One of Tallinn’s big attractions is the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor, an interactive museum right on the waterfront. Our ticket got us into the Seaplane Harbor and a related museum downtown. The smaller Maritime Museum was first, in a city wall tower named, of all things, Fat Margaret.
Much of the Maritime’s permanent exhibit is rather dry, in part because much isn’t in English and we speak approximately no Estonian (we’ve gotten progressively worse about language learning, though we are trying to correct that for the next five+ months in the Americas). Still, I enjoyed the old (errory) maps and navigation equipment. Thankfully, we were rescued by the temporary exhibit on Viking life with English-language notes. Interestingly, there were dozens of coins from Arabic countries and jewelry that looked like it might have come from H&M (some styles don’t change). The focus on coins emphasized that Vikings were mainly traders rather than plunders… unless perhaps they plundered an ancient currency exchange. Many weapons, discovered in graves, were bent or intentionally wrecked as a sacrifice or offering and to prevent grave robbers from using them. My favorite part of the museum was a tower-top cafe serving cheap wine with a pretty view of the port and the Old Town’s church towers.
It takes a short walk to get to the Seaplane Harbor from Old Town, and convenient yellow and black targets show the way. Lennusadam is definitely the more vibrant – and newer – museum. The immense three-domed building was originally meant as a construction hangar for seaplanes. Now it is full of interactive exhibits like mini boats to pilot, seaplanes to fly, navy outfits to dress up in.
There are also ice boats, World War II guns, a replica seaplane, and an entire submarine. The Lembit sub was launched in 1936 and is now restored to a near-original interior; it was my favorite part. It only took me a couple of minutes after climbing through the hatch to become nearly seasick, even on solid ground.
Entry into the Lembit is via a narrow porthole on the top of the ship, trying not to hit my head while going down a stepladder. The interior doors are tiny, with high thresholds in case of flooding. The first room was the missile tube room, which doubled as a bedroom for sailors (maybe preferable to sleeping in the engine room?). Piping, valves, controls are everywhere, and are attached at random to my untrained eye. The walls curve with the shape of the vessel and below our feet were storage lockers. It was hard to decide what was up because there were no surfaces that followed conventional 90 degree angles. I am pretty short and I was almost too tall to move comfortably. Another inch or so and I would have gotten a few head bumps. It was dizzying. I imagine it must be what being on the International Space Station feels like, though without such a good view. I definitely confirmed that I didn’t miss my calling to work on a sub.
Outside, larger boats are also open to the public. Smaller border patrol boats are dry-docked, but two vessels are afloat. The Suur Tõll icebreaker, built in 1914, is much more comfortable than the Lembit sub. Quarters were cramped, but at least no one had to sleep in the engine room. Though they did have to shovel tons of coal each day to keep six boilers going… so maybe not a fair trade. The best part of its history was a takeover by a group of Finns during World War I. To steal the ship, they pretended to be a construction crew and simply walked on board, past Russian guards. After the Suur Toll was out at sea, they broke into the weapons store and quietly took over.
And now to completely change the subject:
Estonia has much happier food than I expected. We knew we’d been in for a lot of fish. We have salmon and trout a lot, though I don’t have any photos because by the time I think to take one the meal is over. Herring is another mainstay, and shows up in many places. I’d had kasukas years ago when a coworker brought some into work, but the local version comes with surprise herring (in addition to beets, potatoes, pickles, onions, sour cream, and hardboiled eggs). It sounds like it shouldn’t be good, but I really like it; to me it tastes like candy, and the vibrant color certainly helps that illusion. Estonian grape wine doesn’t really exist, but local berry wines hold their own. Lingonberry wine is better in a reduction sauce than in a wine glass, but blackcurrant wine is as sweet and desserty as any riesling.