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