Tallinn, Estonia (June 27 - July 1)
Destination > NATO ARW
Estonia is the northernmost and smallest of the Baltic states - it's about the size of Switzerland. It borders Russia on the east and Latvia on the south. To the west are the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga, and the Gulf of Finland lies to the north. Helsinki is just 80 km (50mi) away across the Gulf of Finland; St Petersburg is 320km (200mi) east of Tallinn, Estonia's capital, which is on the northwestern coast.
In few places in Europe does the aura of the 14th and 15th centuries survive intact the way it does in Tallinn's Old Town, a jumble of medieval walls and turrets, needling spires and winding, cobbled streets. Nevertheless, Estonia's capital is so modern it's been dubbed 'a suburb of Helsinki'.
"The streets of Tallinn are not straight, and are so narrow that cabmen are forced to ride with bells in order not to run into those coming in the opposite direction. An inquisitive gossip can see everything across a street into the room of her neighbor." —Russian officer Alexander Bestuzhev in 1821, in an account of his trip to Tallinn.
The city consists of three sections: an upper town on a steep hill topped by a citadel (13th-14th century), a lower walled town built during medieval times (14th-16th century), and a new district. The network of the Old City streets and walls were formed during the 13-14th century. Many relics of Tallinn's long history survive or have been restored, especially on Toompea hill and in the old, walled Lower Town. They include the 13th century Toom Church, the Gothic Oleviste and Niguliste churches, the Great Guildhall of 1410 and the 14th century Rathus. The cultural center of Estonia has an academy of sciences, polytechnic, fine arts, a music conservatory and several theatres and museums. Against the backdrop of the city's impressive past, contemporary life carries on in the Medieval Capital's galleries, pubs, and cafes and at frequent festivals and exhibitions.