Thursday, 14 July 2016

Tallinn: a walk around the walls

Some of the defensive towers

Having explored the core of the Old Town earlier, we are now going to explore the extensive walls and defensive towers that surround it. We start at the Viru Gate, where twin towers built in the 14th century guard the entrance to the Old Town. Unfortunately, the road surface is being re-laid, hence the absence of a ground-level view in this picture taken a day later. (The original picture was too full of road works.) The towers of the Town Hall and the Niguliste church, highlights of our earlier walk, can be seen in the background.

We then turned right into Müürivare and were surprised to find - it's not mentioned in our guide book - that there is a short section of wall that you can walk along: there is a sort of covered wooden gallery.

At the end, there is a small slot in the wall from which there is a lovely view of the Tallinn skyline, including the Orthodox Cathedral on Toompea Hill in the centre and the Kiek in de Kök tower on the far left, which we will see later in this walk.

Returning to ground level, we head towards Pikk, on one of the main streets, and this brings us to the Great Coastal Gate.  It's not much from the inside ...

... but outside it is protected by the enormous 16th century bastion known as Fat Margaret's Tower, on account of its 4m thick walls. What Margaret had to do with it is never explained.

Heading now along Labatooriumi, along the inside of the line of walls, there comes a point when you can go outside into a park area, where a small garden competition is currently under way, to see the walls and their attendant towers from the outside (see the photo at the head of this post). This is one of the emblematic images of Tallinn.

Carrying on in the same direction we come to the Pikk Jaig gate to Toompea Hill and walk up the cobbled path. From one of the viewing platforms, there is a great view back over the lower part of the city, including the tower of St Olave's, on the right. The inevitable cruise ship can be seen in the background.

We pass Toompea Castle, now the Parliament building, and admire the slim tower on one corner of the rear of the building. It is know as Pikk Herman (Tall Herman - a friend of Fat Margaret perhaps.)

Carrying on in an anti-clockwise direction we come to the Maiden Tower, recently refurbished and now a cafe. It dates back to 1373.

Right next to it is a rival to Fat Margaret, also with 4m-thick walls - Kiek-in-de-Kök - another, earlier (1475) bastion. Apparently the name is low German for "to peak in the kitchen", which frankly doesn't get you much further in understanding why it is so called.

We walk downhill to rejoin Müürivare, having almost completed a full circuit. This street follows what was once the line of the walls to Viru gate.

Conditions: clear and sunny, for once.

Distance: a couple of miles.

Rating: five stars.

No comments: