Sunday, 30 August 2015

Streets of Tallinn - Pikk Street (Pikk Tänav)

One of the things I enjoy doing most whenever I'm in Tallinn is to simply stroll around the Old Town and take in its beauty.  You never know what you might find. Tallinn has many fascinating streets each with its own unique character and piece of history. The more you explore them, the more you come to appreciate them and of course the best way to do so is on foot.   Pikk Street is one such street in Tallinn with a lot to offer.  Take a stroll down this enchanting cobbled street and see for yourself.

Great Coastal Gate & Fat Margaret Tower
70 Pikk Street Tallinn
Built in the 14th century during the same period as the city wall.
It is now home to the Estonian Maritime Museum

40 Pikk Street
Full of marzipan treats, delicious thick hot chocolate, a museum room and marzipan workshop where you can create your own masterpieces. 

45 Pikk Street
I'm yet to eat here but it's on my list! I love a good French meal!

39 Pikk Street
Hell Hunt (gentle wolf) is the oldest pub in Tallinn.

26 Pikk Street
This is the only surviving Renaissance building in Estonia and dates back to the 14th century.
Its front door is one of the most photographed in all of Estonia.

17 Pikk St Tallinn

16 Pikk Street
Maiasmokk is the oldest cafe in Tallinn. 
It has been operating in the same building since it first opened in 1864.

A great place to sit back, relax and enjoy some delicious cakes and sweets!

Friday, 28 August 2015

World Premiere of Helga Merit's New Film "The Story of the Baltic University" to Screen at EstDocs This October

A few years ago Helga Merits informed me that my Estonian grandfather had been a student at the Baltic University while he was living in a DP camp in Germany after WWII. I had no idea. After searching through some of my old family photographs Helga confirmed that a few of them were indeed taken at the Baltic University. This revelation opened up a whole new dimension with my family history research and naturally I was thrilled to learn that Helga was making a documentary on this topic.  I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this film.

About Helga Merits: After working as a journalist for Dutch and Belgian newspapers and national radio, Helga Merits began making historical documentary films. Her previous film, The Class of 1943 – remember us when we are gone (2012) featured the fate of five Estonian boys from the Tartu Boys Gymnasium who were forced to join the German army. "The Story of The Baltic University" is her fourth documentary which will have its World Premiere at EstDocs Film Festival, Toronto, 16 - 20 October 2015. DOC member and EstDocs Programme Director Kalli Paakspuu interviewed Merits about the film. 

To read the full POV Magazine interview with Helga Merits, please click here: 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Estonia Has 700 More Islands Than Previously Believed | News | ERR

Great news! Estonia was previously believed to consist of the mainland plus 1500 islands but a new survey shows that Estonia actually has 2,222 islands. Improved survey methods have led to this conclusion. 

Three Estonian Proverbs

Monday, 24 August 2015

Why Estonia Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

The team at La Vacanza Travel recently contacted me asking if I could write for them about Estonia. Naturally it was my pleasure. When I was in Tallinn last month I noticed a group of tourists from India at the airport and thought it was great that they were taking the time to visit beautiful Estonia. To read my latest article, please click here:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Remembering the Victims of Communism and Nazism

Today is Black Ribbon Day on which Europe remembers and honours those who perished as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which was signed on 23rd August 1939. This pact forever changed the destinies of Estonia and many other countries in Europe. Millions of people across the continent were affected and in Estonia tens of thousands were either deported, murdered or forced to flee their homeland.  No family was left unaffected by these events.

On this day I honour two members of my family who were murdered as a result of communism and Nazism in Estonia.
My great-grandmother's cousin Martin Jervan. 
He studied medicine at the University of Tartu before joining the Estonian Army as a doctor.

Martin worked his was up the ranks and became a Major General in the Estonian Army.

Estonia's military elite were the first people to be targeted by the Soviets and like many of his peers he was taken from Estonia and murdered in Russia. He was executed in Chelyabinsk in 1942.

My beloved great-grandfather Arthur Lestal.

Arthur was an Estonian photographer who was executed in Albu during the German occupation of Estonia in 1941. For many years now I have been tracking down his works and have amassed a quite a collection. They can all be found on Flickr. 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Victims of Communism and Nazism to be remembered on Sunday | News | ERR

On Sunday, church-bells will ring out across ‪Estonia‬ to commemorate the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. The Europe-wide Remembrance Day marks the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (MRP) in 1939.

