Note: This travelogue is being integrated with the Tallinn travelogue and expanded to multiple chapters. Bookmarks to this page may no longer work properly.
My visit to the Pirita district of eastern Tallinn was during a free afternoon, when I decided to get further out of the downtown. The tourist information bureau recommended it, so off I went. My walk generally followed the coastline from the main harbor to the Olympic harbor at the mouth of the Pirita River. It was a wonderful journey that included a lot of history of this small Baltic nation.
The first stop on the tour was the amphitheater located in the first photograph. I saw pictures of this amphitheater in the Tallinn City Museum downtown. It was the site of the beginning of Estonia's independence movement in the late 90s, so-called the "Singing Revolution". After it was built under the watch of the Soviets, it began hosting outdoor concerts. Over time, the concerts became more and more popular, and eventually political in nature. On a day in 1987, 300,000 people packed it amphitheater and the grassy incline off the photo to the right, peacefully gathered to sing revolutionary songs against the Soviet rule. The "Singing Revolution" was cited among several of Tallinn's museums as the beginning of the movement of the three Baltic states towards eventual freedom in 1991 (undoubtedly Latvia and Lithuania had their own versions to tell -- but all three did participate together in one well-documented event, a 600-km long human chain connecting the three Baltic capitals to demonstrate solidarity and a desire of freedom and independence. In 2002, it sat rather quietly while the rest of Tallinn was busy gearing up for the EuroVision song contest, almost forgotten. I found that rather interesting.
My next stop on the way was the Maarjamäe Palace, perched on a small cliff half-way between Pirita and Old Tallinn. Shown in the second photograph, this palace served as the site of the Estonia National Museum, whose exhibits focused primarily on the republic's more recent history -- from 18th century to present. The exhibits detailed life in industrial Estonia during the times when it changed hands from German control to Russian and back and forth. The one exhibit I remembered the most was a simple wall exhibit containing photographs of the nine Estonian presidents during the country's sole time of independence, between the World Wars. The reason I remembered it so well was because the captions included the terms of service and the manner of death. Most died while incarcerated by the Soviets or executed by them. But not to make it sound like a dour experience, I was very impressed with the qualities of the exhibits and the way they painted life in the tough Baltic region.
Further up the coast, prominently placed over a bend in the road overlooking the bay, was (ironically) a Soviet World War II monument. It took a while to figure out what it was because it looked like it was stripped. It was just a plain concrete rocket-shaped tower over a massive concrete slab and all of its was is disrepair. It contained a number of cemeteries and a row of stones commemorating Soviet units that fought in Tallinn.
It took a couple more kilometers' walk to reach the Pirita district, the site of Tallinn's yacht harbor and largest public beach resort. The harbor is shown in the third photograph, taken from a highway bridge on the Pirita Tee. Facing the opposite direction, I found that the inland side was not heavily developed, leaving it unspoiled and beautiful. A couple small cafes and a rowboat marina have sprouted up near the bridge, allowing visitors the opportunity to take a quiet boatride through the forest. Next to the harbor at left in the photo was the Olympiakeskus, an Olympic training ground for former Soviet yachtsman. This training area is shown in the fourth photograph from across the harbor. I noted that a monument to the 1980 Moscow Olympics was constructed atop one of the levees. Pirita's beach was off the photo to the right, extending a couple miles around the right.
I encountered several points of interest in the district. They included the massive Metsakalmistu Cemetary, a botanical garden, and a TV tower. Each of these were along the town's main street -- Kloostrimetsa Tee, easily accessible by bus. The TV tower provided a grand view of the surrounding area (so I was told, I did not go all the way out that far myself).
Meanwhile, the most prominent structure in the downtown was the ruins of former St. Brigitta convent, now a public museum. The base on the convent was still largely intact, but showed the damage inflicted upon it by several wars. Along with the main church, shown in the fifth photograph, the site contained remains of a network of buildings (guestrooms, crypt, chapels, etc.) overlooking one of the tributaries of the Pirita River. The ruins were kept in terrific condition, and the visit was very enjoyable.
Pirita was a welcome afternoon excursion from the rest of Tallinn, both in providing scenic beauty and a few lessons in Estonian history. It was the perfect way to round out the visit to this new and independent Baltic nation.
Trip Taken 26 May 2002 -- Page Last Updated 11 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin