Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Tallinn Day 2

After a breakfast I head back over to the Department of Archaeology. I take a different route and walk across the Toompea, the upper part of the Old Town, stopping to peer in the Orthodox cathedral. I spend most of the day working through loads of archaeological papers and journals building up my background knowledge of Estonian archaeology, particularly focussing on the what we would call the early medieval period, though in Estonia the Iron Age continues until the 13th century, when the country was conquered by the Danes and the Teutonic Order. Apart from a quick lunch in the departmental pub (!) I’m at my desk from about 10 till 6, when I head off. Marika M├Ągi, the head of the Department, for a meal, invites me round for a meal. I’m fed and watered splendidly. Chatting to her partner Tyge I realise that he spent some time in the Dept of Archaeology in Reading at the same time I was there- embarrassingly I have no memory of him- though to be fair he has no memory of me either! By the time I take the bus back into town its noticeable that the temperature is dropping. The walk back from the bus stop to the hotel is freezing. Despite yesterday’s sun, it’s clear that the cold weather is not yet gone.

Since I was last in Tallinn, three years ago, there have been some noticeable changes. Like any European city there are the usual mix of Irish pubs, Indian restaurants and Greek tavernas, as well as bars and eateries serving more traditional Estonian fare. However, the city is definitely becoming more oriented towards tourism. Twice I find that what used to be a bookshop has turned into a shop for holiday makers and gift buyers. There are also changes in the city’s attitudes to the traces of Soviet occupation. There decision by the city authorities to remove a monument to Russian soldiers who died in the Second World War has caused much controversy and has been reported in the international press.

Elsewhere, near the church of St Nicholas the foundations of buildings destroyed during the bombings of the city by the Soviets in 1944 stood as testimony to the destruction wrought by the Russians; when I was last here they were carefully fenced off and a sign explained their significance. However, they have now been covered over and the area is being turned into a small park. There is a definite sense that the city is turning away from the legacy of the Russian past and has its face firmly set on the future.

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