Click here to read more: Victims of Communism and Nazism to be remembered on Sunday | News | ERR

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Celebrating 'Taasiseseisvumispäev' - Day of Restoration of Independence

Today marks 24 years since Estonia restored its independence after half a century of occupation by the Soviet regime. On this day we celebrate our freedom, reflect upon where we have come so far and look forward to a bigger and brighter future. Many noble and courageous Estonians made great sacrifices in their longing to see their beloved country free from foreign rule.  It was not until 1991 that this was finally realised.

The Estonian flag raised atop of Pikk Hermann Tower is a symbol of Estonia's independence.

The Declaration of Independence from 21st February 1918 is a beautifully worded document that every Estonian should read, no matter what generation you belong to.

The Estonian Declaration of Independence written in Estonian followed by its English translation.


In the course of centuries never have the Estonian people lost their desire for independence. From generation to generation have they kept alive the hidden hope that in spite of enslavement and oppression by hostile invaders the time will come to Estonia "when all splinters, at both end, will burst forth into flames" and when "Kalev will come home to bring his children happiness."

Now that time has arrived.

An unprecedented fight between nations has crushed the rotten foundations of the Russian Tsarist Empire. All over the Sarmatian plains ruinous anarchy is spreading, threatening to overwhelm in its wake all the nations living in the former Russian Empire. From the West the victorious armies of Germany are approaching in order to claim their share of Russia's legacy and, above all, to take possession of the coastal territories of the Baltic Sea.

In this hour, the Estonian National Council, as the legal representative of our land and people, has, in unanimous agreement with Estonian democratic political parties and organizations, and by virtue of the right of self-determination of peoples, found it necessary to take the following decisive steps to shape the destiny of the Estonian land and people.


within his historical and ethnic boundaries, is declared as of today an


The independent Republic of Estonia shall include Harjumaa, Läänemaa, Järvamaa, Virumaa, with the city of Narva and its surroundings, Tartumaa, Võrumaa, Viljandimaa, and Pärnumaa with the Baltic islands of Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhumaa, and others where the Estonians have settled for ages in large majorities. Final determination of the boundaries of the Republic in the areas bordering on Latvia and Russia will be carried out by plebiscite after the conclusion of the present World War.

In the aforementioned areas the only supreme and organizing authority is the democratically supported Estonian Salvation Committee created by the Estonian National Council.

The Republic of Estonia wishes to maintain absolute political neutrality towards all neighbouring states and peoples and expects that they will equally respond with complete neutrality.

Estonian military troops shall be reduced to the extent necessary to maintain internal order. Estonian soldiers serving in the Russian military forces will be called home and demobilized.

Until the Estonian Constituent Assembly, elected by general, direct, secret, and proportional elections, will convene and determine the constitutional structure of the country, all executive and legislative authority will remain vested in the Estonian National Council and in the Estonian Provisional Government created by it, whose activities must be guided by the following principles:

1. All citizens of the Republic of Estonia, irrespective of their religion, ethnic origin, and political views, are going to enjoy equal protection under the law and courts of justice of the Republic.

2. All ethnic minorities, the Russians, Germans, Swedes, Jews, and others residing within the borders of the republic, are going to be guaranteed the right to their cultural autonomy.

3. All civic freedoms, the freedom of expression, of the press, of religion, of assembly, of association, and the freedom to strike as well as the inviolability of the individual and the home, shall be irrefutably effective within the territory of the Estonian Republic and based on laws, which the Government must immediately work out.

4. The Provisional Government is given the task of immediately organizing courts of justice to protect the security of the citizens. All political prisoners shall be released immediately.

5. The city, county, and township local governments are called upon to immediately continue their work, which has been violently interrupted.

6. For maintenance of public order, people's militia, subordinated to local governments, shall be immediately organized and citizens' self-defence organizations established in the cities and rural areas.

7. The Provisional Government is instructed to work out, without delay, on a broad democratic basis, bills for the solution of the agrarian problem, and the problems of labor, of food supply, and of finances.


You stand on the threshold of a hopeful future in which you shall be free and independent in determining and directing your destiny! Begin building a home of your own, ruled by law and order, in order to be a worthy member within the family of civilized nations! Sons and daughters of our homeland, unite as one man in the sacred task of building our homeland! The sweat and blood shed by our ancestors for this country demand this from us; our forthcoming generations oblige us to do this.

May God watch over thee
And amply bless
Whatever thou undertake
My dear fatherland!

Long live the independent democratic Republic of Estonia!

Long live peace among nations!

The Council of Elders of the Estonian National Council
Tallinn, 21 February 1918

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Visit to Tallinn's Photo Museum

If you are someone like me who is passionate about photography then you are sure to find Tallinn's Photo Museum a place of great interest. The museum is centrally located in the heart of Tallinn's Old Town just behind the Town Hall. The entrance fee is a very modest 2€ per person.

