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November 3, 2013

Medieval towers stand beside modern touches in Estonia's capital

(Continued)

The tiny Estonia - about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined - has nearly 1.3 million inhabitants. Of those, about 430,000, or nearly 30 percent, live in Tallinn.

Estonia declared independence from the former Soviet Union on Aug. 20, 1991, two years after the "Singing Revolution" of 1987-88, in which traditional mass singing events turned into a protest against Soviet rule.

Twenty-two years later, the country surprised me with its sophistication and modernity, which exists beside the Medieval architecture and infrastructure of Old Town.

Free, wireless Internet is available almost everywhere. Car parking can be handled by mobile phone. A sign of its "with-it" pulse, Tallinn is listed as one of 10 digital cities in the world. It was named European Capital of Culture in 2011.

Tallinn is easily accessible to Helsinki, as I learned when crossing on the Tallink Silja Line. The line's massive ferries - with a cruise ship ambiance - cross the Gulf of Finland seven times a day. It’s even possible to complete a round-trip excursion between the two capitals with enough time left over to explore Tallinn.

The line also offers cruises, some overnight, to other Baltic ports including Stockholm and Riga.

Waiting in the Helsinki terminal for the ferry, I was lucky to have a great view of the tall ships embarking on their Baltic tours. Once on board, I enjoyed the spacious lounge in business class, along with a copious complimentary buffet that included wines, liquors, cocktails and beer.

On the trip over I discovered Vana Tallinn - a delicious, rum-based, Estonian-made liqueur flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, citrus oil and spices. I liked the liqueur so much I picked up a bottle in the ferry’s duty-free shop.

In no time at all it seemed, the ship had docked in Tallinn, and I was joining hordes of other passengers plodding through immigration and customs, before setting out on my three-day visit.

Dave Zuchowski is an independent travel columnist. Reach him at owlscribe@yahoo.com.



 

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