Hidden Gems of Estonia, Part One: a Brilliant Insight into Another World
Welcome to Part One of our brand new Hidden Gems Series, compiled to help you make the most of your Baltic Run adventures. Over the course of it, we’ll be endeavoring to introduce you to those hard-to-find treasures of the Baltic countries that everyone tries, but only a few manage to find. We’ll kick off with the clunky, chunky, and chuckle-inducing piece of blast from the past that the KGB museum in Tallinn is. Enjoy.
Photo by Play Among Friends Paf
Hotel Viru+ KGB Museum, Tallinn
After the Soviets hastily purpose-built this luxurious, but imposing edifice in Tallinn in 1972, Estonians joked that the building was made of microconcrete ( concrete plus microphones). As you’d imagine, few people were ever allowed on, or near, the hotel’s top floor at the time, which the Soviet managers insisted contained only technical rooms. However, inevitably, the truth soon transpired, when the KGB finally left their skid marks all over Estonia’s roads in the early 1990s: Estonians discovered that those – ahem – “technical rooms” in fact housed (gasp) sophisticated, vintage James Bond-style listening apparatuses.
A museum with a sense of humor is born
It didn’t take locals long to spot the comic potential of the situation: true subversives that they are, the place’s new owners kept the rooms exactly as the KGB left them. There’s nothing here, proclaim the signs on their doors, in both English and Estonian, an echo of the token fob-off given when anyone asked what was behind the door. The “nothing”, it soon emerged, stood for one or two tidbits beyond espionage equipment, like prostitution, and – perhaps not completely unrelatedly – top quality free range chicken. Oh yes.
Why it’s a must-see
This museum abundantly demonstrates how awesomely the KGB tried to
protect completely oppress Soviet Estonia. For an exciting history lesson join one of the groups leaving from the ground floor lobby between 10 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. to the hotel’s top floor where a guide will tell you all the depraved details of what the KGB was doing here. The tours are either in English, Finnish, Russian or Estonian so call the reception to reserve a place on the right one. Tours last a long hour, and past visitors doubly recommend it because of the excellent (witty, informative) guides. Tickets cost €9.
What past visitors have said
The museum has garnered excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, near-unanimously highlighting that the “Museum tour is far less grim and frightening than other KGB museums and prisons we visited, and gives a fascinating glimpse into life under Soviet Occupation.”
Excited? Visit the museum’s home page for more and to book a tour. It’ll be a unique insight and thrill to add to your Baltic Run.