Tallinn Tales- Up the hill to Toompea

The summit of Toompea (Dome Hill) is 78 foot above sea level. Toompea’s steep sides and natural vantage point looking out across the harbour made it the obvious place to build Tallinn’s most important buildings. Legend has it that Toompea is so high because it is the final resting place of Tallinn’s founder, Kalev, whose distraught widow, Linda could not stop herself piling more and more rocks on his grave   Cheers Linda it was a pretty stiff climb in the sub-zero temperature,

We are on the way up to Toompea, puff

and it was easy to understand how carriage drivers had to ensure that their path was clear before setting out on the descent because there ain’t no stopping on the way back.

Once you get to the top the most impressive building is the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral

Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, a potent symbol of Russian domination in the 19th century

It was built at the tail end of the 19th century with the clear intention of showing the local people that the Russians were in charge. Even the name was chosen with that aim in mind, as Nevski was the Russian prince who defeated the Baltic based German crusaders at the Battle on the Ice on  Lake Peipsi in 1242. The interior of the cathedral is well worth a visit to see the icons and mosaics.

I photographed the cathedral from the car park of Toompea Castle

Toompea Castle

This sugar pink baroque confection was originally built for Tsarina Catherine the Great on the site of an older castle, in 1767. Today it’s the home of Estonia’s parliament, it’s not open to the public, but they didn’t seem to mind me standing in the car park as I captured the best aspect of the cathedral. I can’t imagine that happening here in the UK.

Right next to the parliament building is the Governor’s Garden.

Tall Herman

The tower on the side of the Baroque palace is called Pikk Hermann (Tall Herman) and was originally built in 1371. Tradition has it that the flag flown from Tall Hermann’s pole belongs to the ruler of Estonia. On 24 February 1989 the blue, black and white flag replaced the Soviet red one in an outrageous display of defiance. It’s flown there ever since.

This fat little tower is Kiek in de Kok. It’s the Baltic region’s most powerful cannon tower dating back to 1475.

Kiek in de Kok

The name in low German means ‘peek into the kitchen’.  The soldiers manning cannon stationed there used to joke that they could see right down the chimneys and into the kitchens of the houses below. Kiek in de Kok took some serious damage when it was shelled by Ivan the Terrible’s forces in the Livonian Wars of 1558-83. Six stone cannon balls were set into the walls as a memorial during reconstruction. Today it’s a museum about the history of Tallin’s defences.

Our final piece of sightseeing before seeking shelter from the cold was the Dome Church

The Dome Church

Officially the Church of St Mary the Virgin it was built in 1684 on the site of a previous church destroyed by fire. The Baroque tower was added in 1778. Now a bizarre thing about this church is that when it was rebuilt on top of the rubble of the burnt out building , the builders reused the original floor. This means you have to take a step down when you enter. Oddly enough a Scotsman is interred here, one Samuel Grieg of Fife. Grieg was the Admiral of Russia’s Baltic Fleet and probably spent a lot of time in the sugar pink castle as he was reputed to be the lover of Catherine the Great.

7 thoughts on “Tallinn Tales- Up the hill to Toompea

  1. Good blog. I liked Tallinn when we visited in December 2009 for the Christmas market. The market turned out to be a bit of a disappointment (despite being in the Sunday Times Top Ten) but the city was well worth the visit. I look forward to reading more.

  2. great post , thank you! I’m interested in this Christmas market – hope to some day. I have relatives in Tallinn that I visited a few summers ago.. I spent so many days just strolling down the cobble stone streets…my days consisted of finding the best little cafes that sold the best pancakes… making new friends on park benches… just taking it all in. siiigh 🙂

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