Erika portable typewriter


Erika portable typewriter

I had one of these as a teenager and I used it all the way through College to bash out my assignments. As I remember it came in a dark blue carry case. You had to adjust the slider on the left hand side to the colour of ribbon you were using. Seeing this in the Museum of Occupation brought back happy memories.

WHERE DID ALL THE STATUES GO?


One of the great mysteries, for me anyway, is where all the statues of the Communist Party greats went when the Soviets were chucked out of Eastern Europe. In Budapest you can go the Statue Park and marvel at the size of the statues. In the former Czechoslovakia I came across a Lenin festering in the garden at Decin Museum. But what of the others?

In Tallinn them mystery was solved when I went into the bowels of the Museum of Occupation. No, it is not a museum dedicated to work, but a privately funded museum dedicated to the Germans, Nazi’s and Soviets who occupied Estonia.

Down below ground, in a concrete bunker, lie the heads (and a couple of bodies) of the Communist Party good. There’s a nice poster of Brezhnev giving a speech. It is very impressive. Below the posters are some dead heads of dead Communists. Some of them are peculiar to Estonia but there was a Lenin and a couple of the usual suspects.

They are not as big as the ones in Budapest so maybe they recycled the really big ones.

Down by Pirita harbour there is a huge, and I mean huge, couple of slabs of concrete which once housed a Soviet era monument. A bit of the monument is still there, to commemorate sailors lost at sea but the rest has been recycled. If you hope on a bus or tram going in that direction you can get some idea of the enormity of these monuments.

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The heads of some of the great and good of the Communist era.

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Lenin looking over his shoulder at the other statues.

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Brezhnev himself addressing the faithful.

 

 

Great beer


4% has been enjoying the extremely good food and beer at the tavern / brewery at the Kochi Aidad at the main port in Tallinn. The brewery produces several different beers using equipment from the Czech Republic and Germany. The result  is that they are able to produce both lagers and stouts. 

The tavern is actually a replica barn built on the site of the original Koch barn. The brewing itself is done both behind the bar and in a brewing room, which is visible behind a glass wall.

The food is a mixture of traditional and Manor house food. I have sampled dumplings with sour cream, cheese balls with  types of dip, rolled cabbage leaves filled with vegetables and a loganberry (?) sauce, roast chicken in orange sauce. All were excellent though I would recommend having the dumplings boiled rather Than fried.

Estonian Independence


The Republic of Estonia declared independence on 24th February 1918 at 12.00 in Tallinn, and at  20.00 the evening before in Parnu.  The declaration was read by Konstantin Plats, who was prime minister of the provisional government. This day has been celebrated for 75 years and is a day for bringing Estonians together and reminding them of what they have fought and won. 

There is a monument near to Vabaduse Valjak, Victory Square (or Freedom Square in Soviet Estonia). One tower has a clock and the time Independence was declared. The other has an eternal flame and the date. It also shows that Estonia is now into its 95th year of independence  from the Germans (and everyone else who invaded and then took over).

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Unfortunately, two years after the Declaration of Independence the Estonians were beating back the Soviets.

Take trolleybus number 1 from Kaubamaja.

Soviet Nostalgia


The Soviets may have moved out but there are still some traces of them left in Tallinn for those who would like to experience a little of what life was like before 1991.

Located on Narva mantee is the Narva Kohvik, which was established in 1947 and has continued serving up bread and pastries. The decor is still very Soviet – dark wood, basic decoration, functional design, bad photos on the walls and so on. It is still very popular with the locals. For those who did not experience the Soviet cafe experience at the time this cafe is a nice little throw back.

Narva Kohvik

Narva Kohvik from the outside

There were similar style coffee shops and eateries across the Soviet Bloc.

Behind the Hotell Viru and the shopping centre lies another gem from the Soviet era, the Energia Kohvik. It has the same style wide windows as the Narva, so that nothing could be hidden from view and everyone could watch everyone else. Inside it is like a blast from the past with small open face sandwiches on display, calorie-laden cakes and hot drinks. It is a very basic place with cloth covered dark wood tables topped with a glass protector. Standard issue seating and coat stands complete the look. There are lots of mirrors which I suspect were so everything could be seen from around the room and from outside. The staff, like in the old days, gather behind the counter.

