Tallinn Tales – A Visit to Fat Margaret, a Walk Along the Walls and Beer

Right at the bottom of Pikk, the street that runs from the summit of Toompea to the Great Sea Gate is Fat Margaret.

Fat Margaret

Built in the early 1500s, this cannon tower was a formidable part of Tallinn’s old city walls. With walls four metres thick she also made a formidable prison up until the first Russian Revolution of March 1917 when mutineering soldiers and sailors set her alight. She is now the home of the Estonian Maritime Museum and there is a plaque on the wall commemorating the Royal Navy’s assistance in the War of Estonian Independence between 1918 and 1920.

In medieval times the area around Fat Margaret was the scene of parrot shooting competitions in the spring, such were the benefits of being a trading nation! It was a bit slippy around the tower where the compacted snow and grit closely resembled the surface of one of those distant ice moons of Jupiter or Saturn. If NASA ever send any astronauts there they better have reinforced trouser seats in their suits as they will be spending a lot of time flat on their behinds!

Fat Margaret and the Great Sea Gate

Heading back through the Great Sea Gate it’s a short distance to one of the best preserved stretches of Tallinn’s old city walls (€3) , with nine towers, three gates and some great views over the city,

The spires of St Nicholas, Aleksander Nevski and Tallinn Town Hall from the city Walls

and down into the streets below.

It's a long way down

Heading back up Pikk we found the infamous headquarters of the KGB (Pikk 59).

KGB HQ

the plaque on the wall reads ‘This building housed the headquarters of the organ of Soviet occupational power. Here began the road to suffering for thousands of Estonians’.  you can also see where the basement windows have been bricked up to conceal the nasty deeds that took place within.

Continuing up Pikk you eventually come to St Olaf’s Church, which on the face of it looks pretty similar to most of Tallinn’s churches,

The absurdly tall spire of St Olaf the pagan killer

well except for the 124 metre spire. It used to be even taller at 159 metres, making it the tallest building in Europe for a while, but it kept being struck by lightning and burning down. St Olaf was the Norwegian king Olaf II who was canonised for killing pagans, thankfully standards for achieving sainthood have somewhat improved since then.

A little further up Pikk is the House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads (Pikk 26),

House of the Blackheads

The curious name comes from St Mauritius the Moorish patron saint of the brotherhood, a guild of unmarried merchants who were responsible for Tallinn’s defences. The building dates to 1597, while the colorful carved door was installed in 1640.

It’s also more or less opposite Tallinn’s best pub The Hell Hunt,

Best pub in town, the Hell Hunt (Friendly Wolf)

where this story ends with a couple of pints of their own brew, spicy sausage and sauerkraut.

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