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Estonia's 'Peek in the Kitchen' Tower


In medieval times, the cities along the Baltic coast were hotbeds of trade and hotbeds of war and invasions, and cities such as Tallinn, Estonia, were engaged in a near-perpetual race to strengthen their walls and fortifications against their sometime-neighbors who might also be sometime-enemies.


The huge tower—over 120 feet high—that still stands at one of the corners of Tallinn's walls, is a monument to that period, with plenty to remind of its original purpose while also serving as the home of a fascinating museum of nostalgia, memorabilia and in some cases just plain whimsy.


It goes by the name of Kiek in de Kok, which meant, originally in medieval German, "peek in the kitchen," because from its upper stories, a glance down into the city pretty much made it possible to spy on people's kitchens and more.


As originally built, starting around 1475, it had a powder and ammunition storage at the bottom, heated rooms for soldiers, four stories of artillery platforms and a watchtower and defense point at the top. It survived sieges by Russia and Sweden over the centuries, and connects to a series of underground tunnels connecting the city's defenses. The tower has been a museum since 1958.


Where the powder magazine was, in the base of the tower, are exhibits that highlight aspects of medieval town life, including issues over ownership and control of animals within the city.  Stray animals could be seized and sold to fund the local churches.


Other exhibits cover hunting gear, and tools of various trades practiced in the city—including torture. Yes, that's the infamous 'rack' used on recalcitrant witnesses.


Attention is also given to another aspect of medieval life: pestilence and death. In the museum, the issue of insects and rats is handled with a little tongue in cheek, including a 20th-century spray gun, but the figures given on museum signs reveal how often the population was decimated by plague and the like.


Found this fellow lurking around a corner, taking a break that may have lasted centuries...


The tower connects to a series of walks and galleries on the inner side of the walls, allowing defenders or residents to move to different areas; some of the walls are thick enough that they new house apartments and other uses, including a cafe.


From the galleries, there are a variety of views over gardens, city roofs, and, perhaps an opportunity to 'peek in the kitchen!'


Here's a last image: A photo of part of the wall, with St Nicholas church behind it, from the late 1800s.



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

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