In the 1600’s, the ruling Swedish colonists, constructed a fort at the mouth of the Neva River. During the Great Northern War, Tsar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, won those coastal lands, providing Russia with his long sought Baltic coastline. On winning control, he inaugurated the city of St Petersburg in 1703, with construction of Peter and Paul Fortress.
A very new city by European standards, its magnificent architecture, river and canal network has the city frequently referred to as, “Venice of the North”. A very apt reference.
During WWI, St Petersburg was deemed to sound too German, so the Tsar changed the name to Petrograd, which was subsequently changed to Leningrad, by the communists, after the 1917 revolution. In 1991, the citizens voted on renaming the city, with the majority favouring a return to St Petersburg.
Next to St Petersburg, walking the walled “Old Town”, with its well preserved 13th Century narrow, winding cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, this was one of our pre-cruise highlights. Tallinn, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, was originally home to wealthy merchants, but now with a plethora of cafes, restaurants/bars, museums and churches, it is now a popular tourist destination.
Being mid-September, it was approaching the end of the season and we were the only cruise ship in town, so the crowds were reasonable. During mid-summer with up to 6 mega cruise ships, it can be extremely busy, as most tours follow a similar route.
In 1997, the well preserved “Old City” was incorporated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.