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Tallinn: Old Town in Depth - Part 15
After you have spent time just looking at the view you will want to identify what you can see. On the far left is the neoclassical facade of the executive branch of Estonia’s government enjoys. Below you, a bit of the old moat remains. The Group sign marks Tallinn’s tiny train station, and the clutter of stalls behind that is the rustic market. Out on the water, ferries shuttle to and from Helsinki, which is just 50 miles away. Beyond the lower town’s medieval wall and towers stands the green spire of St. Olav’s Church, once 98 feet taller and, locals claim, the world’s tallest tower in 1492. Far in the distance is the 1, 000-foot-tall TV tower, the site of a standoff between Soviet paratroopers and Estonian patriots in 1991.
During Soviet domination, Finnish TV was even more important, as it gave Estonians their only look at Western lifestyles. If you can imagine that in the 1980s, many locals had never seen a banana or a pineapple except on TV. People still talk of the day that Finland broadcast the soft porn movie Emmanuelle. A historic migration of Estonians purportedly flocked from the countryside to Tallinn to get within range of Helsinki and see the onscreen images. The TV tower was recently refurbished and has now been opened to visitors.
To continue the walk you will need to back through the arch and then turn immediately left down the narrow lane, turn right onto Toom-Rüütli, and then take the first left, and pass through the trees to the next viewpoint.
Scan the view from left to right. On the far left is St. Olav’s Church, then the busy cruise port and the skinny white spire of the Church of the Holy Ghost. The narrow grey spire farther to the right is the 16th-century Town Hall tower. On the far right is the tower of St. Nicholas Church. Below you can visually trace Pikk Street, Tallinn’s historic main street, which winds through the Old Town, leading from Toompea Castle down the hill from right to left. It then passes through the gate tower, past the Church of the Holy Ghost, behind St. Olav’s, and out to the harbour. Less picturesque is the clutter of Soviet-era apartment blocks on the distant horizon.
The nearest skyscraper which is white is the Hotel Viru. In Soviet times this was the biggest hotel in the Baltics. Locals use to joke that Hotel Viru was built from a new Soviet wonder material called “micro-concrete”, this was 60 per cent concrete and 40 per cent microphones. Underneath the hotel is the modern Viru Keskus, a huge shopping mall and local transit centre, where this walk will end. To the left of Hotel Viru, between it and the ferry terminals, is the Rotermann Quarter, where old industrial buildings are being revamped into a new commercial zone.
Continued in part 16
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