I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Estonia is the northernmost of the three Baltic countries.
Tallinn’s center is a beautiful medieval old town with lots of cobblestoned streets, fortified walls and round towers.
You have to be careful how you pronounce the names of some of the towers.
Tallinn also has one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. A pharmacy has been operating in Tallinn’s main square since at least 1422. There’s a museum inside with lots of old ingredients including:
wood louse infusion
sun-bleached dog faeces
earthworms in oil.
I also visited the Museum of Occupation. The Baltic countries had a really bad time of it last century. Hitler and Stalin divided up Europe via the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the Soviets invaded Estonia.
Then the Nazis turned on the Russians and invaded. After a couple of years, the Soviets started advancing on Estonia again. Many of the Estonians figured the Soviets were worse and enlisted in the German army to try and stop the Russian advance westward.
Then the Baltics ended up with almost 50 years of Soviet control. People were deported to Siberia and the KGB arrested, tortured and executed people. In 1989 (the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) more than 2 million people held hands, making a human chain stretching more than 650km from Vilnius to Tallinn. The Baltics regained independence in 1991 after the failed coup against Gorbachev weakened the Soviet Union.
I was in Tallinn on August 20th, Estonia’s Restoration of Independence Day. There were celebrations and fireworks in the main square and the Estonian president gave a speech. I celebrated by going to a pirate restaurant.
Estonian Tech Trivia: Estonia is regarded as an Internet-savvy country and wi-fi is surprisingly widespread. Skype is one of Estonia’s better known Internet business ventures.