On the fifth country of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 5 gingerbread cookies
Estonia is a case study in modern governmental success. They are leading the way in many areas of innovation combining civics with new technologies and deregulation efforts. The former soviet country has seen great interest in new business in large part from successful government innovation efforts. Beyond these exciting aspects of Tallinn, it has a painfully cute medieval old town and Christmas cheer in spades.
We had two days in Tallinn. The first day, weather turned into a wintery mix, and we decided to stay cozied up on the couch enjoying our Airbnb’s fireplace and sipping our own mulled wine from ingredients we picked up at the shop down the street. Working or reading by the fire is one of my favorite winter pastimes, and allowed us to find a few moments to catch up on our to-do list and planning for the rest of our trip. We only emerged for dinner at Pööbel, sampling a flight of local brews (Estonians are very proud of their beer!) and enjoying one of the best burgers we’ve had all year. Another pleasant surprise was how many apartments have private saunas – which proved the perfect activity the next day after a few bone-chilling hours of walking outside!
The second day, weather was crisp and clear, and we explored Tallinn’s old town and it’s beauty. I’d recommend starting at the gorgeous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Estonia’s pink Parliament Building then heading north a few streets to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform for a picture-perfect bird’s eye view of the old town. From there, head to Patkuli Viewing Platform for another great perspective on the city then down the stairs to the tiny medieval streets and wander until you arrive at the Raekoja Plats (town hall) Square, where Tallinn’s Christmas market is. After Scandinavia’s minimalist approach to Christmas decor, I appreciated Tallinn’s flare for all things festive, with thick garlands encircling many doors and windows. Most buildings were beautifully decorated in seasonal trimmings, and came to a celebratory point at the Christmas Market. Tallinn’s market is arranged like a wheel, with a central tree, and spokes of Christmas cabins selling food and local crafts. Stop by the tavern in the lower level of the neighboring town hall for a hot drink or elk stew, before heading over to Gingerbread Mania.
Every year, Tallinn hosts a gingerbread contest called Gingerbread Mania, an art exhibition with only one rule: everything must be made from gingerbread. The best gingerbread creations are displayed at the Design and Architecture Gallery in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Visitors can view and vote on their favorite entries, culminating in a town-wide ceremony and celebration with an award for the best gingerbread work of art. The lion head below was my favorite, and I’d love to bring this tradition back to my hometown in the states as well!
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com