A few weeks ago I arrived in the Estonian capital Tallinn, a place fresh and brandnew to me. Tallinn is far-famed for its splendid medieval old town. Narrow alleys and little squares are nicely enclosed by widely intact city walls. The hilly setting allows for great views across the Baltic Sea. Here it is not hard to imagine Tallinn’s past as a busy merchant city once belonging to the Hanseatic League.
The city’s silhouette is still shaped by the medieval towers. From my window, the Oleviste Church is unmissable. As it promises a great overview across both sea and land, I soon find myself climbing up the steps of its spiral staircase. The stunning views allow me to look beyond the city. I’ve seen enough of the Old Town. It is about time to explore some less celebrated sides of this city.
Last year when I was in Moscow. I invented ‘Stichwalking’ as a method to determine trails that would allow me to discover more average parts of town. You can take a closer look here. For Tallinn however, I needed something new.
Standing on top of the tower of Oleviste church and wondering where to go next, I come up with a new idea. The pier that I see in the distance becomes my next target. Frome there I will chose the following target, head out for it and so on. And off I go: Heading from one spotted landmark to the next like in an English landscape garden. While the targets often bear some excitement, the wayside is no less entertaining.
>> Climbing the tower of ‘Oleviste Church’
Starting off with the obvious landmark of Tallinn, well visible from my window. Not much of an insiders’ tip here. After a 20-minute walk I find myself climbing up the tower’s narrow spiral stairs. Great views of course: The detailed medieval roofscape of the city to the South and the bays, the port and the wide Baltic Sea to the North. In the middle of this, a long pier with a tiny lighthouse stretches out into the bay. My target for tomorrow, I decide.
>> Dangling my legs over the edge of ‘Katariina Quay’
Located on the ‘Paljasaar’ peninsula, this place is quite far out. With the whole nice day ahead, I decide to walk. ‘Linnahall’, a gigantic and truly remarkable 1980s structure, and ‘Patarei’, a former sea fortress are on the way. The peninsula itself is the ports backland and a bird sanctuary. The lovely beaches are frequented by sunbathers and picnickers. From the pier, there is a nice view on the city. Where to go next? The TV-Tower across the bay comes into the picture.
>> On the panaorama platform: ‘Tallinna Teletorn’
A bus takes me out to the TV-tower. It is build on a hillside in the eastern neighborhood ‘Pirita’. On a clear day you can see as far as Finland from the tower’s viewing platform. On the fringe of the forest, I spot my next target: A mysterious ruin with a triangular gable sticking out of the trees. Straight from the tower, I figure out how to walk there. This small river at the bottom of the Teletorn suggests a good route.
>> In the mysterious monastery of the ‘Pirita Convent’
My walk through the rolling hills along the river ‘Pirita’ is sheer joy on this perfectly nice summer day. This is a truly beautiful stretch of land here in the east of the city. The targeted ruin however turns out to be the former church of a monastery, these days a visitable monument. But: No target in sight from here! I head on to nearby Pirita Beach et voilá: About a kilometer down the shore I spot an obelisk virtually screaming out: ‘Come here!’.
>> The Soviet reminder: ‘Maarjamäe War Memorial’
Following a short walk along the coast and through the ‘Maarjamäe’ neighborhood, I reach the Soviet War Memorial. Sitting prominently above the main coastal road, this huge structure is proof of the XXL-idea of remembrance, common in the Soviet Union. Once again, no exciting aim is visible from here. After walking up onto the plateau above the memorial I find one: A distant church towers the rather wild landscape. But for now I call it a day.
>> Out of the bush and into ‘Lasnamäe Orthodox Church’
I continue on this exciting plateau I found. Overgrown traces of infrastructure and piles of rubble: This ‘wasteland’ in between different neighborhoods comes close to an ‘urban wilderness’. The new and generous church structure at its edge marks the beginning of the ‘Lasnamäe’ neighborhood, a vast housing block area with a predominantly Russian-speaking population. Again a bit of walking until I spot my next target, but then: A lighthouse. Perfect.
>> Surprisingly located ‘Rear Lighthouse’
‘This is far away from the shore’, I am thinking during my evening stroll through this western part of ‘Lasnamäe’. Still there is this lighthouse right here in front of me. Since 1835, Tallinn has been using a ‘rear lighthouse’ up on these hills for greater long-distance recognizability. Today it is not accessible though, but just around the corner the sight of new target appears. Against the setting sun it looks like a factory of some kind.
>> The ‘Heat and Power Plant’ in Juhkentali is greeting the guests
A half-hour walk along the busy road ‘Peterburi Tee’ later, I recognise this cluster of industrial buildings and structures. They are one of the first sights of Tallinn when going into town from the airport. The red and white hooped tower I spotted against the sun belongs to the heat and power plant. Down the road leading into the centre, I can see the silhouette of ‘Oleviste Church’. Seing my starting point down there against the evening sky, I decide to finish this game that led me out to some fascinating places.
Berlin & Tallinn
Architect, Writer, Explorer, Metrokit Pioneer;
Has lived in: Braunschweig, Bremen, Liverpool, Vancouver, London, Moscow and now Tallinn.