Posts Tagged With: Estonia

Blessed by Holy Water in Tallinn

The church bells are deafening, ringing out across the city, announcing, “It is time.”  Time for what, I don’t know.

I’m standing directly in front of onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia, trying to decide if I want to join the crowd in pushing my way up the steps and into the door.

It’s good I was hesitating.

Priests appear, green robes flapping in the wind, arms straining to hold the crosses erect.  Five, six, seven priests, coming down the steps, in pace with the knell.  Behind them are perhaps a hundred women, heads covered in scarves, purses clutched in hands in front of them, backs bent with age, making it easier to watch their feet so as not to trip down the steps.  The crowd is energized, cameras whipping up, shutters whirring, people running across the street to get closer, to get The Shot.  There is a moment of awe as the procession rounds the corner and is gone – did we really just see that?  What an amazing opportunity!

I’m to the side of the church now, watching the other side, wondering where they are walking to, if they are just going around the church and then back in.  Should I wait, camera ready?  But the bells have stopped, the crowd is pushing its way back into the church, a massive tidal wave gaining in volume and height.  I sigh, brace myself, and join the flood.

It takes five minutes to climb the twenty steps, push through the double doors, the lobby, and the second set of double doors into the nave.  It is a disappointment – thirty feet wide by ten feet deep, nothing incredibly exciting.  I wonder if the church can even hold the number of people I passed who were leaving as I was coming in.  I head back out, telling my friends I’ll be across the street.

I fight the crowd back out of the church, cross the street, and find the front of the parlaiment fairly empty.  Ah, space.

Klong-Klong-Klong.  I whip around as the bells ring out again.  To the left of the church, crosses and fluttering robes appear.

I am now the one racing across the street, getting The Shot.  The church officials pass, the ladies with covered heads and clutched purses.  The processional stops in front of the church, Priests on the steps, women on the street.  Water flies, and the crowd is blessed.  Snap-snap-snap – I don’t bother looking at the screen, checking the histogram, I just shoot, trying to get the water flying, trying to capture the experience.  Photos never do it justice.

The street we are on is a through street.  A woman in a Mercedes is aggravated, inching her way up, waving people out of the way, honking her horn.  The lookey-loos move aside, but is she aware that the biggest part of the crowd is elderly, local women, currently still in the middle of some sort of religious ceremony?  She honks again.  Perhaps she doesn’t care.

I find my friends.  “We’ve been blessed!”  They were hit with holy water.  No head scarves or clutched purses or bent backs, but no less awed by the experience.

(Did you see my first blog post on my trip to Tallinn?)

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Trip to Tallinn with the Ladies

My friend Pam had a friend come for a visit, so we decided to do a Girl’s Trip to Tallinn, Estonia.  It’s just a two hour ferry ride from Helsinki – of course, it takes three hours to drive to Helsinki from here!  Tuesday at noon four of us piled into the car, drove to Helsinki, and picked up Kim at the airport.  Five women and their luggage in one car – we were quite impressed with ourselves (and our car!).

Before driving out to the Satama (dock), we made a brief stop at Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki.  This church is built into the rocks and has a beautiful copper ceiling.

We arrived in Tallinn about 9:30pm, took a 5 minute taxi ride to our hotel in Old Town, then walked up to the town square to have a drink.  The evening was lovely, and I was already in love with the town.


We started the day by walking around Old Town, going into a couple of churches and walking along parts of the city walls, then headed to the Town Square for lunch.  We went to Maharajah for lunch, an Indian restaurant on the square, and the food was wonderful.  We were also thoroughly entertained with the Bollywood videos playing on TV.

After lunch we headed over to Hotel Viru for a tour of the KGB museum.  We started in the Hotel Lobby, headed up the elevator to the 22nd floor in groups, then walked up the stairs to the 23rd floor. “Is everyone here?” the tour guide asked. “It’s not a random question – a few years ago, a couple of you could have disappeared already.”

We learned about the Hotel, that it was built as an all-encompassing hotel, with everything a traveler could want – there was no need to leave the hotel.  Which was how the KGB wanted it – no foreigners roaming around town.  Our guide told stories about bugged rooms (One guy went to the bathroom and said, “They don’t even have toilet paper in here!” and five minutes later someone came along with some TP), Floor Monitors (old women responsible for keeping track of when people entered and exited their rooms), and life in Tallinn under Soviet rule.  It was a great tour, and the 23rd floor offers great views of town.

While wandering around town, I noticed some old women setting up tables with flowers and berries.  I approached one woman and asked her what kind of berries they were.  “Kaksi,” she said, and held up two fingers.  Well, 2€ is a small price to pay for an experience, so I gave her the money and took the berries back to the hotel, where we enjoyed them with our cocktails.  We asked our waitress if she could tell us what they were, but she didn’t know the word in English.  We assumed they were a wild strawberry, and she essentially confirmed that.


Thursday morning we grabbed a taxi and went out to Kadriorg Palace (currently serving as an art museum) which, unfortunately, is currently closed for renovations.  We were able to tour the grounds, though, and walked out to the sea, where I was able to put my feet in the sand.

We headed over to Kiek in de Kok (which we were calling “kick in the cock,” but it actually translates to “Peep in the Kitchen”) and did a tour of the Bastion Tunnels that run beneath the town.  The tunnels have been hiding spots for various people through history, including punk rockers and homeless people, as well as serving as a bomb shelter.

Later we made a stop at the Photo Museum, where an elderly woman watched our every move (we figured she was one of the old hall monitors from the Viru Hotel!).  Later still we wandered down St Catherines Passage, and stumbled into an Old Dominican Monastery Claustrum.


We boarded the ferry Friday morning and were thoroughly entertained by an emergency helicopter evacuation practice.

In Helsinki, we stopped for a quick look at Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral before heading out of town.

We all enjoyed our time in Tallinn, and I would love to go back.  It was a beautiful city, and there’s a ton to do.  I have a couple of stories to tell about the trip…I hope to get them up later this week!

Categories: Finland, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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