Estonia's Tallinn rich with Nordic, Russian culture
Stepping off the boat in Tallinn, Estonia -- a ferry ride from Sweden or Finland or an easy flight from anywhere in Europe -- you feel that you've traveled farther culturally than you have throughout the rest of Scandinavia. Located about an equal distance from Stockholm and St. Petersburg, Tallinn's culture is both Nordic and -- not by choice -- Russian. The country experienced 200 years of Russian domination before World War I and 50 years of communist rule after World War II.
More than Old World
Like Prague and Krakow, Tallinn has modernized at an astounding rate since the fall of the former U.S.S.R in 1991. It's still busy cleaning up the mess left by the communist experiment, while keeping its Old World ambience. Among Nordic cities with medieval centers, there's none nearly as well preserved as Tallinn. Its mostly intact city wall includes 26 watchtowers, each topped by a pointy red roof. Colorfully painted medieval houses share cobbled lanes with blocky-style buildings ...
While Baroque and choral music ring out in Tallinn's old Lutheran churches, new shops and hotels are bursting out of old buildings. The city changes so fast, even locals can't keep up.