TALLINN, THE CAPITAL OF ESTONIA
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is located in Northern Europe in the north-eastern part of the Baltic Sea region. Area of Tallinn - 159,2 km² (Estonia 45 227 km²).
The climate in Tallinn is characterized by a fairly cold winter, a cool spring with little precipitation, a moderately warm summer and a long and rainy autumn. However, some summers have weeks at a stretch of temperatures around +30°C, and a warm, sunny summer can keep autumn at bay until mid-October.
Average temperature in July +16,7°C
Average temperature in February -4°C
Weather forecast in the Internet: www.weather.ee/tallinn
Estonia is in the Eastern European Time Zone: GMT + 2 hours.
In summer: GMT + 3 hours.
The population of Tallinn is 410 050 (01.06.2010).
Nationalities: Estonian 52.3%, Russian 38.5%, Ukrainian 3.9%, other 5,3%.
Estonian's official language is Estonian. Russian, Finnish, English and German are also understood and widely spoken.
The largest denomination is Lutheran (30%) followed by Russian Orthodox (28%), and Catholic (3%). However, only about 20% of Estonians practice any religion.
As of 21 December 2007, Estonia is a part of the Schengen visa area.
Nationals of EU and EEA member states are free to enter Estonia. The required travel document for entry is a national ID card or passport.
Nationals of the following countries do not need visa to enter Estonia, and can stay for up to 90 days in any 6-month period: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, USA, Uruguay, Venezuela. The required travel document for entry is a valid passport.
Citizens of countries NOT mentioned above require a visa to enter Estonia. Visitors arriving in Estonia with visa must have national passports valid at least 3 months after their planned departure from Estonia.
Children aged 7 to 15 years must have their own passport when travelling to Estonia or, if they are registered in their parent's passport, must have their photo next to the name. Children under 7 years need not have a photo if they are registered in their parents' passports. Persons above 15 years must have a separate travel document with photo.For more specific information, please contact the nearest Estonian consulate or embassy, or check the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affair's website
National currency: 1 Euro = 100 cents
Most larger hotels, stores and restaurants accept Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Diner’s Club and American Express. However, it is advisable to carry some cash with you.
Traveller’s checks can be exchanged in most banks but are less likely to be accepted in shops. Eurocheque is the most widely accepted traveller’s check, but American Express and Thomas Cook are also accepted.
Banks are plentiful and easy to find in Tallinn. Most are open from 9:00 to 18:00 on weekdays, while some offices are also open on Saturday mornings. All banks offer currency exchange services. Exchange offices can also be found in larger hotels, the airport, harbour, railroad station and major shopping centres.
To call Tallinn from abroad, dial your international access code and 372 for Estonia and then the telephone number.
Calling abroad, dial 00 and the country code.
The GSM mobile phone system is available; please check compatibility with your operator.
Public Internet access points have been set up all over Estonia. They are located in local libraries and post offices. There are over 100 free wireless Internet zones around the country, many of them in rather unexpected places - beaches, Old Town squares, stadiums, and concert halls.
Tallinn Post Office is located in the centre, at Narva maantee 1, and is open Mon-Fri 08.00-20.00, Sat 9.00-17.00 Ph. +372 617 7033, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.post.ee.
Toompea Post Office is located in the Old Town, at Lossi plats 4, and is open Mon-Fri 9.00-17.00.
For entry into Estonia no vaccinations or health certificates are required. Health insurance policy is optional.
Pharmacies are usually open from 10:00-19:00, but two of them stays open all night (Tõnismäe Apteek, Tõnismägi 5, ph: +372 644 2282 and Euroapteek, Pae 76, ph: +372 603 1423).
Pharmacies in Shopping Centres are usually open from 9:00-21:00.
Ordinary medication is available in all pharmacies.
For travellers and visitors requiring dialysis treatment - read more about dialysis treatment centre.
In case of accident or illness, call for an ambulance free-of-charge from any phone: 112.
