Let me state right up front, this is a friendly quiz - no shame if you can't answer. Do you know where Estonia is? What’s the capitol? What is the country known for? What popular communications app was founded there? If you don't know, you’re not alone - before this trip I couldn’t answer three out of the four!
It was a chilly start to today's tour, which took us to several places in and around Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia, the third country we have visited so far on our cruise. It’s a small country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, total population 1.3 million. It has been under German, Danish, Swedish and Russian rule until restoring its independence in 1991.
Our first stop was a step way-back in time, to Rakvere Castle, an hour and half drive through farms and forests, flat lands and hills.
The history of the castle is vast - the earliest known fortifications on the site date back to the 5th century - the first written records were from 1226 when the castle went under the Danish Crown. Over the centuries, and various battles, the castle was under Livonian, Russian, German, Swedish and Polish control until it was destroyed during the Polish-Swedish war in 1605.
Today, what's left of Rakvere Castle is open to the public as a museum. Costumed soldiers, craftsmen, and other towns folk show what life was like during the medieval period.
On the darker side, they even have a historical torture room and a haunted-house-like ‘death room’ and ‘walk through hell!’
After that scary walk, we were served a medieval lunch of porridge, pork stew, fish cakes and vodka!
The last part of our day took us back to the capitol city to explore Old Tallin, a step back in time to the Middle Ages. Cobblestone streets surrounded centuries-old building, quaint shops and beautiful churches.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the ship, where we had a lovely dinner and took part in (and won) a 70’s music trivia game!
About the rest of those questions at the top of this entry -- Estonia is pretty big in IT. It was the first country to adopt on-line voting…back in 2005! A group of Estonians were fundamental in the invention of Skype, and 44 per cent of its employees are based in Tallinn and Tartu.
**Bonus** Public transport is entirely free for residents of the Estonia’s capital, Tallinn (to help reduce traffic congestion, of course). More fun tomorrow!