Sunday, September 18th, 2005
I remember reading an article in The Toronto Star some years ago that talked about how the Soviets ran a sort of eugenics program in Estonia during the Cold War wherein they encouraged the most attractive people they could find to breed in efforts to create a nation of super-hot people. Or at least that’s what my memory retained from the article – I’ve not been able to find any evidence to back this up, I may have just made it all up… but that was my favourite (and only) piece of Estonian trivia.
Sunday morning at 9AM isn’t really the best time of day to try and see if Tallinners are actually all that hot. It’s difficult to assemble a sample group when the streets are pretty much deserted except for tourists. Since we only had the morning in town, we declined to buy a tour and just headed into town independently, on foot. The old part of Estonia’s capital is a walled city dating back to the 14th and 15th century. Considering the amount of time Estonia spent being occupied by foreign powers, it’s remarkably well-preserved and suitably medieval-looking. The streets are narrow and roughly cobblestoned, the structures proudly simple in their gothic styling. Buildings seem to serve one of four purposes – church, embassy/government, resturant or souvenier shop.
Various noteworthy sights included St Olaf’s Church, which at one time was the tallest building in the world, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which stands out like a sore thumb with its ornate Russian orthodox minarets and decorations, the salmon-pink government buildings at Toompea Castle and Pikk Hermann, the adjoining watch tower. There were also a few lookouts on the upper city that allowed remarkable views over thet lower city. And it was neat to just wander up and down these old, old streets and imagine peasants and knights and wizards and witches and whatnot walking those same streets hundreds of years ago.
I found Tallinn a nice change of pace from the more modern cities that we had visited thus far. It looks as though Gdansk tomorrow will also offer a Middle Ages-ish experience, though likely more ostentatious than Tallinn’s modest charms. The seas are a bit rough right now, though I haven’t had any problem with transit over the past week, I think I might be a little queasy right now. Seasickness! Yeah, I’m getting the full at-sea experience.
Oh yeah, after a morning in Tallinn I can’t offer any evidence for or against the alleged supposed superior hotness of Estonians, but whoever assembled and deployed the army of perky teenage girls selling souvenier guide books everywhere we went in the city deserves some credit. Those girls had earpieces, walkie talkies– they were organized. And persistent.