Lower Town, Tallinn
Despite being the poorer cousin of Tallinn's Old Town, the Lower Town is rich in architecture and activity. This is the life and soul of the old town, the place where people shop, eat, drink and party. It's beautiful, busy and bustling at all times of day and night.
The lower town can be easily encompassed in a day, and it is very easy to navigate around. Thinking of the city as a north pointing triangle, the tall and slender spire of St. Olaf's is to the north, the walled echelons of the upper town are to the west, and the stark white walls of Hotel Viru tower over the east gate.
But there's no need to rush. Take a break in the many fantastic cafes, bars and restaurants that dot the lower town.
I have to start by saying that I cannot bear marzipan. My mother, on the other hand, loves the stuff, and would buy (and eat) several batches each year before marzipanning the Christmas cake - a somewhat futile exercise as the rest of us promptly removed it from our slices and discarded it before eating anyway!
Anyway, I might not like it as a foodstuff, but I have great respect for it as an artistic medium, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Marzipan Museum as not only do you get to appreciate finished masterpieces, but you get to see them being made as well!
This was apparently Leonid Brezhnev's favourite marzipan emporium, and production was kept at fever pitch in the runup to his 70th birthday celebrations. Having read quite a lot about medieval banquets and their elaborate 'marchpane' (marzipan) centrepieces, it struck me that over half a millenium later, some things hadn't really changed ...
The craftsmanship is great, and watching the artist hand expertly handpaint them is an absolute treat. And, though this may be a slightly twee artform, there was something poignant about seeing a small flock of naked-looking penguins waiting for their plumage to be painted on!
Entrance to this small shop is free. The enthusiastic and creative can apparently make their own marzipan figurine: at 9.60 Euros (December 2010), it seems like rather expensive playdough, but you do get a gift presentation box in which to package your work of art, and presumably the resident experts will be on hand to assist even the creatively challenged in turning out something half way presentable ...
Looking like a slice of Spain in the Baltics, the Gothic Dominican Monastery of St. Catherine is set back from Vene street and easily overlooked. It's worth seeking out, and taking a peek at what is the last reminder of a thriving community of Catholic monks, that lasted from the 13th century until 1524, when the monastery was burned down as the Reformation swept violently across northern Europe.
Sitting right next to the main town square, the 14th century Church of the Holy Ghost has a unique feature. On the outside wall, facing onto the street, is an intricately painted clock. It's the oldest timepiece in the whole of Tallinn, dating back to the 17th century.
Continuing the nautical theme of Tallinn's churches, St. Nicholas is named after the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. It's located at Harjumagi, at the foot of Toompea and the Upper Town, and can be seen from the overlook on Luhike Jalg.
It's a medieval church, built and fortified in the 13th century where it once sat outside the fortifications of the old town. There it served not only as a church, but a place of hiding and protection for refugees.
Today it has been renovated after war damage, and now serves as a museum and concert hall.
Tallinn's Old Town is roughly divided into two main areas, The Upper Town and the Lower Town. The compact Lower Town is centred around Raekoja Plats and from the square there is a twisting maze of narrow lanes and streets which are a joy to explore.
There are a number of interesting sights to see in the lower town such as the Square itself, The Old Town Hall, Oleviste Church, St. Catherine's Passage, Dominican Monastery, Sections of the Old Town Wall and Towers, Great Guild Hall, Holy Spirit Church, Sts Peter and Paul Church, Brotherhood of the Blackheads Building to name just a few.
The main streets around the Lower Old Town are Vene, Pikk, Puhavaimu and Viru as well as Raekoja Plats. Along these streets you will find a huge number of bars, restaurants, cafes and clubs as well as a number of interesting buildings and sights.
The Dominican Monastery the oldest cloister in downtown Tallinn. It was founded in 1246. If you're lucky you will have the unforgetable experience of a guided tour made buy a very old monk that does not speak any english apart from a couple of very simple words, such as "Tallinn Card?", but has such a passion for the old monastery! And better yet he almost wants to "force" you to have the same passion for it. The place is very gloomy and dark, but has some "treasures" such as the fools head.
the church in the middle,is olaviste church...
its original steeple was 140 meters high,which made the building one of the tallest in the world and it doubled as a lighthouse.
in 1820 the church was devasted by fire and a smaller 120 meters tower was added....