The Photo Museum is located at 4/6 Raekoja Street, Tallinn.

The building formerly housed the Town Council's Prison. 

Early Tallinn photographers.

Histories and samples of their studio work.

A brief history of photography in Estonia from 1840 - 1940.

A collection of cameras through the ages.

Extremely fascinating!

A beautiful old camera!

The minox camera was invented in Tallinn in 1935 and is the smallest on display.

Experience an old pavillion style studio setting and learn about some female Estonian photographers. This is a truly delightful museum. A must when you are in Tallinn!

Monday, 17 August 2015

University of Tartu Marks 100 Years Since Admitting Its First Female Student

Today 100 years ago, the University of Tartu accepted women as full-time students for the first time.

Women were allowed to listen to lectures already 10 years prior to 1915, but were not allowed to sit exams. 51 female students joined the university in the fall of 1915, although women were allowed to be matriculated only two years later in 1917.

“It was thought women were not suited for studying at universities on mental, intellectual and physical grounds, let alone allowed to participate in scientific research. Moral questions also arose,” University of Tartu museum curator Terje Lõbu said. “It was a time where women had to work hard and just wait until society, including lecturers, began to hold them to be equal to men.”

The reason for allowing women into universities in 1915 lies in World War I. As men were being drafted into the army, and were not no longer allowed to postpone military service for universities, authorities began to worry about who would pay university tuition fees.

Women were especially welcome in medicine, as there was a great need for doctors.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Look Inside the Marzipan Gallery

When it comes to discovering a city we might read rave reviews about the best places to visit but often ask ourselves - do they really live up to the hype? One place that definitely does is Tallinn's Marzipan Gallery. I have walked along Pikk Street so many times over the years but never paid it any attention.  For whatever reason during my most recent visit to Tallinn I stopped by the Marzipan Gallery and went inside for the first time.

I must admit I am not a great lover of mazipan but the moment I stepped through the door I experienced the "wow" factor. All the products were bright and colourful, they had a great range with the prices clearly marked.

A floor marking indicated there was a museum downstairs and I noticed some people eagerly went down whilst a few were reluctant, perhaps thinking there was a fee involved. But there isn't - it's completely free. The museum room is absolutely delightful and well worth the visit.

The Marzipan Gallery is located at 40 Pikk Street Tallinn.

The shop offers an excellent selection of marzipan treats at very reasonable prices.

Wedding cake, musical instruments, famous faces. The artist's talent is endless.

Estonian-themed display.

Estonian Song Festival


Cartoon characters

Lotte & Friends

If the gallery inspires you and you feel like getting creative then you can! For only 4€ you can mould and paint your very own marzipan creation then proudly place it in a carry-home display box to take with you. Very cute! 10€ enables you to attend a class and learn the art of marzipan making from a master. 

The Marzipan Gallery also offers light refreshments. Their thick hot chocolate was delicious and it was a very nice experience to sit back and relax whilst watching people happily creating their marzipan figurines. Well worth the visit!  I'll definitely be back the next time in Tallinn!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Helping to Rebuild Tartu's Stone Bridge

On the 16th September 1784 a new landmark graced the city of Tartu and was officially opened to the public, the Stone Bridge. It was built under the orders of Catherine the Great who wanted to present the city with a gift after the devastating fire of 1775. The Stone Bridge was once a famous landmark not only for its appearance but also because it was the first stone bridge ever to be built in the Baltic region. The bridge took two years to construct and was made from over 3000 granite blocks.

The bridge stood for nearly 160 years before being tragically destroyed during the ravages of World War Two. In 1941 the retreating Red Army blasted the centre of the bridge then in 1944 the German Army completely destroyed it and left it in ruins. The destruction of the bridge was a great loss for the city but today, the good citizens of Tartu hope to restore the bridge to its former glory.

In 1992 under the initative of Patrick von Glasenapp the Stone Bridge Foundation was created. This community initative aims to bring back Tartu's beloved Stone Bridge in this new modern era. von Glasenapp once famously said: "Let's restore the Stone Bridge! Because bridges connect not only two banks, they also connect people!"

It would be wonderful to see this bridge reconstructed in Tartu but it needs your help!

The site of the bridge today.
A replacement bridge made from concrete was built during the Soviet occupation of Estonia.

If your family is from Tartu or you have a love for Tartu and its surrounding area then you might want to contribute to this worthwhile project. I intend to make a donation soon in memory of my Estonian grandmother. As a young woman she would have walked across this bridge every day to get to work from her home in Kivi Street.

Donations can be made into the following Swed Bank (formerly Hansa Bank) account. Stone Bridge Foundation, account  number 221005140786. For enquries or further information, please contact