Tallinn, Estonia

Museums and Festivals

If you have seen our almost daily updates on Facebook, you might want to skip to the next section, because many of the same photos were on Facebook.   With two weeks here in Tallinn, we had a chance to tour many museums and a couple of festivals.

TV Tower and Life in the Soviet Union:

Our last visit to a museums in Tallinn was to the famous TV Tower, which also houses an excellent museum of life in the Soviet Union.  It was billed as a “Time machine” to Soviet-controlled Estonia in the 70’s.  Clay and I agreed that it didn’t look that much different from our homes in the 50’s and 60’s.  I do remember my Mother having a hand cranked washing machine on our back porch in the 50’s, but it was much larger than the one below.

This was a more light-hearted look at their history, to a time when you had to be Party member to buy a car or eat in a restaurant. There were two kinds of bicycles to buy: men’s and women’s. The TV played commercials for products that didn’t exist. The top women’s fashion magazine sold 30,000 copies a month – they could have sold more, but they weren’t allowed to buy more paper than that. The examples went on and on. It was sad and funny at the same time.

Below are a couple of additional photos from the museum.  The first is a photo of “Uncle Uno’s” car. He couldn’t buy a car, but there were no restrictions on buying parts – so “Uncle Uno” made his own car. The body is fiberglass, made in a concrete mold in a big hole that Uncle Uno dug in his back yard.  The second photo is of a homemade motorcycle. Want a motorcycle? Make your own, out of a bicycle, a chain saw motor and some other spare parts.  By the way, the chain saw was invented by an Estonian man while in a prison in Russia as a political prisoner.

Uncle's car



Kadriorg Palace and Park

On a beautiful cool, sunny day in Tallinn, Estonia, and we thought it was a perfect day to visit Kadriorg Park (about 175 acres) and museums. We started first with the Kadriorg Palace, which was built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great. We had lunch at an outdoor café in the park, and then wondered through the grounds. Hope you enjoy a few photos from the day.

Walking back through the park to catch the tram back to Old Town, we heard beautiful music (opera) coming from our left. Investigating, we found it was the start of the annual Flower Festival. Pure luck to find it and enjoy the music, flowers, and people watching – one of my favorite activities.


Some additional photos as part of a slideshow:

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Estonia Maritime Museum (Seaplane)

I swear, we’ve been to so many maritime museums lately, you’d think we were blue water sailors. We’re definitely not, but we are learning a lot – mostly, no matter how big a ship seems in the museum, it’s tiny out on the water.  Below are some photos from our day at the Maritime Museum.

The photo on the left shows the inside of the museum. Looks as if Jules Verne had written Alice in Wonderland.  On the right is me making my way through the large submarine on display there. 

The museum building is a seaplane hanger; built by the Germans, used by the Russians, but now the only seaplane (photo on left) here was built by the British.  On the right is a ship that was built in 1943 in Duluth, MN for the U.S. Coast Guard and given to Estonia in 1997. She’s been a buoy tender, ice breaker (notice the dents), research vessel, training ship, patrol and rescue ship. The old girl’s really gotten around.

Kumu Art Museum:

Another day trip was to the Kumu Art Museum. We got a good feel for what art was like in the various stages of Estonian history. Artists were comparatively free to explore under the Czar; but art of the 20’s and 30’s was filled with foreboding; During WWII there was almost nothing but interior scenes, with a couple of landscapes of devastation. After that, it was all Soviet Realism all the time, except for work that was hidden away. There were a few lapses in surveillance under Breznev, and things loosened up under Gorbachev, but in general artists didn’t get to fully rejoin the world until Estonia regained its independence in 1991. Who knows what the future holds now? Nothing to do but play while you can.  Some of our favorites:

Kumu one

Johann Köler, Lorelei Cursed by the Monks – 1889. Lorelei was a nymph who sang by the Rhine River, luring sailors to their doom. The monks are trying to consecrate the rock to stop her singing, but Lorelei is rescued by other nymphs and the Rhine itself.

Left to right (click on photos for larger image).  1.  Lydia von Ruckteshell, Portrait of a Lady – 1886.   2.  Jaan Vahtra, Self Portrait – 1923.  3.  Elmar Kits and Evald Okas, Estonian Red Army Soldiers with Lenin and Stalin – 1952.   4. Leili Muuga, In a Cafe (The Doubters) – 1956.

Kalamaja Neighborhood:

A walk around the Kalamaja neighborhood – built in the 1920’s for fishermen and their families, it had fallen on hard times until it was discovered by artists after the Soviet Union collapsed. It’s in the process of gentrification now – most of it looks pretty nice, but Clay still likes the grungy parts.  Maggie likes the old wooden houses that have been renovated.



KGB Museum:

The former prison cells of the KGB interrogation center have been opened up as a museum. The actual interrogation rooms have been turned into apartments. The building is nice on the outside, but who would want to live there, knowing the history? So depressing to be inside the cells. Stepping inside I could not bear to shut the door in the closet or the isolation cell where they kept political prisoners. What must have it been like to be there? So sorry that the people of Tallinn and Estonia had to suffer through this period. Whenever I see older people on the street here, I feel such compassion for them, but also respect to see that they survived.

On the left is a closet that they put you in when you first arrive for a couple of days.  There is no room to sit down – you just stand there.  The one on the right you could possibly sit down, but it was the isolation chamber which was used for punishing the political prisoners.

Tall Ships Festival

How lucky can you get.  We arrived in Tallinn just in time! There were sailing ships of various kinds, music, acrobats, and of course food. Fun for the whole family.  Summer fun for the family in July!  Below is a slide show of the activities we saw!

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One of my personal favorites is the concert we attended at the festival.  It was a Polish sea shanty group that sings in Polish, English, Ukrainian, and one language that I (we) didn’t understand. Sitting in the audience in Tallinn, Estonia I couldn’t help but feel part of an world with no boundaries.




Tallinn, Estonia

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