Tallinn

In October, the Old City seems deserted. Entire streets empty, only stray tourists – who must overwhelm the city in summer – drifting around, wandering into the restaurants at night.

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If it’s like any city, perhaps it’s Prague. Tallinn mostly avoided the destruction that ruined Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk, because during the Second World War, the front’s moved too quickly.

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Like Prague, the Old Town is a tourist zone. Estonians live elsewhere, shop elsewhere, eat elsewhere. Like Prague, the Old Town is striking in its beauty.

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And yet, just like in central Prague, there’s an unreal feeling to it all, almost as if you were on a movie set.

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For me, a living city has charms that a tourist city can never have. Where are the cafes filled with Estonians drinking coffee, talking and talking?

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One is left to imagine what the city might be like. But imagine what exactly? What it once was? What it would be now, if it were a living city? What is Tallinn now? A gorgeous simulacra. A wonderful place to visit. Beauty with an empty heart.

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