I mean – just look at this place.
Where have I seen this before…?
Even their souvenirs looks like they were taken straight from Elsa’s and Anna’s wardrobes (that’s a “Frozen” reference for you heathens).
I never thought any place in the world could have too much whimsy for my liking, but Tallinn came close to pushing even my whimsy-loving limits. Here is why I am torn up about it: on the one hand, Tallinn fits brilliantly into my magical land filled with unicorns and owls that deliver school letters. On the other hand, Tallinn is such a ridiculously storybook place that I cannot suspend my disbelief: it looks far too much like a Disney stage set than a REAL magical town. It’s like the entirety of the Old Town is “themed.” Even John Oliver joked on Last Week Tonight that “Estonia, [is] a country were from the look of it, they still worry about Shrek attacks.”
I have felt something similar when I visited Venice and Bruges. They too seemed consumed with trying to exist primarily as tourist backdrops, with souvenir peddlers on every corner, and more foreign speech than local.
While walking the streets of Tallinn, in my mind I kept comparing it to Riga. Many parts of Riga’s Old Town look like a medieval movie set too, though they felt less artificial, like if you were to shoot a realistic historical movie, you’d do it in Riga, but come to Tallinn for the “reimagining of a classic fairy tale”. I think the reason for this is because Riga’s historical center is, comparatively-speaking, rather sprawling, and its Renaissance-era old town is interspersed with Art Nouveau and entirely modern buildings – and modern businesses, and international shopping chains – whereas Tallinn’s old center is spatially concentrated and very homogenous.
By the way, I am aware that I sound like a culture-commodifying brat when harping on about wanting my travel destinations to be equal parts magical/whimsical and real/authentic at the same time. But hey, if Florence and Budapest can do it, why not….ok, I’ll stop now.
Anyhoo, despite whatever ideas the above musings might give you, I actually really liked Tallinn. The old town is absolutely gorgeous and charming. The restaurant and shopping scenes are very diverse, though I had quite a sticker shock – Tallinn, as least its touristy parts, is pretty expensive, especially compared to Riga.
Also, Tallinn was the place where I saw “stag parties” for the first time in my life. While walking around town in the evening I passed countless large groups of young, sometimes absurdly costumed, men in various stages of inebriation. Some of them were so drunk that they had to be supported or outright carried by their friends because they could not stand up on their own – and that was at 8 pm! As I was told, lots of Scandinavians come to Tallinn by ferry on weekends to enjoy cheap booze. I wont begrudge anyone that 🙂
Would you like to see more of whimsical Tallinn? I thought so.
46 thoughts on “TALLINN: TOO MUCH WHIMSY?”
That’s a really interesting thought actually – that Tallinn could become the next Venice or Bruges. I guess it doesn’t help that it’s so small and well-preserved – it’s unlikely to see many changes or modernisation.
P.s. I’ve been listening to the Frozen soundtrack in Russian (old University habit) and I just cannot understand how “Холод всегда мне был по душе” fits into the same time as “the cold never bothered me anyway”… Too many syllables!
Tallinn certainly has the qualifications for it – all the magic of an encapsulated space with the resources of the proper city. Its only disadvantage – comparatively to Bruges and Venice – is the distance to other in-demand destinations.
PS – phonetically that “Frozen” line has the same line of syllables in english and russian 😉
I do like the look of that. Reminds me of “home”.
because germany is beautiful and magical – and also real (hi there, #1 economy in europe!). and I have no problem saying this as a russian 😉
Magical… I’ll let you know about that in a week or so…
You can have the sausages, as long as nobody touches my beloved baked goods.
I cant even look at a cake or a cookie right now….
I think my fanciful American heart just skipped a beat!
It IS pretty magical and majestic. We should do it together next time.
Darling, there is so much we should do together. We would redefine “take over the world”
With an army of Hemsworths 😉
It does look beautiful. On my list to do soon. In fact I would have done it this year but the flight schedules didn’t fit with my free dates whereas Ljubljana’s did. I think with these places it just takes a lot longer to get under their skin because the magical bit is so captivating. I thought the same about Venice but this year I spent a week there, much of it alone, and after walking the place to death, and finding litter and even a bit of graffiti, I loved it!
Have you done Riga? As you seem to be a fan of the outdoors, I’d recommend taking a week to do Riga & Tallinn, and making a point to go to the countryside in Latvia and Estonia as well. I have a post on the gorgeous nature of that area coming later this week.
Красивые фото Таллина
Thank you 🙂
Красивые фото Таллина
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Haha, nice one! You made me laugh with the Belle cartoon. I thought it looked quite magical at the time, but I hadn’t made the Disney connection until you pointed it out. 😉
Disney usually prefers magical villages with timber cross-beams, but I didnt bother with googling other tales – this is still pretty close 🙂
Too much whimsy? I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.
Maybe I am just becoming a grouch in my old age.
No, this is like Disney, but on steroids. I half expected a singing clock or a cute cricket to jump out.
Did you see the dragon up top? That’s on the old townhall building. THEY HAVE DRAGONS!
Powerful and pleasurable ones?
Slightly rusty-looking ones 🙂
I loved Tallinn in the mid-90s. The Americans were moving in then to create restaurants then. I guess it’s more themed now…
Oh yeah… it kind of boggles the mind that the Disney Baltics are a creation of the last two decades!
Tallinn looks great. Very ye olde something!
You did the place justice! It is amazingly expensive though – nothing fairy-tale-esque about the prices!
Way more expensive than Prague even, and dare I say Brussels. That was a surprise.
Yeah, who do they think they are!
They all do think they’re better than Latvians and that Tallinn is better than Estonia. I heard that from every cab driver and tour guide and shopkeep…
Love thy neighbour 😉
Oh, I’m looking. I feel like I would enjoy Tallinn, for a couple of days, then it would be too much medieval stuff for me and I’d have to go home. With an empty wallet, probably. 🙂
That’s exactly it. BUT. Then you should stick around and go hiking/camping. The nature is breathtaking (and coming up in a post or two).
So that’s what it looks like in the summer! It has quite a different feel in the winter, much more convincingly medieval. Talking to the Doctor Wife apparently this is one of the spots that the Soviet era film companies used to come too to shoot their ‘european’ period locations. She was quite excited when they got a school excursion here. I spent the day counting watch towers, as you do, apparently a whole lot of watching was needed, back in the day.
I bet it looks magical.
Interestingly enough, during the Riga tour the guide pointed out many places where iconic Soviet films were shot (17 moments of spring, Sherlock series), but the Tallinn guide didnt point to any. **goes to Google…**
Ah the Sherlock series :))
Beautiful photos. I’ve always wanted to go to Tallinn but never made it. But your photos make me want to go so much!
I’m glad. Maybe all this PR is going to earn me some goodwill with the Balts!
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Wow, this looks so beautiful, Tallinn has moved up my list of travel priorities now!
It was a surprising discovery for myself too. Now I am glad to be converting people!
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