Tallinn is very popular with Finns for a day trip. This Fall I went there with a bunch of my old colleagues and visited the KGB museum for the third time.
The museum can be found inside the Viru Hotel. Don’t expect to find a dusty museum with many rooms and artefacts in glass cases. No no. You will go up to the top of the hotel and discover a secret floor which Soviets claimed did not even exist. You will do this with a guide who will tell you many interesting stories – guided tours leave from the hotel lobby and you should book your tour in advance.
The hotel was built in 1972 by a Finnish construction company for the Soviet based travel agency Inturist. The purpose of the hotel was to house foreign guests visiting Tallinn – and of course to have a place to keep a watchful eye the visitors the whole time they were in the country. A secret KGB radio room was built where Soviet officials spied on guests and staff alike via concealed microphones and cameras. There was even a direct line to the KGB headquarters in Moscow.
When the Soviet Union fell – the officials hastily left the building, leaving things in array. Finnish hotel chain Sokos Hotels bought the hotel a few years later and cleverly left the top floor untouched for twenty years. Now these tours and flashbacks into Estonia’s past are extremely popular.
I am not going to recap the stories I’ve heard, as I hope you will be able to experience them yourself on this very tour. Estonia’s Soviet history is dark and has many tales to tell.
The Viru hotel balcony boasts great views over Tallinn.
It’s a pity that another interesting attraction in Tallinn I wrote about a while back – the Patarei Prison – has apparently been closed down as it turned out to be a safety hazard. It did seem quite dangerous when we visited, so I’m not really that surprised…
Have you visited the KGB museum? If you are going to visit Tallinn from Helsinki, check out my post on the ferries that can take you there.