Free-of-charge call from any phone: 110.
The current is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz, European-style 2-pin plugs are in use.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is one of the most charming medieval capitals in Europe. When you arrive by the sea, the Old Town of Tallinn arises from the sea like a fairy tale town. The network of streets and boarders of building plots developed in the 13th-15th centuries as well as all the most important public and religious buildings erected during this period have preserved their medieval appearance and help you to travel back in time. Cobblestone streets, narrow passageways, imposing churches, old storehouse and the town wall radiate a special aura that you cannot experience anywhere else.
Spectacular Hanseatic merchants’ houses and former salt and flour stores from the golden age of the Hanseatic League have been preserved. Turn your eyes upwards because on almost every street you can find some Hanseatic merchants houses that have attic shutters with hoisting hooks used to haul flour bags.
The medieval Old Town of Tallinn is unique in the world because it is complete and it has belonged to the UNESCO world heritage list since 1997. In addition to the special atmosphere, there are many galleries, boutiques, museums, restaurants and cafes in the Old Town.
Close to the Old Town is the business heart of Tallinn with tall buildings and the attractively renovated Rotermanni Quarter. Nowhere else can you simultaneously take a view of architectural pieces that span eight centuries. The Rotermanni Quarter has gained attention in the world as a gem of unique modern architecture. Here you can see an interesting symbiosis of old factories and modern architecture. The renovated quarter contains shops and boutiques, restaurants and offices.
A big difference compared to other European capitals is the smallness of Tallinn, i.e. art centers, theatres, shops, restaurants and hotels are close to each other and usually you can get from one point to another simply by foot. Those who have a longer drive ahead can trust the public transportation or taxies.
History of Tallinn
Ancient Estonians called Tallinn Lindanise, which was derived from the name of Linda, the wife of the national epic hero Kalev. Russians called the place Kolyvan, the Germans Reval. Tallinn comes from the Estonian language name for the town, which was Taani linn (Danish town) because the Danes were the first to conquer the Estonian fort in the 13th century. Tallinn was first put on the world map in 1154 by Arab geographer al-Idrisi.
Tallinn under the rule of the King of Denmark and the German Order (1219-1561)
The first reliable written records about Tallinn come from the Livonian Chronicle of Henry. In June 1219, the Danish fleet led by King Valdemar II landed by the Estonians’ Lindanise fort. The Danes’campaign was part of the raid of the Teutonic knights and Scandinavian countries to Livonia and Estonia, during which the King of Denmark captured northern Estonia and the German Teutonic crusaders captured Saaremaa, southern Estonia and the areas of central Estonia.
The armies of the Danes and the Estonians fought a fierce battle on the location of the future Tallinn on June 1219, which the Danes won. According to legend, the luck in the battle changed in the favour of the Danes after the red flag with a white cross, Dannebrog, the current national flag of Denmark, fell from the sky.
In 1227 – 1238, Tallinn and northern Estonia was ruled by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword, who had temporarily pushed the Danes aside from power. In 1248, Erik IV Ploughpenny, King of Denmark, gave Tallinn a Lübeck law under which Tallinn was acceded to the common judicial space of medieval German trading towns. Due to domestic political difficulties and a shortage of money, the King of Denmark sold northern Estonia along with Tallinn to the Teutonic Order in 1346, which delegated its power over these lands to its Livonian branch Livonian Order in the following year.
In the 13th century, the town consisted of two parts: the fortress of the power of nobility (Toompea Hill) and the lower town of merchants and artisans at the foot of the fortress. Both parts of the town had their own interests and law. In the 14th century, the two parts were divided from each other by a limestone wall.
In 1284, Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League after which Tallinn played an important role in the trade route between Western Europe and Russia. The golden period of Tallinn as a medieval Hanseatic town was in the 15th century. Salt, fabrics, arms, wine and herring were transported from the West to Russia and fur, leather, honey, fish, linen, hemp and tar travelled in the other direction.
