Our fifth stop on the big trip was a little different since it’s probably the only city of the seven we visited that is not well known in the US.

Indeed, my only experience with Tallinn prior researching the cruise, was the episode of the Amazing Race 15 in which the teams spent about as much time as we did (as in, not much) running around the old town.

Anyway, Tallinn was a very nice surprise. The lower old town section we explored, considered to be one best preserved in Europe, has a Disney-designed medieval feel, although populated with much friendlier and more genuine people.

Viru Gate

In the picture, those towers were on either side of the Viru gate at which we started our walking tour and are part of a defensive wall build in the the 1500s, most of which still stands (largely restored, of course).

A town has been in existence on the same location since the 1150s but despite that long history, Estonia has only been an independent country since 1993 when they were cut loose from the former Soviet Union. Before that the area was claimed at various times by the Danes, Swedes and Germans.

However, in the past 17 years the people have been working hard to bring their nation into the modern age, establishing both dynamic tourism and high technology industries. Interesting fact: Skype was created by a trio of Estonian developers.

The day we visited Tallinn was near the start of the annual Old Town Days, a two-week music and arts festival that seemed to have attracted lots of visitors besides those from our ship.

And there were plenty of restaurants, all with patio seating, waiting to serve them on a sunny and relatively warm early summer day.

The charm and atmosphere of old town Tallinn is hard to explain in words so take a look at some of the pictures I took in this Flickr set.

Once again, this was another city I would like to return to explore in more depth and, since it’s only a three hour ferry ride from Helsinki, it should be easy to combine the two for another Scandinavian vacation.

But for this one, we have two more ports and the next stop is Gdynia and Gdansk, Poland.