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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tallinn, Estonia -- Reflections on the Old and New

The summer of 1986 found me in Tallinn, Estonia, which was part of the U.S.S.R. at that particular time.  I wrote about my encounters with the KGB and smuggling Bibles and other items into the former Iron Curtain city several years ago and being followed by the local police.   You know, just normal everyday things!  I'd go back and read this former article if you haven't already.  It has so much to do with this current, particular post.

A few days back, I opened the New York Times travel article to discover that it was calling Tallinn "A European capital of culture....a sense of optimism in the air.....it's citizens are among the continent's most cheerful people."  Holy smokes.  That's just something else.  Who would have ever thought.  The article continues on to describe a scant 36 hour whirlwind tour through Tallinn.  Eating, touring, visiting, browsing, fashion and, of course, the past.  The dark past riddled with watch towers, KGB, underground activities and such.  Those are the days I remember.  These new days that the New York Times is describing I'm not familiar with.

I decided to check out the hotel that we stayed in while we were there.  (Again, read the above article first...)  It was the only hotel where tourists could stay at the time.  Operated by Intourist, the government agency who oversaw every single person coming into the USSR for tourism purposes.  We were only permitted to be in certain places, at certain times, with our assigned tour guide.  What I didn't know until today, was that the Viru Hotel actually housed the areas KGB listening post.  They used a secured area on the 23rd floor of this hotel for their purposes.  I can't remember which floor my room was on.  But I remember the warnings about telephones being bugged, two-way mirrors, housekeeping staff who weren't really "housekeeping staff."  Check out this article.  I was so happy to find it.  I also discovered that one of the churches we sang in housed a KGB listening tower in its spire.  Fascinating! 

I'd love to make a trip back there someday.  To reflect and remember.  And to enjoy the newfound fortune of fashion and food as well.   Oh, and I could even go and stay at the newly refurbished Hotel Viru.  I'm assuming that they have removed the listening devices from the lamps and vases.

1 comment:

Blair said...

Fascinating! It sounds like we need to add yet another destination on our long list of places to visit!

How far some places have come and yet here in our own country, it feels like many want to take us back to where we have been. Interesting!