The One with Tallinn, Estonia

Monday, August 31, 2015

We left St. Petersburg early evening on Friday July 31st and as soon as the on-board shops opened up, I high-tailed it to the photo studio to buy their last "nice" camera. It'll do, for now. Anything is better than my camera phone! Here I was just playing with the settings and figuring it all out. Every night after we put the kids to sleep Chris and I would put on some headphones and watch a movie. This night it was The Blindside.
On Saturday morning, August 1st 2015, we docked in Tallinn, Estonia.
Tallinn turned out to be one of my favorite places! I wasn't expecting much and I was so pleasantly surprised with how charming it is - so much to see and do! Mind you, I was sick with strep throat and all I wanted to do was be in bed asleep, but I knew I'd probably never have a chance to see Tallinn again so I took some pain pills and on we went!
It was only about a 5-10 min walk to the old town from the cruise port. We walked into the town through the gate by the Fat Margaret Tower. This tower guarded the entry gate of town during the medieval ages. 
Said gate. 
Tallinn once consisted of two feuding medieval towns separated by a wall. The upper town on the hill was the seat of Estonia's government and the lower town was an autonomous Hanseatic trading center filled with German, Danish, and Swedish merchants who hired Estonians to do their menial labor. Many of the old town's buildings are truly old, dating from the boom times of the 15th and 16th centuries. Decrepit before the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, the old town has been slowly revitalized and today is one of the jewels of the Baltic states. 

Immediately we were charmed by this town. Lovely architecture and darling streets. This was Pikk Street, the medieval merchant's main drag leading from the harbor up into town. 
Cute door 1.
Cute door 2.
Cute door 3.

Cute door 4.

Cute door 5.

Cute door 6 (you get the point - there were a LOT of cute doors!) and this one is a bit of honky tonk Texas all the way in Tallinn Estonia, hardy har!

The side of St. Olav's Church, notable for what was once the tallest spire in the land. During darker times the KGB used the tower here to block Finnish TV signals and a nearby building was used at its local headquarters. 
Beautiful Tallinn with the City Hall on the right.

The Church of the Holy Ghost sports an outdoor clock from 1633. 
The church retains its 14th-century design with beautiful dark wood. Very unique interior from what I'm used to seeing! Love it!
Leaving the church we made our way to the nearby Town Hall Square. This has been a marketplace through the centuries with a collection of fine old buildings. This is definitely the focal point of the Old Town. The 15th century Town Hall dominates the square. 
We bought our magnet here and browsed a bit at the other booths.
Which way is which?
On the right is St. Nicholas Church -  a 13th century Gothic church-turned-art museum that served the German merchants and knights who lived in this neighborhood 500 years ago.

Our next stop was up in the upper town so we made our way up Lühike Jalg ("Short Leg Lane"). By this point both kids were actually seated in the stroller. Since it is so hard to get the both seated at the same time, we weren't going to waste it so Chris dug in and pushed them both up the super steep, bumpy road. He's a keeper :) When we got to the top a local guide told us there was an easier way up. Oh wells. It made for a good memory!

We popped out into the upper town.
Just past the gate into the upper town is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built here in 1900, smack in Tallinn's political power center and over the supposed grave of a legendary Estonian hero, Kalevipoeg. While it's a beautiful building, its placement was a crass attempt to flex Russian cultural muscle during a period Estonian national revival and there were plans to remove it after Estonia became independent in the 1920s. The church was not removed and it has been exquisitely renovated inside and out.

The Evans Family in Tallinn, Estonia on Saturday August 1st 2015. 
Just across the square from the church is the Toompea Castle with the pink palace being an 18th century Russian addition onto the original medieval structure. Today this is Estonia's parliament building.
We headed behind the church and parliament and got a great view of the imposing city wall. It once had 46 towers.
On the side of Toompea castle is the so-called "Danish King's Garden." Tallinn is famous among Danes as the birthplace of their flag. According to legend, the Danes were losing a battle here when suddenly a white cross fell from heaven and landed in a pool blood. This inspired the Danes and they went on to win the battle. To this day, their flag is a white cross on a red background.

Visible at the back of the castle is the Tall Herman Tower, the tallest tower of the castle wall. It is a powerful symbol here. For 50 years, while Estonian flags were hidden in cellars, the Soviet flag flew from Tall Herman. As the USSR was unraveling, Estonians proudly and defiantly replaced the red Soviet flag with their own black, white, and blue flag. It still flies there today.

