There were several cruise ships keeping us company in the Tallinn Harbour this morning, so we hit the ground running. By the time everyone else had themselves organized, we were already puzzling over our maps and oohing and aahing in the medieval heart of town.

Medieval Katarina Kaik, selling goods to locals and tourists since the Middle Ages.

This UNESCO world heritage site has captured tourist hearts ever since Estonia sang itself to independence in 1989. “What’s that?” you say. A singing revolution?

Tallinn, crossroads of east and west.

Yes, sandwiched between Russia under Stalin and Germany under Hitler, poor little Estonia was not allowed to wave a flag or sing their traditional folk songs. This made them very sad.

Tallinn has a large number of resident Russians, who influence the culture quite a bit.

Bur every five years there was a song festival. And in 1988, as the USSR was starting to fall apart, everyone at the festival spontaneously started singing the forbidden songs. And they wouldn’t stop.

View of lower town from upper town , with photo-bomber.

The following summer, the people ramped things up a notch by singing their songs while holding hands over 360 miles from Tallinn to Vilnius, Lithuania. 300,000 people – one third of the entire population of Estonia.

Lots of fun in town.

At this point, the Russians in effect said,

“Okay, you guys, we can’t STAND all that singing any more. Just do whatever the heck you want!” And Estonia became independent.

Craft stalls along the old town walls.

Honestly, that’s the bare bones of what happened. For the full details, there’s a moving documentary at

I bought a knitted hat from a Siberian woman at the craft stalls lining the old city walls on Muurivahe Street. We bonded over our mutual understanding of what winter cold really means, and parted as friends, even though I didn’t believe for a millisecond that she knitted that hat herself as she claimed.

One of the many narrow streets in the lower town.

Tiny little Katariina Kaik, an ancient alleyway, also had workshops and craft stores, and cobblestones, the kind my father used to call “kinderkoppies” – children’s heads. Let’s just say if you go, wear good shoes, and accept your free foot massage!

Receiving the free foot massage.