It’s with a great deal of anticipation that I will be visiting Estonia on an individual media trip over the period 18 – 22 September, 2014. The trip was organised by the Estonia Tourism Board, and was first discussed October, last year. Finally I’m going, and it’s very exciting visiting for the first time.
Tallinn, the capital city cannot be missed, but the wild side of the country has also been included, and hopefully there will be an opportunity to view some of the impressive wildlife. Hopefully, you will agree the itinerary looks very exciting, with some great photographic opportunities, if so you can follow the trip on Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #visitestonia.
Thursday 18th September
Late afternoon – Arrival in Tallinn, and Check in at the St.Petersbourg hotel. A unique gem among Tallinn hotels, the hotel building at Rataskaevu 7 dates back to the 14th century, first mentioned in 1373. In 1850 the hotel was redesigned by prestigious architect Christian August Gabler, making the St. Petersbourg the oldest operating hotel in Tallinn, Estonia. Renovated between 2013, and early 2014, when the hotel’s interior design was thoroughly renewed by renowned British interior design agency Andrew Martin.
The aim of the annual festival in Kadriorg Park is to celebrate the end of summer and beginning of autumn. More than 6000 candles and 1500 torches light up the tsarist Park and palace. This visually enchanting festival is especially popular among the locals, and photography enthusiasts. Traditionally, the festival goes hand in hand with a program of concerts by local artists, and a light show to end the evening.
Kadriorg Park is the most outstanding palatial and urban park in Estonia, covering around 70 hectares. Its construction began in 1718 on the orders of Russian tsar Peter I. There are a number of museums in the park, including KUMU (the Estonian Art Museum) and presidential palace.
Friday 19th September
Morning – After breakfast I’ll be visiting Tallinn Balloon providing a spectacular panoramic view over the city centre, park Kadriorg, and the sea. Located in the harbour, the gondola of the gigantic helium filled balloon is a great platform for taking photographs of Tallinn.
I’ll then enjoy a leisurely guided walking tour of Tallinn Old town.
Unlike other capital cities in Europe, Tallinn has managed to preserve the completeness, and structure of its medieval Hanseatic origin. Most of the cobblestone streets, and properties, important state and church buildings, citizens and merchant’s residences, barns and warehouses date back as far as the 11th century, preserved in their original form.
13.00-14.30 Lunch in restaurant Leib ja Aed
The rest of the day I will get to explore the city at leisure with a Tallinn card. Suggested sites to visit:
Seaplane harbour – is part of the Estonian Maritime Museum, in the historical residential district of Kalamja.
The museum operates in architecturally unique hangars built almost a century ago, in 1916 and 1917, as a part of Peter the Great sea fortress. These hangars are the World’s first reinforced concrete shell structures of a large size. In the museum’s outdoor area, visitors can tour a collection of historic ships, including the Suur Tõll, Europe’s largest steam-powered icebreaker.
Estonian History museum – Great Guild Hall – This extensive museum presents Estonia’s history from prehistoric times’ right up to the end of the 20th century. Films and interactive displays show how people here lived, fought and survived over the last 11 000 years.
Bastion Tunnels – Like any respectable medieval town, Tallinn has its share of underground passageways, particularly the defensive tunnel systems built in the 1600s during the time of Swedish rule.
On the tunnel tour, visitors can see some of the old equipment left over from that era, as well as parts of the tunnel that still retain their more medieval look. The tour includes a slow-moving train ride, where guests are shown the various stages of the tunnels’ past, and even a few decades into their possible future.
The Bastion Tunnels can be only visited by guided tours. Tours are held Tuesday to Sunday and are booked at the Kiek in de Kök Museum.
Kalamaja District – Often called the “hipsterville” of Tallinn, this once closed off Soviet border zone is conveniently located between the scenic Tallinn coast, and Old Town and hides some real architectural pearls.
This quiet neighbourhood has long been known for its colourful hodgepodge of old-fashioned, working class houses. Throughout most of Tallinn’s history Kalamaja served as the town’s main fishing harbour. In fact, “Kalamaja” literally means “fish house” in Estonian, and starting from the 14th century the area was traditionally dominated by fishermen, fishmongers and boat wrights. Everything changed in 1870, however, when Tallinn was connected to St. Petersburg by railroad. Suddenly enormous factories started to sprout up in this part of town, and with them thousands of new workers. The wooden houses built to accommodate these workers became Kalamaja’s architectural legacy and are now what gives neighbourhood its unforgettable charm.
Evening – I’ll be enjoying dinner at the opening of a new restaurant Foody Allen in Kalamaja, followed by an evening exploring Tallinn Music Week concerts.
Saturday 20th September
Morning – After breakfast, I’ll take the drive to Lahemaa National Park – founded in 1971 and created for preservation, research and introduction of Northern-Estonian nature and cultural heritage, biological diversity, landscapes, national culture and conservative usage of nature. Here the forest, swamp and coast ecological systems, historical and architectural memories are preserved.
I’ll also have the dubious pleasure of visiting Viru Bog, and taking a walk in bog shoes.
Viru Bog is one of the most accessible bogs in Estonia. Its trail passes through the forest and marsh landscapes typical of Lahemaa National Park and is 3.5 km long.
The study trail provides information about the the flora in the bog, the former sand dunes, the ridges and the heath woodland. A boardwalk winds its way through the bog, at the centre of which is a viewing tower.
After a drive along the Northern coast, which is renowned as a major European bird migration route, and lunch in Vihula Manor.
A full day of driving will finish with the trip to Alutaguse, 2 hours from Tallinn, to track down bear paw prints, do some bird watching, and spend a night in a hide.
I’ll spend a night in brown bear watching hide, with a very good possibility to see bears. Brown bear watching takes place every night in May-June and September-October in Alutaguse, N-E of Estonia, the core area of most of the Estonian 700 Brown Bear population. Apart from bears Racoons, a variety of birds, Fox, Wild Boar are common, while rare visitors such as Pine Marten, Wolf, Elk, Badger, Golden and White -tailed Eagle can be seen.
Sunday, 21st September
Morning – After an early breakfast I’ll be driving to Tartu, to explore on my own, with the following suggestions:
* Peipsi region of old believers
Tartu is Estonia’s second largest city, and also the oldest one in the Baltic States, first mentioned in 1030. It has always been the intellectual capital of Estonia, and is the cradle of the Estonian Song Festival, Estonian Theatre and the Estonian State.
Check in Hotel Antonius
Hotel Antonius is in the very centre of Tartu, opposite the main building of the University of Tartu. This elegant and luxurious hotel opened its doors in March 2009. The building is distinguished by architecture from the end of the 19th century and crisp romantic interiors.
Evening – Dinner in the Meat market
Monday, 22nd September
Morning – Early return drive to Tallinn, before flying home.