A significant turning point in the further cultural development of Estonia was the Reformation from 1524-1525, during which most of the population accepted the Evangeline Lutheran religion.
Tallinn as part of Sweden (1561-1710)
In 1558, Russia launched a war against Livonia (historic name for southern Estonia and northern Latvia). In the Livonian War, which lasted 25 years, Russia, Sweden, Poland and Denmark fought for control over the northern part of the Baltic Sea. The territory of Estonia had become one of the most important battlefields. Afraid of Russian troops, the town of Tallinn and Harju and Viru knighthood surrendered to Sweden in 1561, which was followed by Swedish rule for the next one and a half centuries. In 1570-1571, the troops of Ivan IV the Terrible, Russian Tsar, besieged Tallinn for 37 weeks but the town did not surrender. Under the peace treated made with Russia, Estonia was divided between Sweden, Denmark and Poland.
The Swedish crown accepted the former Tallinn privileges and the town retained its local administration an continued to apply the Lübeck statute. Compared to the medieval times, the importance of Tallinn declined. The general downfall in Hanseatic trading decreased the prosperity and independence of the town and the central power of Sweden attempted to restrict the independence of the town council.
Swedish rule is characterized by the promotion of education, which also influenced Tallinn. Gustav Adolf Gymnasium, which is still present today, was established in 1631 in the buildings of the convent of the Cistercians, who had been dismissed, and a print works was established in 1633. The Gymnasium’s print works played an important role in publishing the works of local intellectuals and Estonian language book.
In 1603, a plague broke out, in 1684 a fire destroyed all the buildings on Toompea Hill, and in 1695-1697 there was a widespread famine in Estonia. Nevertheless, people still called the time under the Swedish rule “the good old Swedish days”.
Tallinn as part of the Russian Empire (1710-1918)
In 1700-1721, the Northern War devastated the Baltic Sea region. Russia required access to the Baltic Sea, which was the motive for this war. On 29 September 1710, Tallinn yielded to the Russian troops without any fight. The town was destitute; most of the garrison and many habitants that had remained in the town had died of plague. While there were around 10000 habitants in Tallinn in 1708, after the events of 1710 only 2000 people were left. The power in the town remained in the hands of the Baltic German knighthood, which was loyal to the Tsar.
After Tallinn was united with the Russian Empire, Peter I ordered building of a war port. In 1714-1722, the first largest industry was the workshops of the Admiralty established in the Old Port.
The Baltic railway, which was opened in 1870, connected Tallinn with Petersburg and other parts of the Tsarist state, enlivening trade relations substantially. Engineering industry, cellulose and paper industry developed. The products of the Luther Plywood and Furniture Factory established in 1877 were highly regarded in Western Europe, especially in England. In 1888, a tram began operating in Tallinn.
Because of the development of industry in the second half of the 19th century, the number of town dwellers started to increase. In 1881, there were around 44000 habitants, but by 1917 this number had grown to almost 160000.
Serfdom was ended in Estonia in the 19th century, education improved and national consciousness increased. Estonian singing and theatre societies, schools and newspapers were established and the national epic “Kalevipoeg” was published. In 1886, 98% of the Estonians were able to read. The people started to define their own cultural and national identity and dream about the independence of Estonia. In 1906, first Estonian mayor was elected in Tallinn – Voldemar Lender.
Tallinn as the capital of the Republic of Estonia (1918-1940)
The independence of Estonia was declared on the 24 February 1918.
For Estonia and Estonians, one of the most important documents was the peace treaty between Estonia and Russia signed on 2 February 1920, which marked the end of the War of Independence.
Tallinn was the capital of independent Estonia for only 20 years. In the beginning, the people had to deal with the consequences of the war and build up the economy. Industry and the port developed and the image of the town significantly changed. Tallinn became a modern European capital. This was the new golden age of the town.
