As I prepared for a recent trip to Estonia, a well-traveled friend asked if I would be visiting Tallinn.
“I am spending a few days there,” I said, surprised because few American travelers, unless they’ve taken one of the increasingly popular Baltic Sea cruises, seem to be familiar with the Baltic countries, not to mention individual cities.
“Oh, I love Tallinn,” she said. “It’s my favorite place.”
Now that I’ve been there, I can say the same thing.
My friend lived in Europe for several years and Europeans are very familiar with the Medieval Estonian city on the Gulf of Finland. Tallinn is a favorite year-round getaway. It’s easy to access via cheap flights from Europe’s gateway airports and once you’re there food and other costs are reasonable.
Founded in the 12th Century, the oldest parts of Tallinn are remarkably intact. During World War II, only a few buildings were destroyed, unlike other ancient and beautiful cities in Europe. Even decades under Soviet rule didn’t ruin the city’s historic beauty. Much of the original city walls and towers are still standing as is the old Town Hall and market square.
Stepping down into the thick-walled shops and cafes lining the streets, it is easy to imagine one is stepping back in time. I was fortunate to get a room in the Hotel Schloessle, sleeping in what was, 600 years ago, a granary. My room looked out on the courtyard, through wide windows set into deep limestone walls. The food and the service were impeccable and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed.
Estonia is known for its high-quality linen so each day I walked down the narrow cobblestone streets and passageways to the shopping district where I bought finely-woven linen pillow covers and tablecloths.
I don’t often write about food, but one of the highlights of my visit was dinner at nAnO. Open by reservation only, nAnO is a small, informal, yet very chic restaurant founded by Estonian supermodel Beatrice and her DJ ex-husband Pritt.
Surrounded by hand-painted or decoupaged walls decorated with framed magazine covers and photographs and an array of funky accessories, we were welcomed with a glass of champagne. Our party sat down to the table—no two chairs or pieces of china were the same and course after course, all served family-style, was put in front of us. It was one of the most intimate, lively, and delicious, meals I’ve ever had. And, for the perfect finish, the dessert was my favorite treat: an enormous crumble of meringue, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The evening, like the Pavlova, was the perfect finish, leaving me with a sweet impression of the fairytale city by the Baltic Sea and, as always, wanting just a bit more.
See more of Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s travel stories and photos at: cherylannemillsap.blogspot.
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