Tallinn’s Old Town is the best-preserved medieval town center in Eastern Europe, in spite of various invasions of Danes, Swedes, Teutonic Knights, Russians, Nazis and Soviets. Its winding, cobbled streets, red roofs and remaining turreted fortress wall are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located across the narrow Gulf of Finland from Helsinki and not far from St. Petersburg, Tallinn has been a trading and strategic center for hundreds of years. Today, Tallinn’s citizens are some of the most “wired” in the world.
The pagan Finno-Ugric people who originally settled this area were not organized into any kind of political unit. By 1219 the Danish nobility had conquered them and built a castle on Toompea Hill. The Danes ruled from Toompea until 1346, when they sold the territory to the Teutonic Knights, already ruling southern Estonia. As members of the Hanseatic League, the lower town’s merchants and artisans built a defensive wall with 66 towers. Nineteen of them remain today. So does Northern Europe’s only surviving Gothic town hall, built from 1371 to 1404.
PUBLISHED: July 19, 2013