Had I stayed in Tallinn, Estonia thirty years ago, I would have been required to stay, like all foreigners, in the luxurious, Finnish-built Hotel Viru. I would have been well attended since the KGB agents working in the unmarked top floor would have been suspicious of the ‘dangerous’ American in town. Even the bread plates had microphones (the staff were strongly encouraged not to place them in the dish lest the agents had to listen to a wash cycle).
One of my old teammates from UMBC, Herol, lives in Tallinn and was free to show me around one evening. Instead of the dreary concrete associated with Soviet satellite states, Tallinn has both a bright, cheery old town and hip neighborhoods full of lively restaurants and bars (Old Town would be considered one of them) – we even passed by one of Estonia’s most famous pop stars on the way to dinner. Celebrity sightings aside, it was nice playing ping pong with some of his friends since it didn’t even get dark until 11 PM.
There’s plenty of things to do to keep you occupied. My favorite place was the concrete-domed hangars turned museum at Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor. The Estonian Open Air Museum has traditional houses from the countryside that you can explore after you’ve seen everything you’ve wanted to see in the old part of town. You can even take a two hour ferry to Helsinki, Finland (another post) to enjoy sights like the Suomenlinna Fortress.