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Visiting Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, and sits on the edge of the Baltic Sea, across the waters from Finland and Sweden, two countries that have played a big part in the development of this fascinating city. Tallinn is a lot more than just another former Russian town; the name itself Taani Linn means "Danish city", and one of its great attractions is the number of medieval buildings and structures which still stand, looking today as they did 400 years ago.

The area known as the "Lower Town" is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, and well worth going to see - the wall tower known as "Fat Margaret" is astonishing, and it is easy to see why it got that name. For those with an interest in other periods of history, there is the Palace of Peter the Great, which houses part of the Estonian Museum of Art, and fantastic woodlands and formal gardens. It is also possible to visit the fantastic churches in the area, which range from unaltered 13th century chapels to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, built at the end of the nineteenth century, and a fantastic piece of Russian-style architecture in white and red. Tallinn's tourist board knows this well, and has created an all-inclusive "city card", which allows you free access to Tallinn's main tourist sights, and tours that are available (including the Tallinn Official Sightseeing Tour), discounts in restaurants and stores, and other freebies and offers. The price is still quite cheap (60 EEK, which converts to about 5 dollars, for 6 hrs free access), and this more than pays for itself at each historic site, and it is very convenient to use, which is always a plus. Since UNESCO made Tallinn a World Heritage Site at the end of the last century, and the fantastic historic town, Tallinn has become a tourist haven, and English is very common amongst people working in the tourist industry,

As well as a fascinating history, Tallinn is also notable for its exciting night life. It's brilliant clubs and attractions make Tallinn's party scene a magnet for people all over Europe. Just a short trip from Helsinki, Tallinn is a frequent host to scores of Finns who head over every year on "booze cruises" in order to take in Tallinn's cheaper alcohol. Whether your idea of a party is sipping cocktails with Scandinavian tourists, watching Rugby in an English-themed bar, or visiting the cool strip club, Tallinn has a place for every kind of party-goer. It has become very popular with the English crowd, and there are travel agencies dedicated to promoting partying. Walking down the streets of the Old Town, you are likely to come across British partiers, moving between the beer halls, or going to one of the adventure sessions the travel agencies provide, such as parachute jumping and shooting galleries.

If neither medieval splendour nor wild nights out interest you, then there are plenty of other reasons to visit the exciting city of Tallinn. The capital is developing a name for itself as the host of film festivals like no other. The Black Nights Film Festival ("Poff" in Estonian), is held around November/December every year, and its films are a mixture of all kinds of world cinema. This year will be the 10th annual Tallinn Black Night Film Festival, and if you consider yourself a film buff, that is definitely one event you won't want to miss out on. There are other cultural specials available in Tallinn as well, from the famous Opera House to the Art Museum of Estonia (which is actually scattered over the town, with even the foreign paintings collection containing nearly 1000 pieces of art.

Whatever you do in Estonia, you should realise that you will be starving by the time you sit down to dinner. Walking around the medieval streets can certainly take it out of you! The good news is that Tallinn boasts some great restaurants, as well as some very, um, interesting ones. If you're feeling brave, then you might want to head down to a restaurant that serves Estonian food and if you like blood sausage and smoked herring, then you can't go wrong. For the less brave, there are extravagant restaurants such as the "Olde Hansa", which provides a medieval banquet that no-one will ever eat all of, or you could try the fusion food heaven of "Pegasus", which is as ambitious as the name sounds. There is a new emphasis upon cuisine in the Estonian capital, and there are restaurants to cater for every taste, from Mexican to Japanese. While you are in Tallinn, it would be a shame not to visit one of the great Russian Restaurants, such as "Nevskij", a beautiful restaurant which can only take you back to the luxury of Tsarist Russian empire, truly in keeping with a place where history and the modern travel experience unite.
About the Author
Orson Johnson writes for Holiday Velvet, a website providing listings for bed and breakfasts, villas, hotels and apartments in Rome.
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