Saturday, 24 April 2010

Amber and Ambience

Tallinn has got something, that St. Petersburg seems to lack - a time machine.
Whereas all the palaces and cathedrals on the Russian end of the Gulf of Finland are impressing witnesses of periods and emperors long gone, showing you how it must have been in those days a walk inside the city walls of Tallinn literally takes you back into the medieaval age. It is stunning how well this place is preserved, cobblestones round as balloons, the city walls stubby and sturdy, just waiting for a Tartar attack, the towers and spires pointing at a sky that is limited by the narrowness of the alleyways. Of course, the medieaval card is played by the tourism, but somehow here it really feels like chainmail and honeybeer, like hanseatic amber trade and banners and lute playing, and you cannot pinpoint why this is. Maybe the fabulous condition of the buildings, sporting old, very old beams and pediments and bronze nails in huge oak doors. Maybe the people who are actually performing here, serving you in the tavern, playing the music or just chat with you, curtseying or bowing the old-fashioned way so naturally. Or a little bit of all. Certainly here you can forget about the speed and pressure of our cities, and when we walk back to the pier, a little bit outside, a modern port with our modern ship sitting there, the stroll that we just had, seems to be far away, like a story told or a song that's been sung a while ago. You might even want to hum it...