My day in Tallinn was spent mostly aimlessly wandering the narrow streets of the old town and trying to stay slightly warm. As the sun set and the afternoon hours whiled away I received a note via Twitter giving me a suggestion for something to see in town:
— Denis Mishin (@denismishin) January 16, 2014
I’m quite happy that happened; Tallinn’s Lennusadam museum is awesome.
The museum sits about a 20 minute walk from the old town, up towards the coast and has a unique architectural history. Originally built under the auspices of Peter the Great in 1916-1917, the hangars were the first buildings in the world to have reinforced concrete domes, leaving a huge, uninterrupted floor space with no columns supporting it. Nearly 100 years old now it has been rebuilt and filled with numerous bits of naval and aviation history from Estonia’s history.
The centerpiece of the display is the 1930s era submarine Lembit. The sub survived the wars and was still operating until 2011 when, after 75 years in service, it was finally retired and moved in to the museum as the centerpiece of the exhibits. It is open to visitors who can explore both the inside and outside. Whether walking along the top decks or poking around in the torpedo room and engine spaces, it is a rather impressive ship. And when you realize that 32 people used to live on it, in the cramped spaces, it is all that much more impressive.
There is more to the museum beyond the Lembit. They have bits of the shell of what is believed to be a 1550s-era ship found in Estonian waters. There are more modern bits as well, many of which are smaller vessels designed to “sail” on the ice-covered lakes and rivers which dominate the region in the winter.
The museum has a number of hands-on bits as well. Some are gun batteries where visitors can see what it was like to defend the shoreline from attackers. And then there is the area where you can play dress-up. They have a bunch of old uniforms and a back drop which shows various vintage images. Don a uniform, stand in front of the camera and – Presto! – vintage selfies. Yeah, I did that.
If you make it to Tallinn I’d put the Lennusadam towards the top of the “must-do” list. And I understand that when it is above freezing the promenade along the waterfront has even more to see. I missed that as part of my visit given that it was very cold and very dark by the time I got there.
More stories available from the Baltic Beers trip, too.
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