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October, 2007

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Magical, folksy, charming Tallinn
Times and Places
Barbara Moser
If ever pictures were worth a thousand words, they’re worth at least 2,000 when it comes to Tallinn.
I introduced this magical place in my last article by telling you where we stayed. The Villa Hortensia is in the Old Town, at one corner of a courtyard of artists, artisans and a Chocolaterie that serves up sumptuous tiny chocolate pastries, pots of tea, café au lait, soups, and sandwiches. The skylight on our “lofty” bedroom ceiling brought us all manner of music from the Chocolaterie, but mainly Jacques Brel. Still, how romantic to wake up and go to sleep to the sounds and smells of the caf é below.
It rained for most of our four days in Tallinn but this did nothing to dampen our pleasures, which included hours spent reading in the caf és (we found another lovely one across the street from our courtyard), and daily trips to the indoor market near the train station to purchase our lunch. Our tiny loft had a kitchenette, where we ate the local delicacies, the same lunch every day — huge slabs of lox shoved between fresh rolls that we tore open, tomatoes, and sometimes marvellous cottage cheese along with the lox. The entire meal for two came to $6.
Each night we sat in our courtyard before going to sleep and marvelled at the famous White Nights. Here we were at 11 pm and the sky was a deep blue. It was hardly dark enough to light the candles on the table.
We stayed within the walls of the Old Town for the greater part of our stay, only venturing out to see the garish shopping centre just outside and the Museum of the Occupations, where everything was translated into English. Housed on two levels, this moving testimony to both the Soviet occupation and Nazi terror was the first of three such museums we visited on this trip. In fact, there was almost too much to take in. It was raining that day too, which matched our spirits after leaving this museum.

As we were sipping coffee outside our courtyard on the second morning, we began to notice small troupes of children, seniors and couples, dressed in festive costumes, walking toward the main square. We followed them and, to our amazement, the entire square was filled with multi-coloured booths selling Estonian crafts. A stage was set up and the first performers of this “World Folkloric Festival” were getting ready to perform. Most of the groups were from the Baltic region. It was especially beautiful to see the variety of people, on both ends of the age spectrum, come together to perform and enjoy the sights of Tallinn — but I’ll let these photos tell the story.

From Tallinn we took a train ride, the first of several, to St. Petersburg, clutching our lunch bag of (you guessed it) our favourite sandwiches from the market.
We arrived in St. Petersburg at night for four days of adventure that included the Hermitage, two ballets, and meeting a history professor turned tour guide, who showed us her St. Petersburg.
All this and more next month!

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