On one glorious Sunday morning at the end of July, I walked a few blocks from my hotel in Old Town Tallinn, in Estonia’s capital city, then turned left on a street full of flower vendors and people glad to be outdoors on such a fine day. Church bells peeled joyously, and I scampered along the street on my way to City Bike, where I planed to meet up with a student guide named Robin Gielen.
Robin was assigned to lead a two-hour long bicycle tour that I thought would better acquaint me the Medieval section of the city. Fat chance! I didn’t realize that riding a bicycle over the cobblestone streets of Old Town was next to impossible, especially with swarms of people out enjoying their own day in the sun.
Off we went outside the city walls to Catherine’s Valley, named for the wife of Tsar Peter the Great, who maintained a summer palace in Tallinn. As we rode along a tree-lined street, Robin pointed out the gorgeous houses built for the court hangers-on and high society of the tsarist era.
Before long we entered Kadriorg Park, a beautiful garden and forested area with a romantic Swan pond and fountains, commissioned by Peter the Great along with a massive baroque Palace, finished in 1725, that today serves as a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia. (Peter is said to have laid the cornerstone).
Ironically, while the palace was being built, Peter stayed nearby in a small and humble cottage which today serves as a museum that holds some of his personal belongings.
"You’ll find a lot of maritime symbols in the park because Peter loved the sea," Robin said as we biked our way past the Kumu Art Museum.