A quick ferry ride from Helsinki lies Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The city has two faces. Move away from the city center and you see neighborhoods of grey concrete buildings, old Soviet style; dull remnants from the communist era, and only a few stonethrows away for the tourist who takes a few steps outside of the beaten path. Remain in the old town, and you find yourself in a medieval city. A city of quaint cobblestoned streets along the old city wall. Although modern chains of fast-food and clothing do their best to penetrate the picturesque scene, the old town has managed to keep much of its original integrity.
On the top of a hill stands the Alexandr Nevsky cathedral. It’s magnificent, and the hike up is worth the effort. But, after all it’s just a building, and my time is limited, so after a quick glance I head back down to the bustling narrow streets and squares. The summery weather probably helps, but it’s difficult not to like the place.
On one of the small and crowded squares, two teenage girls dressed in medieval clothes are standing next to a medieval wagon, selling some sort of food products. It fits perfectly into the atmosphere. This is the way it could have looked like 500 or 1000 years ago. With the difference that these girls speak English and pose happily for tourists taking their picture. Admittedly, I’m one of those tourists.
So cute. So friendly. So innocent. So overpriced is probably the stuff that they sell. But their friendly faces do sell. Maybe not the food on their little wooden wagon, but definitely a few popularity votes for their city. A daytrip to Tallinn is surely not enough to give a fair judgment of the country, the Estonian people, or even the city. But definitely enough to make you want to come back for more.
Christian Celind in Tallinn, Estonia, August 2003