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Home Page > Travelogues > Estonia > Tallinn > Toompea and Lower Old Town

Other Chapters in the Tallinn travelogue:  [ Toompea ] City Center ] Pirita ] Surroundings ]


Toompea and Lower Old Town


Some of the tourist sites I perused back in 2002 claimed that Tallinn was the best-preserved medieval city in all of Europe.  This claim was made based on the fact that so much of Tallinn's old city center had remained untouched and undamaged after so many centuries.  As I would discovered during my journey, Tallinn had not one, not two, but three walled districts in the same city, and each were in the same pristine condition.  I decided to divide the chapters covering this part of the city into two -- a photo gallery covering the districts of Toompea and the Lower Old Town with the majority of the unintruded walls and towers, and then a separate one on the City Center which modernized the most since the end of the Cold War.  The text on this page would be minimal as this was done as a brisk walking tour.  It was fantastic.

The Toompea was the highest hill on the old city grounds, and it was fortified separately from the rest of the city.  This first photograph shows two of its many towers -- called the Tilli and Virgin towers.  In modern days, Toompea hosts a number of Estonian government offices, so when I visited on the weekend, it was quiet. The Toompea Square was massive, containing the Castle (shown below), several colorful palaces, and this extraordinary structure -- the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  This Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in 1900 when Estonia was part of Tsarist Russia.  The interior had to be seen to be believed -- all gold.  The Orthodox faithful did not seem to mind visitors entering, but I respectfully kept my visit short and took no photographs.
The remainder of Toompea could be described as a work in progress.  Large parts of the district were in horrible condition, but a program to replace nearly every building with new (and probably expensive) dwellings were being put up in great numbers.  This house was larger than several of the nearby old huts combined.  The Toompea will never be the same. This shot was taken from the seaside wall of Toompea, looking down toward the Lower Old Town.  This was an inviting shot, with all of the surrounding wall and its many, many towers still standing.  After wandering around the square a little more, I began my descent.
There was a main road constructed down the inland side of Toompea.  Following it was a small park, inside which was this monument.  The date engraved on the monument, 20 August 1991, signified the date of Estonian independence from the Soviet Union.  There were several hasty monuments in the city commemorating this event.  (The specific meaning of the boulder was a bit of a mystery to me.) Following the steep road down and turning the corner to the right brought me to an athletic field directly below the Toompea and the above perfect shot of Toompea Castle -- the home of the Estonian Parliament.  While the inside of the building facing the square was elaborate and pretty, this side was clearly functional in nature, although I suspected that the windows were a recent enhancement.
A path ran from the edge of the field toward the Lower Old Town.  Along the way was the Shnelli Pond, shown in this shot.  It was part of the run off from one of Tallinn's southern lakes heading toward the Baltic Sea.  The park was bounded by lots of willow trees like the one shown at left decorated with wildflowers below. This shows just a small portion of the Lower Old Town's exterior wall.  It included the Nun (left) and Lowenschiede towers (yes, every tower in Tallinn had a name).  The tower in the distance was St. Olav's Church, originally one of the tallest churches in medieval Europe (note).
The interior of the Lower Old Town was in similar condition as Toompea, large parts rebuilt or restored while other parts were in serious neglect.  I got the impression that this district was reserved more for residential and business purposes.  I took particular note of the large number of German business conglomerates that set up offices there -- Estonia also had a Germanic history, and with the Soviets gone it seemed like the Germans were first back in. This final shot shows one of the best known of Tallinn's towers -- called Fat Margaret.  This tower was designed to provide the first line of defense against attack from the sea.  The nearby Coastal Gate was well fortified.  The city website (note) indicated that this tower housed the city's maritime museum.  It certainly was large enough to host something!

As this page shows, photo opportunities were everywhere in this part of Tallinn.  With several years having passed since the visit, I can only presume that the Toompea and Lower Old Town overhauls had continued apace.  If I should ever return, I would try to spend more time checking out museums or other attractions rather than just touring the wall.

Note:  Fact checking on this page performed via the Tallinn Tourism Bureau page.

Trip Taken 26 May 2002 -- Page Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin

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