Soviet History & Cars, Tallinn
These days Estonians prefer BMWs and Mercedes, but it's still a good place to discover the unusual and hidden world of Soviet and East European cars. Some are so well loved that they are kept in pristine, almost new, condition, despite their age, like this shiny, waxed green Zaporozhets ZAZ-968 in the photo.
The Zaporozhets was the most popular car in the USSR, similar to the Mini or VW Beetle. It also endears similar feelings of nostalgia with Russians, which explains why Russian president Vladimir Putin keeps a white one, exactly like the one in the picture, even with the "ears" at the back.
Unlike the export cars like Lada, the "zapor" was unseen outside of the USSR, and so is an uncommon sight for visitors to these parts.
If you wander outside of the Old Town/downtown area, you will be transported to the days of the Soviet regime. During our trip, we learned that a third of Tallinn's residents still live in massive Soviet-era appartment buildings like our Mahtra Hostel.
On the one hand, for locals, these buildings must be a painful remainder of foreign rule. On the other, it was quite an experience for North Americans such as us to travel through what seemed like an endless, grim concrete jungle.
Although these neighbourhoods could easily be dismissed as grim and ugly, they are symbols of an important ideology gone wrong and of one of the greatest empires of the 20th century. I hope they stay around for future generations to see and learn.