Story of the day: Baltic culture in Tallinn


The forecast for more freezing weather had me thinking about a sub-zero trip to Tallinn in 2011.

I was there to preview events from the city’s spotlight moment as the European Capital of Culture.

It was dark, snowy and eerily quiet but I still rather liked Tallinn. I may well be tempted to do a similar trip in 2014 when Riga takes up the same mantle.

But, for now, here’s an extract from Estonia:

The Sokos Hotel Viru has been a Tallinn landmark since the early Seventies, but the behemoth hotel housed a dark secret during the Soviet years.

The city’s KGB surveillance centre was located in a secret set of rooms on the 23rd floor from 1972 to independence in August 1991.

During the hour-long peek behind the Iron Curtain, tour guide Yana Sampetova lifts the veil on two hidden rooms stuffed with old documents and Cold War-era spy equipment.

In its day, the radio-relay room was the key intelligence link between Helsinki and Moscow.

“The stories seem unreal today yet it was only some 30 years ago,” says the elfin Yana. “Everyone wanted to work at the Viru.”

Read the full story, Tallinn – European City of Culture.

Do you have ideas for angles on Estonia?

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