Recalling the Soviet Past: Second Day in Tallinn

On my second day in Tallinn the plan was to go first to the northwestern parts of the city called Kadriorg and Pirita and then take a tram or a bus to the opposite side of the city –  to the quarters Kopli and Kalamaja on the east. Why I planned to go there? You can find out below 😉

My plan was kinda tight since I had bus ticket to leave Tallinn in the 6:30 p m., so the alarm clock at 8 a. m. was reasonable (actually it is not that early for me, but after last nights I needed some proper sleep). I got out of the flat slightly before 9 a. m. and started walking in direction of Kadriorg. Yes, walking again, because from Raua you can reach Kadriorg park in 15 minutes. I wanted to buy some breakfast on my way, but I haven’t found any shops, so I was happy that I had some sweet snack and apple with me (I wouldn’t leave the house without any food!).

Kadriorg is the big park where the Kadriorg palace, Presidential palace and several museums are located. It started to be built at the beggining of the 18th century by Russian Czar Peter the Great. The palace was built for his second wife Catherine I. of Russia – Kadriorg actually means „Catherine’s valley“. I am not that much interested in the park and the palace – or better to say, I don’t have enough time to see it more properly – so I am just passing by, but I must admit that it could be really pleasant to have a walk there in warmer season. But also in winter it has its charm, as you can see on few photos.

I arrived to the sea – finally I see the sea again! At the beggining of 3 kilometers long promenade along the sea shore you can find the impressive memorial Russalka that was erected in 1902 and that commemorates the loss of the Russian warship in 1893. In distance by the sea I can see anoher big memorial, but I am more interested in another place that is near there – The National Song Festival Grounds, where Singing revolution in 1987 started. I knew that I have to go to visit this huge stadium as soon as I found out that there was something in Estonian history that was called Singing revolution and that this stadium is its birthplace. (Well, my obsession with soviet times and music all in one :D) This revolution was called „Singing“ since it started as a series of mass demonstrations where huge crowds would congregate in public places to sing national songs and hymns that were strictly forbidden by the Soviet regime. These events led to the restoration of Estonian independence from soviet regime in 1991.

I decided to approach the stadium going back through the park, since it is located a bit further away from the sea coast. On my way there I was exploring some ruins that are marked on my map application, but most probably are completely meaningless. Anyway, it was fun to scratch up the steep hill and moreover, from the top I had the view on the stadium. There it is!

I am crossing over the big road and entering the Song Festival Grounds. I saw some pictures of the stadium when it was full of people. I’ve read the optimum for concerts is 75 000 people. In the days of Singing Revolution there were 300 000 people. Now it seemed I was the only person there. In the distance I could see a ferry gliding on the sea, leaving Tallinn’s port. After taking few pictures I was slowly descending down the hill and exploring the stadium. The rows were numbered, the same as the seats. Of course I had to go to the very top, even if it was a bit dangerous, since there was a thin layer of ice on the stairs. Who knows how it is during the summer, seeing some extraordinary concert there? For example Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Madonna or Michael Jackson had performed there. I think I would like to visit this place on some similar occasion one day again. Who else is in? 😉

After leaving the stadium I found myself at the seacoast again. I walked along the promenade, eating my apple, observing seagulls and slowly approaching the another mentionedmemorial. As I found out later, it was Maarjamäe Memorial erected to those who had fallen defending the Soviet Union. I must admit that at the end I regret I haven’t come closer to this memorial because it looked really impressing. Well, the time was running out, so at the bus stop Maarjamägi I decided to jump on the bus that took me to Pirita. You may wonder how could I know which bus to take and when it departs – fortunately there is this useful mobile application called Trafi that works probably in all baltic states since I have used it also in Vilnius and Kaunas and being in Tallin, it automatically switched to Tallin. And it works also offline! Getting on the bus, you have to buy a ticket from the bus driver and it costs 2 €/1 € for students.  It seems it is more cost effective if you purchase a special card, but it is bit more complicated and I found about this option just after. You can check the options here.

