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Endless Coffee Drinking in Tallinn, Estonia


The title above might be a fair comment on the popularity of cafes and coffee in Estonia's capital, but here it refers to an exhibit staged by the Tallinn City Museum in one of the towers of the city's old walls.

P1340308P1340305The exhibit includes a nod to the city's first cafe (above), started in the early 1700s. The cup above is nearly that old. But the exhibit focuses mostly on a number of well-known cafes of the mid-to-late 20th century, when they functioned as important social gathering places and places of political ferment during Estonia's time as part of the USSR.


Furniture, tableware and drinkware from the cafes are all around the room, as well as photos. Above tables from a 1970s outdoor cafe that was located near the Town Hall.


Cafe Moskva, above, had distinctly-patterned seating; in the Soviet era, tables were communal, and the cafe had an older clientele than many others.


Cafe Pegasus, above, opened in the 1960s in the building that housed the writers' association and they were among its main customers. There was also a jukebox and a piano; local tradition forbade playing the piano for reasons not explained in the exhibit.


The Mundi Club and VRV were relatively unknown except to their clientele; VRV was actually entered through a series of tunnel-like passages.


At Cafe Neitsitorn, named after its location, the Neitsitorn, or Maiden's Tower, featured modern decor spread over rooms on several floors and with some outdoor tables on the walkways that hang from the inside of the city walls. It was popular with intellectuals, tourists and young people.

P1340326P1340328Cafe Gnoom, a branch of Cafe Moskva, was known for actually good coffee, and a ban on smoking, which perhaps made it easier to smell and enjoy the coffee. Below, Cafe Makasmokk, the oldest cafe still operating in the city; it opened as a bakery in 1789. Below that, Kloostri Ait was a key scene for folk music and jazz in the immediate post-Soviet era.


The Centum Club, which operated from 1925 to 1940 was a gathering place for the country's economic and political elite, with lunch and coffee in the daytime, and a dance each night; after a 1 a.m. curfew, only members could remain.P1340336

Paintings and photos of cafe scenes are also part of the exhibit.


Some more serviceware and more outdoor cafe chairs...


...and if all this has made you crave an endless coffee, a modern version of Cafe Neitsitorn is operating just steps (and a stairway) from the exhibit!



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Thankfully or sadly, depending on your point of view, there are no Starbucks in all of Estonia.

The closest match is a local Estonia chain called Caffeine, with several locations in Tallinn. Good coffee and excellent flaky pastries...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

@George G. posted:

Funny that my visitors from the USA were dumbfounded when they discovered there is no such thing in almost all of Europe as a free coffee refill, or for that matter a free soft drink refill.  Don't know if things have changed lately.

No, they haven't - I cannot remember ever being offered a free refill (of coffee or any other drink) on our travels in Europe.

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