German embassy in Tallinn. Always fun to see pieces of home when we're traveling. 
For the grandmas :)

The Dome Church is one of the few churches still used for worship here. A recent poll showed Estonians to be the least religious country in the European Union. Regardless, the Dome Church is a perfect example of simple Northern European Gothic. It was built in the 13th century during Danish rule and renovated in 1684 after a fire. 
Cool building. One of MANY we saw in Tallinn! 
Finally we found my favorite thing in the whole wide world: views! We bellied up to the Patkuli Viewpoint. What a gorgeous town!
Fox and Jane being silly with a huge stuffed animal. 
I don't know what it is, but I like it!
We stopped at a nearby cart to try some local Estonian candy. The kids approved!
The Finnish Embassy. 
The back of the Embassy as we descended down Pikk Jalg ("Long Leg Lane") back to the lower town. 
On the wall lining Pikk Jalg a local artist was displaying his work and another artist was playing music.
Back in the lower town facing the Town Hall. It's like a dream! Someone pinch me!
Portions of the town wall are still climbable so we headed towards one section in particular.
I follow Beshka (a fellow scrapbooker living in Germany) on instagram and she recently went to Tallinn and took a photo that I just HAD to find myself! We didn't find "the" view on our Rick Steves walk, so we looked at her photo and tried to see what landmarks we could identify and the angle. We knew it was taken from a rampart wall, so Chris lead the way and eventually we found it! I was SOOOO happy! Totally made my day. I mean, this view! Photos will never do it justice.

The kids inside the tower we climbed enjoying the view as much as we did. 
The walkway along the wall. 
Bits and pieces of the old wall. 
For lunch we stopped at a McDonald's. How many countries have we eaten McDonalds in?

Well, we've now been to 29 countries, so I'd say about 27. Before you judge know this: the kids like it, it's generally cheap, fast, easy, and I think it tastes divine, so, done, and done. Plus it's fun to say we've eaten at McDonalds in dozens of countries, m'kay! I'm preachin' only because I was once told by someone in a blog comment that they were "disappointed in me" for not trying the local cuisine. Yo, you try traveling with these two young hooligans! Plus, eating out sometimes takes HOURS in Europe, they're never in a rush, and we are, to SEE SEE SEE! We had limited time in each country and food was not our top priority, so McDonalds it is and McDonalds it will be! Okay, I'll step off my box now.

By this point it was time to head back to the boat so we didn't get left behind. We found a huge tooth sculpture so Chris and Jane posed by it. 
As we were walking along the pier we saw this crane hoisting people waaaaay up. Dinner high in the sky? Heeeeeeeck no thank you very much! Would you?
One last view of my favorite spot in Tallinn.

Next stop: Riga, Latvia!

The One with Bookbinding at Scrappies Recap!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yesterday I taught a bookbinding workshop at Scrappies near Munich! There were 13 participants and all 13 ladies made incredibly beautiful books! I'd say it was a success! :)

I left the house around 7:30am to get there by 9:30am. The clouds were beautiful.
First thing we did was paint the covers so they could dry while we folded paper. 
And then we folded the papers into groups, or, signatures. We used the Wanderlust collection by Heidi Swapp paired with printer paper.
Then we pierced holes through the signatures for sewing.

Andrea's already a pro bookbinder!
The hardest part by far is the very first part of sewing: attaching the cover and first signature together. The girls were so patient as I went around the room and helped a few people out at a time getting it just right.

Once you get the hang of the sewing, it's easy breezy! We even added charms, jewels, and pearls like I love to do!
Class is in full swing!

We took a break at 1pm to enjoy lunch at the Scrappies shop (the class was across the street in a hotel conference room). The huge pretzel sandwiches were a hoot! And delicious. Germany does soft pretzels right.
Local scrapbook stores will always have my heart. That's where I got my start in scrapbooking afterall!
I spy a bookbinding class advertisement :)
Cutest displays everywhere!

If you're ever in the Munich area, I HIGHLY recommend a visit to Scrappies! The address is: Heidestraße 1 85386 Eching.

Then it was back to work! I tried to take a photo of everyone individually with her book, but I missed a few! So proud!

Be still my heart. I don't know if I've ever seen anything so lovely!
So fun to line all the different colored books up and see them together!
I love how even though every kit was the same, each book is different and is a reflection of the maker's style with color choices and selection of charms.
The class started at 10am and we were all finished by 4pm, including an hour and a half break for lunch.
Group photo!
Looking forward to going back to Scrappies on October 17th for a second bookbinding class!
Paige Taylor Evans © // Quinn Creatives DESIGN