Did you know that JR Ewing helped the Wall come down? Well, ish.
Last spring, a friend and I took a ship across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn, Estonia, and I fell in love with it a little bit. All of it. Ships, I love ships. I’d have been a brilliant pirate. Estonia – if I’m honest, I’d only just heard of it beforehand, but one weekend in, I’m a fan.
Tallinn is a gorgeous wee city. There’s a huge mediaeval old town, and surrounding areas that are a fascinating blend of run-down Soviet and spanking new developments. The Estonians are fab, friendly, funny and I suspect feisty, and the cuisine excellent and pretty literally cheap as chips (the way to my heart is most definitely through my stomach).
On our second day, it hit me just how little I knew of this curious little country, so I dragged my friend from the spa to take a walking tour of the old town. Despite the fact that we both lost feeling in most of our extremities (Estonia in March: Not Warm), it was brilliant. The guide was fantastic, lively and funny, he wove anecdotes and quirky facts through the history of the city (and by extension, the country).
Did you know that Estonia was independent for a single day in 1918? For centuries, Estonia wasn’t an independent country, but a region ruled variously by Russia, Sweden and Germany. It was occupied by Germany during WWI, until February 1918 when the tide turned against the Germans and they retreated. Estonia declared independence – and the next day the Bolsheviks marched in. (This kicked off a war of independence, which they eventually won – for around twenty years, before becoming part of the Soviet Union after WWII).
In 1971, the Finns built a new TV mast in Helsinki, and they just so happened to build it high enough that the signal reached the northern coast of the Baltic States – which were then part of the Soviet Union. The Estonians quickly sussed that this meant they could tune in to Finnish TV and so get news of the Free World – specifically, Dallas.
According to our guide, Dallas became an absolute craze in the country. The traffic jams coming into Tallinn on a Saturday night, filled with people from all over the country who had a friend or relation in the city with a TV, were legendary. He reckoned that this peek at the upside of capitalism fuelled the unrest in the eighties that ultimately brought the Wall down.
Good thing it wasn’t all a dream 😂