A truly unique Soviet-style cafe on Kaubamaja 4.

A truly unique Soviet-style cafe on Kaubamaja 4.

Going into these two cafes reminded me of my experiences living and working in the former Czechoslovakia back in 1992. I used to eat and drink in places like this and thoroughly enjoyed the trip back in time.

THE KGB MUSEUM AT THE HOTELL VIRU

The Hotel Viru was the first modern hotel built in Tallinn and, at the time of construction in the late 1960s, the tallest building in Tallinn. Even today it stands out and can be seen from across the city. When it was built it was a lonesome building but today has a shopping centre bolted onto it, which rather reduces its majestic appearance.

For anyone who would like an insight into the strangeness that was the Soviet rule over Eastern Europe this is the place to visit. Constructed by Finnish builders and adapted by the KGB, the Hotell Viru was where foreign visitors were allowed to stay.

Why were they allowed to stay there? The answer lies in the 2nd floor currency bar and the mysterious 23rd floor. The KGB bugged the bedrooms, the 2nd floor cafe and the 22nd floor restaurant. The lift shows 22 floor because the last one was a secret floor where the KGB had their listening equipment.

For 8 Euros you can join a jolly and fact-laden guided tour of the KGB rooms. The guides tell you all about the need to keep the foreigners inside the hotel so that they would not go speaking to the locals and find out what life was really like. There are two telephones in the office: a cream one which is filled with metal so that no-one could bug it and a red one which was a hotline to the KGB headquarters in the town.

From their eyrie the KGB had an excellent view of the port, the coast and the old city. Inside the hotel they had the rooms bugged and spies everywhere keeping an eye out for anyone dissing the Soviet Union or giving away secrets.

In the second floor bar you can see a nice film about the first foreign visitors to Tallinn since the occupation and the gradual opening up of Estonia to foreign visitors and influence.

Left behind when the KGB ran back to Moscow are these two KGB telephones.

Left behind when the KGB ran back to Moscow are these two KGB telephones.

RUSSIAN WAR MEMORIAL AND CEMETERY AT PIRITA

If you take bus 34A from below the Viru shopping centre you get a nice tour of the outskirts of Tallinn. The bus goes along past the Song Festival site, along the coast on Pirita Tee, passed the Russian war memorial, passed the Convent of St Birgitta, along country roads, passing the TV tower and then you come to several cemeteries in the woods. Some of these are for Russians killed during the war. The graves are very different to those we have in the UK and providing an interesting insight into another way of life.

Taken from bus 34A, a cemetery in the woods

Taken from bus 34A, a cemetery in the woods

 

The Soviets may have gone and the monuments removed or, in the case of the Bronze Soldier, resited but the Soviet can still be experienced for the time being.

 

 

 

Tallinn Port


Tallinn

When I arrived in Tallinn it was drizzling and a little misty. It being a Sunday it was rather quiet around the port though I did see a few souls wheeling crates of beer from the many alcohol sales outlets.

The port area is well supplied with sales outlets for all kinds of alcohol and cigarettes. The area has been cleaned up and the old stone buildings are now home to taverns, restaurants and shops.  The ferry lines were quite busy with people doing the trip to and from Helsinki.  There are some massive ferries doing the Tallinn-Helsinki and Tallinn-Stockholm route.

The City Hotel Portus, which is right next to the Tallink ferry  terminal, is a modern hotel with rather stylish furniture reminiscent of Habitat back in the 1970s. The lighting in the Retro Cafe is truly 1970s. The prices, though, are definitely from 2013.

There are excellent views of the Old Town and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Just outside the port is a wooden evangelical church and opposite is the Rotermann district. Just a little down the street is the architectural museum.

The photograph above shows the old town from the harbour.