Tallinn is more than a winter wonderland

Yeah, on first glance, Tallinn looks like it was lifted out of EPCOT. The walls around the capital of Estonia, the look and feel of the architecture … the “old city” seems almost staged. But, that changes quickly when you walk the streets, get a feel for the people and scarf down a meal in one of the restaurants. To call it charming is an understatement, with cobblestone roads that date back centuries, reminding you that history is underfoot as much as around you as you trace the winding roads.

I arrived in Tallinn by ferry from Helsinki, which makes it a great side-trip from Finland, though the New York Daily News reports the time to the old city from the local airport is a mere 15 minutes – which is almost impossible to imagine for anyone who has sought Manhattan after landing in JFK.

When I climbed the walls of Tallinn a year and a half ago, I had no sense for the town as a winter wonderland, but looking back, I can see it as a Christmas village waiting to happen. The UNESCO world heritage site (since 1997) is among the best-preserved medieval villages in the world and takes advantage of its unusual look to host a Christmas market that began last year on November 29 and is set to close this week (on January 7).

If Santa isn’t really your scene – or if you wait for warmer weather before visiting – make it a priority to visit the indoor shooting range. Ask for Instructor Tonu to show you the ropes with an AK-47, and have a blast sending rounds downrange. Top it off with a meal at Olde Hansa, and you’re good to go.

[Photo by Tom Johansmeyer]