Tallin was first documented in the 12th century by an Arab cartographer, became a Hanseatic city-state, fell under Swedish rule, then Russian, before Estonia gained independence in 1918. Just before World War II, it was occupied by the Soviets, then the Nazis, to be forced into the USSR. Against all odds, in 1991, Estonia regained independence from the Soviets, together with the other two Baltic states — Latvia and Lithuania. So on one fine cold day, we found ourselves wandering around Tallinn’s Old Town — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — exploring and admiring the fascinating structures dating from 13th century. 09 April 2012.
Saint Petersburg, the city founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 in a mosquito-infested swamp, was the capital of the huge Russian Empire (1721-1917), only to be moved to Moscow by the Bolsheviks in 1918 (they also renamed the city ‘Leningrad’). It flourished to become one of Europe’s most elegant cities and the cultural centre for Russia. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg is now a Unesco World Heritage Site, and on a cold April weekend, we explored the town by foot. 07-08 April 2012.