Estonia, the northernmost and smallest of the Baltic states, has the most Scandinavian feel of them all and this is most evident in the capital of Tallinn, an ancient port city located a mere 80km south of Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland. St. Petersburg, the former capital of Russia, lies fewer than 400km to the east of Tallinn along the same Gulf coast. Danish and German kingdoms ruled over Estonia during medieval times, but Swedish rule was established in the 16th century, after the Livonian War of 1558-83 during which Russia, Poland, Denmark and Sweden all battled for control of the northern Baltic Sea. In the early 1700s, however, Russia and Sweden again fought for control of territories in the area, and in 1710 Tallinn capitulated to Russia. Estonian agitation for independence began in the early 1900s, but it was only after Germany was defeated in World War I, having occupied Estonia in 1918, that the area was granted independence. The Soviets and then the Germans came back in the 1940s, of course, and in September 1944 the Soviet army expelled the Germans and stayed in Estonia until the early 1990s.
Tallinn, a city of 400,000, has a very beautiful old town with fascinating medieval architecture that has been preserved through the ages and has earned it World Heritage status as per UNESCO. Hundreds of properties dating back to the 12th century (but mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries) have survived because of the city’s powerful defenses, including a castle on the hill of Toompea and high protective walls all around, and also because of a prohibition on wooden buildings susceptible to fire. The city’s official website is http://tallinn.ee/eng
, and useful tourism information appears in http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/?setLang=2