Legends, secrets and underground passages… Normally they’d be confined to the pages of a children’s adventure novel, but in a medieval city like Tallinn, one can expect to find all of these in spades. Visitors who have a curious fascination with these romantic ideas, specifically the underground passages, are in luck: In late February, after years of preparation, a system of 17th-century tunnels that runs underneath the south flank of Toompea hill was opened to tour groups.
“It’s very, very popular now,” said Toomas Abiline, a historian working for Tallinn’s Linnamuuseum (City Museum), which administers the tunnels. He puts the popularity, particularly among Estonians, down to local lore. For centuries, Tallinners have shared rumours that Toompea hill is riddled with tunnels. The most persistent legend, still whispered in cafés and schoolyards, holds that a Medieval-era tunnel stretches from all the way Toompea hill to the Pirita Monastery. That legendary – albeit unlikely – tunnel has never been found, but a few others have. In 2003, when a new building was going up near the Occupation Museum, workers discovered a system of tunnels dating from the end of 17th Century underneath the spot where the Wismar Ravelin (triangular fortification) once stood. Other systems, like the 150m one on the western side of the Swedish Bastion, another under the Skåne Bastion on the north side of Old Town, nd this newly-opened one at the base of Harju Hill and Linda Hill have never really been lost.