After spending a day at sea, we arrived in the smallest and least-known country of our tour: Estonia.
Tallinn is a beautiful city. It is the oldest capital city in Northern Europe! I was told that Estonia was one of the later countries to end feudalism, and this was the explanation provided to me for many of the medieval-era architecture that still remains in the city.
Despite these omnipresent reminders of its medieval history, Estonia prides itself on its technological advances. Estonia has become a little Baltic Silicon Valley. Skype was invented here. (And they’ll never let you forget it!)
One of my favorite parts of my tour of Tallinn was visiting the Old Towne. You don’t have thousand-year-old structures in America, but in Tallinn, if you looked in the right place, you were transported back to the 1300s.
We also got to browse a little market here, where I almost bought a gorgeous Russian-style faux-fur hat but didn’t because that thing was 30€ say what. Lots of winter clothing being sold for the end of July… XD They were not so down with haggling, though. We did not expect the vendors to let us walk away but that’s exactly what happened.
I don’t have a LOT more to say about Tallinn, because our tour was shorter and it’s a smaller city. I didn’t have a lot of context for a lot of what I learned, and we spent a long time just wandering around as well. But I enjoyed my time there and took lots of really fun photos, so please enjoy 🙂
I have plenty more photos but I’ll spare you for now. I would love to learn more about Tallinn and Estonia!
Fair warning now: All Europe posts will be photo-heavy. Some photos will be terrible because I took them from a moving bus. Also, I may not quite remember what everything is, but I am trying my best to look it up if I’ve forgotten and to not incorrectly label things.
The first city on our Baltic Capitals tour was Berlin. We had to take a bus from Warnermünde to reach inland Berlin, but the drive was so nice. We went from the rainy harbor on a beautifully scenic view of some of Germany…
… before we arrived in front of Charlottenburg Palace.
We didn’t get to go inside, but it is spectacular just judging from its exterior. It’s the largest palace in Berlin and our first taste of this gorgeous city. Quick shout-out to our tour guide, Theo, who is an Australian ex-pat who showed us a wonderful time.
Fun fact: It was a record-high temperature of 37°C (~99°F) in Berlin the day we visited.
What I loved so much about Berlin is how acutely aware the city is of its history. Germans, and especially Berliners, it appeared, really feel the weight of what they’ve done in the past, both good and bad. The incredibly powerful Holocaust memorial, aka Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of the testaments of this mindset.
The design is excellent. It resembles a sinking cemetery built on a slope, and it is designed to make you feel uneasy as you walk through. You must pass between the stellae alone, as it is too narrow to allow a friend. You can easily lose your traveling companion at any turn. As you proceed through the memorial, the stellae get taller and taller, and you get swallowed whole by them. It is difficult to determine where the end is, or how close it is, from the center of the memorial. However, the memorial is a topic of controversy because many other groups were targeted during the Holocaust besides the Jews. This was one of the highlights of our tour and I am very grateful that, amidst our rush, Theo made sure we had time to really allow it to sink in.
We had lunch at a place called Hofbräuhaus München, which had a lunch buffet and a live band playing some German folk music when we walked in. It was definitely way too hot for me to be eating German fare (and I don’t really like German food, to be honest). I did try a little bit of beer, since we were in Germany after all, even though I don’t really like beer. I was just glad they served it cold? I think someone told me once he was only served warm beer in Europe. (Also head cheese scares me.) (But pretzels!) The heat persisted but the fun didn’t stop!
The Humboldt Box is a TEMPORARY structure that overlooks the construction site for the rebuilding of the Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). The old-looking structure is a little sample of what the finished product will look like. That’s just one little corner. There’s actual quite a bit of debate over whether this is actually worthwhile. Older Berliners want it, a reminder of how Berlin was great, while younger Berliners think Berlin should focus on the future rather than dwell on its history.
I had an amazing time in Berlin. I love how much the city celebrates its rich history but is also very cognizant of its darker ages. With this kind of mindfulness of its past and an incredible optimism for the future, you can’t help but feel excited in Berlin.