We have arrived in Tallinn, Estonia! What will we find here?
Let’s check out the map to see where we are!
Oh yes, this is Fat Margaret’s Tower……one of six gates and towers built as part of the Great Coastal Gates, that controlled access to the town in medieval times. The gate system was built in the 1300’s, but Fat Margaret’s Cannon Tower was added from 1511 until 1530. It has a diameter of 82 feet, and is 63 feet high and 17 feet thick! History reveals it was named after the big cannons placed in the tower or was the name of a cook that labored for the soldiers there. I’m going with the fat cook theory. Fat Margaret’s is going through a makeover that started in 2018 and continues today, as you can see, when we walk through the gate in our first Baltic drizzle! Used over the years as a cannon tower, storerooms and a prison, today, when it is not under construction, it is a Maritime Museum……………
and Fat Margaret from the inside………..with an itsy-bitsy door!
A little interesting background here………. Estonia is located 50 miles south of Helsinki, Finland, 200 miles west of St Petersburg, Russia, and 240 miles east of Stockholm, Sweden. So, it became a strategic port on the Baltic Sea. In 1219, the first recorded records show that Denmark ruled here and by 1248 they sold their holdings to the Teutonic crusaders, who had been sent by Denmark to enforce Christianity in their growing trade port. Denmark thought the port was too far away and a nuisance to fiddle with. With all the sea-faring men coming by sea and on land, a group of mostly German, unmarried, religious, merchant men participated in a group to keep peace and defend the trade cites along the Baltic Sea. These groups of men became the Hanseatic League. They kept order in the towns, met daily for religious services and kept up with all the trading needs and news. In Tallinn, this group was called the Brotherhood of Blackheads. These men were not from high born families, therefore they would not have been recognized in the prestigious trade guilds and could also have been dark skinned, hence their name in Tallinn. (Well darker than most Scandinavians at the time) At this time there were 8,000 people in Tallinn, a city fortified with 66 towers. They did keep order, guard Tallinn’s watchtowers and became prosperous, skilled tradesmen, who built up their section of town with fine merchant housing and shops, dividing the town into the Toompea, or Cathedral Hill, where the surviving ruling class, and high ranking men from the Teutonic orders lived, and the “Old Town” or “city of the citizens,” which was the center of medieval trade and The Brotherhood of Blackheads. More about them in another post! Our first door is at St Olaf’s Church…….where there is another traditional story…………
St Olafs, built in 1219, was the center of an old Scandinavian community, built before Denmark invaded. By 1549, this Tallinn landmark, which was built up to attract more merchant shipping to the area, was the tallest building in Europe. A craftsman, who was hired to continue construction on the church, vowed to work for free if the townsfolk could not discover his name. He worked on the church for many years and the citizens came up with many, many names, all to no avail, right up to his last day of work. As he was finishing up work on the steep roof, a little boy was playing in the road and his mother called out his name, Olev. The craftsman was so stunned because he thought the woman was calling up to him, (because it was his name) He had been so close to winning the wager, and being paid for his many years of work in gold, yet his name had been revealed! He was so upset that he fell off the roof and died. That little niche at the bottom of the door, is where he is supposedly laid to rest. This is also the first place where we learned of the goings-on during the Soviet rule of Estonia. Let me share a little about that here….with more to come…………..
St Olaf’s Church, which is more than likely named after King Olaf II of Norway, also known as Saint Olaf (995-1045) was first a Roman Catholic Church, then during the Reformation, it became a Lutheran Church. In the 1950’s, after World War II, the Russians settled Estonia with more than a third of the population of Estonia with Russian peasants, and set out to eliminate all churches and services, as one of their goals. The Russian government did agree that St Olav’s could be attended by the remaining old members, those that were the oldest in age. (No young people could attend or be taught at home) Thus, religion would die out over the years to come and oh, by the way, the church had to led by and participate in the Baptist faith. The undeterred Estonians, agreed to this request, if that was what was needed to let them continue with their worship. In the end, there was a strong bond with the combined Catholics, Lutherans and Baptists, as all the members were determined to get along with the various church goers and make a go of it. St Olaf’s is still a growing and thriving church here……… My first thought, when I heard this, was how many Baptists could have been in Estonia at that time? That was probably the whole point, not many. The Russians wanted the church to just die out. In addition, the Russian KGB used the church spire as a radio tower and surveillance point.
Let us walk on through the Old Town…..where we found some very good doors and more………
Some of the bigger and more influential buildings in Old Town had “gossip benches,” places where the folks could mingle……..
and still do………
There were some very intricate doors……..looks like it may have been a church at one time!
and this door led to the Office of Community projects…… Russian led community projects? One for all and all for one type projects?
This door was flanked by more rusty red doors………Notice the trees in front of this building? It is one of the few places with trees in Old Town. Two trees were originally planted there for a visit by Peter the Great of Russia, so trees continue to be planted and maintained there.
and up close and personal……..
The City Theatre had some very nice doors and I liked the color of the building too……..
I couldn’t decide which door to straighten out here, but went with the lower door to the ground…..the building had settled over the years, for sure……
This door was below ground……
and this doorway led to a very nice restaurant……
Here is a craft store, only open in summer it says……
Near the Town Square was this charming shop……The Little Red House Full of Bright Ideas! I would call that color Peachy……
and one of its decorative signs led to a door or two…….they served tea…….
This was a very rustic door…….
and I felt this door was covering something up………..
Peppersack, I loved the name of this restaurant in the Square…….
and this door certainly got attention……
Veta’s door had a cornucopia relief carving…….
Was this souvenir shop a previous church too?
This has to be one of my favorite red doors……..
And here we have the door to the KGB prison cells……there will be more to this story in the coming posts…….
My, what a day we’ve had and there is so much more to share about Tallinn! Look forward to the next posts!
I hope you have enjoyed just some of Tallinn’s doors on our Doorscursion today! I have much more to tell about this vibrant city!
Look here to see what others are doing for Norm’s Doors!
It’s easy to do Norm’s Doors. Photograph some doors and post them to Thursday Doors on Thursday!
PS All photos were taken on our IPhones …….we are traveling lighter!
Travel Takeaway: There is always so much more to be discovered when you make the rounds of a city with a local tour guide! It is well worth the money to know what you are looking at and can ask questions!
And the Featured Photo is a look back at St Olaf’s!