I was happy to arrive in Pirita already before 11 a. m., but then I found out that the Brigita’s convent ruins are open just from 12 a. m. I took a walk and some pictures at least from behind the fence, considering waiting till 12 a. m. to visit it later, but then my walk got prolonged because I got to the sea coast again and spent a lot of time there, wandering around the Pirita port (river Pirita flows into the sea there). Then I had to stop in the shop to buy some food (fortunately there were some shops finally) and slightly after 12 p. m. take the bus to go to Kopli to manage everything on time. Going to Kopli, you have to change the bus in the centre at the bus stop Hobujaama, but I‘ve read also about the tram nr. 1 that goes straight from Kadriorg to Kopli. Nevermind, getting off at the bus stop Angerja, as written in the guide, here I come, Kopli!

Kopli is the part of the city where cargo port is located and in the guide it was presented as the place of scum, alkoholics and addicts. Who wouldn’t like to visit it! 😉 You can find also the wooden houses of the port workers here and I am sure that it has its own specific charm. I saw just the edge of it, because I should have walked further away in direction from city centre from the bus stop I got off at to get there. Instead I walked in direction to the sea and back to the center where quarter Kalamaja is. Kalamaja is presented as a hipster neighbourghood in the guide and there is a couple of things to see and visit. First I came across the Arsenal Center that used to be the munitious factory and had been opened for public just recently. Now there is a big shopping mall. I was more impressed by Volta Factory furter away. It used to produce electric generators, but after Soviet Union collapsed it was abandoned. In guide it was written „Sneak into its yard and enjoy its 1899 glory!“ And that was exactly what I did!

Passing through small park I approached the sea again. I could see the big hangars of the Seaplane Harbour, maritime museum. I alked down the road and I left the Patarei Prison unnoticed even if I knew that it should be somewhere there, but the fence was probably too high and I was too distracted by the hypnotizing building next to the harbour museum. Anyway, I was told by my friend that this old soviet prison hed been closed for public recently and it is not possible to enter anymore. Maybe just for some urban explorers? 😉 If you are interested, you can see some amazing pictures from inside here.

The same friend had also told me there is some big old soviet building near there and I could already see it in the distance. First I thought this is the prison because it really looked like one, decorated with graffiti now, but in fact it was abandoned soviet concert hall as I could find out later. Its name is Linnahall,  built in 70’s and definitely closed from 2009.  I was really fascinated by this building. It was so monstuous, so imposing – without any windows, with many stairs and multi-level terraces, you could walk on the top and have a breathtaking view all around – to the sea from one side, to Tallinn’s Old City from the other. But there was something more in between Linnahall and the Old Town – abandoned power plant from 19th century that is turned into creative space now – Kultuurikatel or Tallinn Creative Hub. And you see the chimney on the photo? It is the famous chimney that appeared in the Tarkovskij’s Stalker!

My next plan was to move to the Museum of Occupation for the exhibition I discovered yesterday. I realized that I didn’t have to take any public transport since I found myself near Fat Margareta where one of the entrances to the Old City was and I had enough time to walk to the museum through the city centre. The end of my time in Tallinn was coming closer and I was really enjoying last moments, walking through the streets I already knew and admiring their medieval beauty. One last adventure was waiting for me in the Town Hall Square. I remembered that our guide told us that there is a good and cheap place to have a traditional soup in the Town Hall. This came really in handy after whole day outside and eating just sadwiches. I entered the dark hole in the Town Hall wall and I found myself in the Medieval Age. Small room was lightened just by candles, so it took some time to realize the space. I followed the example of people waiting in the row in front of me – I asked rough lady behind the counter for the soup, she scooped it from the big barrel and asked me for two and half money, showing me another big barrel which I could take the pickled cucumber from on my own – as many as I wanted. When I asked her for a spoon, she told me they don’t have any. Impressed and bit scared about drinking the soup from the bowl when I couldn’t really see anything in that darkness I moved to the other small room where I found the place to sit. At the end it was not that difficult, soup was very tasty (some kind of a meat soup I guess) and the pickle – I have never eaten such a good pickle!

Entrance to Museum of Occupation was 6 € and it was so much worth it! I was amazed by the displayed exhibits, the most by the old radios and all the objects of everyday consumption of soviet people. My excitement culminated when I entered the part of the exhibition called „Forbidden Tunes“ and found the 50 minutes long documentary that I decided to watch. Everything so much similar to what was going on in Czechoslovakia in those times! At the end I was bit falling asleep after the whole day, the only person sitting in the chair in front of the big screen. But anyway it was time to go back tothe flat, pack my stuff, say goodbye to my kind hostand catch the bus to Tartu where my host with her doggie were already awaiting me.

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