Saturday, 5 August 2017

Tallinn

Wednesday August 2 involved a short three-hour tour of highlights of the city of Tallinn, Estonia, particularly the upper and lower parts of the Old Town.


The guide gave us a quick overview of Estonian geography, demographics and history. He also told several self-deprecatory jokes about Estonians, who are apparently famous for not speaking much. He told us several tales about medieval history of the city and life under Soviet occupation. He pointed out one building from the Soviet era, said to be built of “micro-concrete:” 90% concrete, 10% microphones.
He also said that Estonia has realized its population is declining and in the long term its economy is in trouble, so they’ve made a big push to become the “Silicon Valley” of the Eurozone. They have digital signing of contracts, online voting, and originated some successful tech companies like Skype.
Estonians apparently don’t talk much but love to sing. The first stop was the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, an outdoor stage; it once once held a choir of 36,000 ordinary citizens attended by about 110,000 people total, around 8% of the country’s population. There is a major festival of Estonian singing every five years. One coincided with independence from the Soviet Union, so Estonians like to say they sang their way to freedom. The statue is of Gustav Ernesaks, an Estonian composer involved in the Singing Revolution, who saw independence from Russia after World War I, and from the Soviet Union decades later.

This statue commemorates the sinking of the Rusalka in a storm, with 200 lives lost.
 I took it through the tour bus window at an angle, so had to do a bit of incremental rotation in IrfanView to get it to look right.
The Estonian government building, and an image at the front of a Russian Orthodox church opposite it. We went inside, and I lit a candle for sick friends.


The city wall.

A street scene in the Old City.

The Married Merchants building. It was apparently mostly a gathering place. The guide told us that the various separate crafting guilds were so exclusive that there was a limit on the number of Masters; the best way to become one was to marry a widow, and when she died to marry a younger woman, who would in turn likely become a widow and marry a younger aspiring Master.

The oldest still-working apothecary in Europe, on the town square.

The town hall, and the windows of the main council chamber. The inscription speaks for itself. Apparently the councilmen were sworn to secrecy about private deliberations. One revealed to his wife that a particular prisoner was to be beheaded the next day; the time and method was supposed to be kept secret so it would be a surprise. When the whole town found out (including the prisoner) the councilman himself was hanged (after due process) for breaking the secrecy rule.



A coffee roastery where I took a break during the tour’s free time.

Returning to the MSC Fantasia.

At this point I was looking forward to this afternoon’s critique session, where six of us will comment on each other’s submissions. As with the previous blog, I had to wait to get back to the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel to have fast enough WiFi for uploading the photos.