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Back to the USSR in Tallinn, Estonia



In Tallinn, I went on the most interesting tour I’ve ever been on.  It was  as much theater as anything.

Organized through Blue Drum Tours, Olavi Andla, arrived to pick us up in an old Russian bus, dressed like a KGB officer.

Before we knew it, the bus wouldn’t work so some of the folks on the tour had to get out and push. Clearly fakes, but all in good fun. We learned about gas masks and ate funny little sausages that tasted like cardboard. Olavi said they were typical of the food he ate growing up.




He continued to play the part, exposing us in a very humorous way to what it was like when the Russians were in control of Tallinn. He truly made history come alive.

Tallinn is a small charming city on the Baltic Sea, originally a location for many summer homes for the wealthy people of St. Petersburg. It has a historic center city, now drawing tourists. It’s quite charming–not having been destroyed during wars.

I enjoyed seeing the historic town center along with a school in a very contemporary architecture, and, of course, an American presence. Interesting to see the McDonalds logo right by the entrance to the old city.

Tallinn, Estonia


Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia

Our Blue Drum tour took us to a museum of a graveyard of Soviet statues.They were piled about randomly behind a museum, abandoned as the country moved beyond the days of the Soviet Union.   These statues were removed from city parks and public spaces when the Estonians took back their country.

We also saw a ballroom where the KGB officers met to party and to receive awards.


Our host was a wonderful actor, playing his role of KGB officer in charge of us. He also talked about growing up in Russian Ruled community.

He said it was a “really big deal” when his Dad got a can of Coke. They saved it to share at Christmas. And he said, their language has no “future tense” because they didn’t believe they had a future.

They do now although a bit worried about recent Russian actions to retake former countries that were part of the USSR. The feeling was optimistic.

Blue Drum does a variety of kinds of events in several locations in this part of the world. If you get a chance to participate in one, I’d say, “Do it.” If our tour was any indication, you will enjoy yourself and learn about the history and culture of the area  too.



Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Julie Lerner
    Oct 20, 2015 Reply

    Hi Susan,

    Love your posts! Great to see what is happening in places I visited long ago. Hope all is well.


    Julie (Cuba trip)

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Oct 21, 2015 Reply

      Hi Julie, Nice to hear from you. We had such a good time in Cuba. Tallinn is a lovely spot and we really enjoyed our brief time there.

  2. posted by
    Marie Preston
    Oct 20, 2015 Reply

    Well, that looks interesting and fun!
    We visited Tallinn briefly a couple of decades ago on a Baltic Sea Cruise.
    I bought a small pen and ink drawing from a street artist, which we have in our bedroom in FL. It reminds me of how charming I, also, found the city to be.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Oct 21, 2015 Reply

      It’s nice that is has continued to be charming.

  3. posted by
    Michelle Slikkers
    Oct 20, 2015 Reply

    Wonderful recounting of great tour with a very special tour guide. I have found that the tour guide usually makes or breaks the tour. I have so much respect for these types of tour guides. They take their position so seriously and are so fun. Thanks Susan.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Oct 21, 2015 Reply

      Thanks, this tour is one of the best I’ve been on. Fun to write about.

  4. posted by
    Oct 20, 2015 Reply

    You have done a beautiful job of capturing your enticing and entertaining guide through his body language and facial expressions! I completely agree, the guide can make it or break it!

  5. posted by
    Oct 21, 2015 Reply

    It’s so interesting that they have no future tense in their language! Thanks for sharing your memories..may have to add Estonia to my ever growing “list” of places to visit! A cruise seems like a good way to go to see the Baltic countries.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Oct 21, 2015 Reply

      It is especially since it is complicated to get a Russian Visa. If you want to go to St. Petersburg, taking a cruise is an easy way to get an overview. You don’t have to have a VISA as long as you are on Cruise ship excursions. We enjoyed going on a smaller ship which was very personal.

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