Estonia travel guide
This Soviet cargo flight was 'rescued' during the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Estonia which was completed in 1994. It's possible to get inside the flight and admire the 'simplicity' of the An-12 (e.g. there is no radar), if you can get a hold of the owner.
Estonia is full of small quirky sights and this medieval monastery is just one of them. It was original built in the 14th century by dispossessed monks from Latvia. It was later rebuilt into a fortress, a state it survived despite numerous overtakes, until a clock was installed in the tower in the 18th century and lightning struck, which left the monastery partly burned down. Today, the monastery is under restoration, but is still a full access ruin. Wobbly wooden staircases lead up to the tower and you can even have a look at the dungeon - but be careful, there are lots of pitfalls.
During the Soviet occupation, Paldiski was a top secret Soviet naval base for submarines. Part of the facilities was a full scale nuclear submarine simulator to practice upcoming deployment. Apparently, they didn't want the reactor too close to the base, so they made a secret underground nuclear reactor further out. Today, the reactor has been sealed off with a concrete sarcophagus and on top stands a dummy building of unknown origin. The area is still fenced off and guarded, but you are allowed to peek through the gate from a distance. Note the 'hammer and sickle' art piece south of the building.
Throughout Estonia it's still possible to see some of the 'fine' architecture from the Soviet times. Entire towns like Paldiski were off limits for the public since they functioned as Soviet naval base, or similar. Residence with special permission were housed in those dreadful concrete barracks which later have become so iconic for the Soviet times. It feels like time-travelling to wander through these grim ghettos still in use today. There is just something fascinating about them.
Out in the woods in the outskirt of the bleak settlement of Ämari stands a strange leftover from when Ämari was home to a Soviet air base, a small graveyard for fallen Soviet pilots. Their graves are marked with a tip of a flight wing and decorated with stars and pictures. It's a wonder why these leftovers from the Soviet occupation haven't been kicked over, but that just adds to the bizarreness of this unusual cemetery.
When people are talking about enchanting Tallinn, they are talking about Old Town. It's a neat, UNESCO-listed maze of old houses, hidden courtyards and spire-topped churches dating back to the 14th century. Large parts of the huge medieval town wall still stand with imposing gates and tall towers (one even has cannonballs embedded in the wall). The maze is made up of narrow, cobbled lanes - it can hardly become more photogenic than this. Even the occasional Russian tour group seems to fit in well. That said, there are more amber/knitting/souvenir shops than you can poke a stick at (along with a fair share of strip bars), but Old Tallinn has managed admirably to keep its charm without being tarted up or tacky.
A lively university town, Estonia's second city punches above its weight. It is the oldest city, dating back to 1032, and if you ask the inhabitants they will tell you that Tartu is Estonia's spiritual capital. This claim is supported by Tartu being the home of Estonian national revival: the country's flag, the first Estonian-language newspaper, and one of Northern Europe's oldest universities - still the only classic university in Estonia - all saw the light of day in Tartu. Visitors not interested in history can take comfort in plenty of other reasons to linger. The romantic old town is full of both 18th-century buildings and a nightlife propelled out of proportion by the 20 000 students. Tartu also sports one of the largest museums-to-inhabitants ratios in Europe including museums on Estonian sports, beers, toys, the KGB, 1830 interior decoration, and of course the university's history as well as the Estonian National Museum. At the university, you can also visit the old students' lock-up, a small cell where ill-behaving students would spend up to three weeks.
The northern coast of Estonia is gorgeous - if ignoring the bleak Soviet leftovers. Farmlands give way to forests, all fringed by a dramatic coastline. The most famous cliff on the northwest stretch is probably Türisalu Cliff, which was previously semi-known as 'Suicide Cliff' since those with a death wish drove straight off the edge. Today, a low fence around the parking lot prevents this, but you are still welcome to walk right up to the unfenced edge and peek over.
One of the favourite weekend destinations in summertime for Talllinners is the gorgeous, crescent shaped beach at Vaana-Joesuu. Expect crowds of sun seeking bodies and families on picnic. However in winter, it's of course a totally different story...
True, Keila Waterfall might seem small. But in the spring time, with all the melting water, it really shows off. 60-70 metres wide with a drop of a modest 6 metres, but in a flat country like Estonia that is impressive.