear the passport control area in 40 minutes or so.

On the way, we stopped by a buffet place in the rural setting, but it was one of the better lunches we had during our trip so far. Not only the food but also the clean building and surroundings were quite pleasing to us all.

Estonia is a small country in the Baltic Sea region with a geographic land of 45,000 sq. km and a population of 1.3 million of which 400,000 people live in the capital city of Tallinn. Its major industry is IT, alcoholic beverage sale and tourism. Estonia became the first Baltic state, which joined the EU. Despite its small size, Estonia is known to be progressive and innovative.

A wall clock that looked old and tired... of long suffereings

The oldest pharmacy, operating since 1422
Estonia became independent in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed. After the independence, Estonia has developed into the "Silicon Valley of Europe" after the political leaders invested limited resources in internet. Estonia is known to have the best internet and communication systems in Europe. For example, Estonia became the first and probably the only country to date, which has implemented the on-line voting system for the national elections. Also, Estonians developed the idea of Skype but launched it commercially with the Swedish capital. Estonia is known to be transforming and growing fast with strong business senses. It has well preserved the Medieval times construction, including buildings and the fortress walls, which are protected by UNESCO as one of the world heritages. Estonia provides free transportation services for all residents to minimize the adverse effect of carbon emission and traffic jams, and also to facilitate the movement of people within the city.

But, Estonia has come through many foreign occupations in the past, including Vikings invasion and settlement, Danish occupation, Swedish ruling when Gustav Vasa dominated the region, Russian occupation when Peter the Great defeated the Swedish Empire in the 18th century, German invasion, Russian occupation again by the so-called Red Army after World War II when Estonia struggled between the Nazis and the Russians. During this time of Russian Red Army's occupation, Estonia had to lose 20% of its population through execution and forced labor at Siberia Concentration Camp. Nonetheless, Estonia survived and is now thriving.
After rain...
Group photo at the highest point in Tallinn, a panoramic scenery
Group photo with Bob the seagull

At any rate, Estonia is proud that it achieved independence without severe fighting but with singing. That is right. Singing! The entire nation came to unity through the annual Singing Festival and patriotic spirit has developed from these festivals and united the people. Eventually, the Soviet Union released the nation for independence and freedom. They say that they have sung to free themselves.

After we arrived at the hotel around 3:30pm, we headed out for a city walking tour at 4pm. It was raining, but we all enjoyed the honest explanation by Yanika, an Estonian freelancer tour guide. She was good at explaining the country's complex history concisely and clearly. The views from the high points of Toobea Hills were spectacular and panoramic.
A view of medieval buildings

The times we had...

Tallinn has old town and new town. Its national flag has three colors stacked up from the bottom: white, black and blue. They signify white snow, black forest and blue sky, rendering an image of a clear day during the long winter time.

We came back and ate together at the hotel. As it turned out, the dinner was probably the best we have experienced during our trip so far. - Jeffrey

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