Soviet (1940-1941) and German (1941-1944) occupation
In 1939, a pact was made between Hitler and Stalin upon which power allocation in the Baltic countries was agreed. In 1939, the Baltic Germans began relocating to Germany. Russia occupied the Baltic States in June 1940. Following this, the brutal deportation of Estonians to Siberia began.
During the Second World War, in August 1941, German troops occupied Tallinn. On the night of 9 March 1944, Tallinn was bombed by the Soviet Army, taking the life of around 550 civilians, leaving more than 20000 people without shelter and damaging and destroying more than 5000 buildings. Luckily, a large part of Tallinn’s valuable Old Town was preserved, through Harju Street, the church of St Nicolas (Niguliste kirik) and the “Estonia” theatre were badly damaged.
Soviet occupation (1944-1991)
In September 1944, the Soviet troops captured Tallinn. The deportation of people to Russia occurred more frequently, culminating in 1949. In all, Estonia lost more than 20% of its population in the Second World War.
Although the most brutal Soviet repression ceased after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the society remained under continuous strong ideological pressure.
The sailing regatta of the Moscow Summer Olympics was held in Tallinn in 1980. Several new buildings were constructed and many Tallinn Old Town buildings were renovated.
During the period of the Soviet rule, the ethnic composition of the Estonian population changed. Especially due to the influx of foreign labour in 1960-1990, the proportion of Estonians in the population of Estonia dropped down to 61.5%.
Tallinn again as the capital of the Republic of Estonia (from 1993)
The independence of the Republic of Estonia was regained on 20 August 1991. This is known as the Singing Revolution. The Estonians were able to regain their independence without any bloodshed.
Today more than 400000 people live in Tallinn. Tallinn is the largest city in the Republic of Estonia, and is an important port and a traffic junction. Many theatres, museums and concert halls are located in Tallinn.
About the character of Estonians
There are many myths about Estonians as about any other nation. The best-known myth is that Estonian women are beautiful and slender long-legged blonds. In Estonia, we have saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and everyone is at liberty to decide whether this myth is true or not. Though, it is true that famous Estonian supermodels Carmen Kass, Karmen Pedaru and Tiiu Kuik have conquered the runway.
“Enjoy silence” is what characterizes Estonia and Estonians. In Estonia, you can find a lot of untouched nature, kilometers of forests and meadows and empty sandy beaches. There are 2 hectares of forest per every inhabitant in Estonia. Estonians are by character restrained and reserved as is common for Nordic people. They may sit silently in a company for hours and listen to others talking. It is considered impolite to interrupt others talk and speak at the same time as all others. Estonians are very straightforward. If you ask an Estonian: “How are you doing? It is common to get response: “Not that well.”
Common sayings in Estonia include: “Talking is silver, silence is gold”, “Think before saying anything”, “Measure nine times, and cut once”. Estonians love openness and much space around them. Pushing side-by-side and loudly hugging is not for them. In the country, people live at a distance from each other and it is good if you can see smoke coming from your neighbor’s chimney on the horizon.
Estonians greet by saying “Tere!” and shaking hands at more official meetings. It is common to use the formal you with strangers, but this will be replaced with informal you after you are more acquainted. Estonians are usually punctual. If an Estonian promises something then as a rule he or she will do as promised. Despite the fact that 1/3 of the habitants of Estonia live in Tallinn, Estonians have retained their close connection with the country. Many have summer cottages or country houses or their grandparents or relatives live in the country. In summer, many Estonians still “get their hands dirty” and do gardening in their small gardens. Many have saunas. Sauna culture is as common to Estonians as to Fins.
Estonians are very eager for knowledge. The literacy rate is 99.8% in Estonia. 29.4% of people have higher education. More women than men have obtained higher education. Estonian women are very independent: in the past 50 years, most women have been employed.
Today, Estonian families are small, usually with 1-3 children. If possible, different generations do not live together.
Tallinn – Estonia’s Capital
Text: Margit Mikk-Sokk, Ragnar Sokk