I was told that the Teutonic Order, founded in 1190 in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, was a Catholic military organisation. What? religious and militant? I suppose this concept is not newly introduced in the 21st century by the Islamists. The alarmists are wrong again. Originally formed as a hospital to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land and the Baltics in the Middle Ages, the Teutonic Order became a military power in their crusade to christianise Europe. Was proselytism to save Europe from eternal damnation or was it greed, a means to expand their power and collect more taxes? They were a naval power in the 13th-16th century, looting much of Europe to augment their chests of levies and taxes.
In 1346, the Order took over Tallinn from the Danes who through Valdemar II of Denmark in 1219, claimed the strategic port for Denmark. After 5,000 years of existence in Tallinn, the early settlers were ill prepared when Valdemar II attacked them. During the Battle of Lindanise, the Estonians were on the verge of victory against the Danes, but a red cloth with a white cross drifted down from the sky, and according to folklore, the Danes surged forward and won the battle upon hearing a voice that said “when this banner is raised on high, you shall be victorious!” Defeated by a cloth, that’s sloth.
But, the Order lost much of their power and influence after the Reformation in Europe. Defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte, they were abolished in 1805 as a military order. Their lust for power and riches brought their eventual downfall.
History shows ownership of Tallinn has changed many times, Danes, medieval Germans, Swedish, Soviets, Nazis and after the Nazi retreat in 1944, the city was annexed to the Soviets. Did many Jews die in the hands of the Nazis, I asked? No, luckily most of them fled when Estonia was acceded to the USSR. Pogroms or violent riots, aimed at persecuting the Jews, “The Chosen Ones” in the Russian Empire started during the nineteen century under the Tsars. It is unfortunate there would be eternal bitter resentment towards such blatant show of favouritism. Envy, another deadly sin, perhaps is why the Jews have faced much pain and suffering.
Estonia finally won back their independence by singing. Without a single drop of blood, this Singing Revolution got rid of 800 years of foreign rule. My tour guide loudly prayed that their independence will last longer this time. Pride of their tribes from over 5000 years will see to it.
Apart from the walled Upper Town on Toompea (Dome Hill), no one will miss the Kiek in de Kök, a 15th-century defensive tower. I must admit its name attracted my attention more than what the tower stood for. Or was it because she stuttered when she uttered it.
After lunch, I attended a documentary in the Observation Dome back on the ship. A very very informative hour-length introduction into the Secrets of the Universe, I was lucky to wake up in time to learn that the universe is made up of billions of galaxies, and in each galaxy there are billions of stars. When a star burns out, it returns all its atoms back to the universe. We are all made of stars, our essential elements are from the stars. Called the “CHNOPS elements” – carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulphur – these are the building blocks of all life on Earth.
In Tallinn, I was made to feel like a star. Lunch was just an hour earlier, remember? After the documentary, I passed by the poolside Grille, and was served some Paella Catalona. I just could not bear to see all that seafood go to waste. Urghhling, someone said that’s gluttony.
So far, there is no wrath, after all this has been a fantastic visit to Tallinn.