Estonia's capital, Tallinn, lies just 53 miles from Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland, midway between St. Petersburg and Stockholm. The first recorded stronghold was built here by Estonians in the 10th century, only to be taken over by the powerful seafaring Danes in 1219. In 1285, Tallinn was incorporated into the successful Hanseatic League, a German mercantile group operating in northern Europe during medieval times. Because of its strategic location, Tallinn experienced many different occupations over the centuries, which resulted in a cultural mix that lends a unique ambiance to this maritime city.
In our century, the proud people of Estonia, along with their Latvian and Lithuanian neighbors, endured Soviet rule for over 50 years. Then, in 1991, following the great upheaval in the Soviet Union, these three brave countries proudly joined the world of independent nations and finally enjoyed their freedom.
Estonia is surrounded by water. The country's 17,000 square miles include a staggering 800 islands and more than 1,500 lakes. Watersports are quite popular during the summer months and fishing is a national pastime.
The Old Town, with its cobbled streets and 13th-14th century buildings, attracts thousands of visitors each year. They come to admire the city's heritage of medieval buildings, the imposing City Hall which dates back to 1454, the Orthodox Cathedral, Toompea Castle and Oleviste Church ' all prominent architectural landmarks. A local convent has been instructing students for more than 200 years. Sip coffee in a waterfront cafÐ ¹ and reflect on recent and current events.