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Pole to Pole

Day 25: Tallinn to Leningrad

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleI eat a breakfast of good fresh bread, honey and coffee to the strains of Marianne Faithfull's 'This Little Bird', then walk out into the city. The newspapers are full of the news that in Moscow yesterday President Bush demanded a measure of independence for the Baltic states as the price of 'most favoured nation' trading status for the USSR.

On the way up to the Toompea Castle huge blocks of rock and concrete lie across the road, moved there by the civic authority in response to the recent military repression in Lithuania. The present feels tense here and yet the past, in the shape of an extensive and beautifully preserved Old Town, seems serene and comforting. Not a modern or unharmonious building intrudes on long cobbled streets lined with merchants' houses and guild halls. At the centre is Raekoja Square, a wide and handsome area bounded on one side by the imposing and elegant fourteenth-century Town Hall. A weather vane called Vana Toomas (Old Tom) has topped the building since 1530.

The unpretentious beauty of the old town bears out Colin Thubron's observation that there's nowhere like a modern socialist state for preserving the past it replaced so vociferously.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 25
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Tallinn
  • Book page no: 53

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