Country number: 78
Territory number: 85
When? August 2005, first leg, going on to Latvia
How? On foot in Tallinn
Who? With Annie
‘Make fun of the man, not of his hat’
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is schizophrenic. The old city, all terracotta roofed medieval towers, bastions and curtain walls is UNESCO recognised. The rest is very high tech, sometimes dubbed the Silicon Valley of Europe, because it has the continent’s highest number of start-ups per head of population.
The delightful enclosed area is easily explored on foot, with a main drag between gates, guarded by more red wizard hatted towers. There are cobbles, dotted with medieval churches (up numerous flights of stairs for the requisite views, across town and out to sea), grandiose Hanseatic architecture, barns, warehouses, an impressive town hall and straw strewn half-timbered inns aplenty.
The Estonians are making the most of their heritage. Our hotel is a beautifully converted, wood and glass plate warehouse, just outside the old town walls. The hostels cater especially to the marauding stag party groups. There are plenty of these too, enjoying the ‘buxom serving wenches’ in their medieval costumes, serving beer in medieval drinking horns. It’s entertaining, if not very realistic.
It’s warm enough to sit outside in August, but it’s more peaceful indoors. We find a bar to have a quiet cocktail, until we are joined by the England Under 21 rugby team on tour.
Estonia has 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic.
The territory of Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9000 BC and has been occupied over the years by the Germans, the Danish, the Swedish, and the Russians. The events that led to the restoration of Estonian independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 are commonly referred to as the Singing Revolution.
The country has significantly more women than men. For every 100 females in Estonia, there are 84 men.
Estonian couples won the Wife Carrying World Championships for 11 consecutive years between 1998 and 2008
Estonia is very flat. The highest point in the country is Suur Munamägi (Big Egg Mountain), just 318 metres (1,043ft) above sea level.
According to a Gallup Poll, Estonia is the world’s least religious country. Just 16 per cent of respondents said religion was an important part of their life
52% of the country is forest, making it one of Europe’s greenest countries – and that figure is rising.
To see more of my photos of Estonia, visit this page.