Many of us love to read all kinds of rankings - 10 most beautiful..., 20 most difficult, 5 most... and so on. I want to suggest one more simple rating - the best museum of the Baltic states. And I immediately declare a runaway winner - Tallinn Lennusadam or The Seaplane Harbour.
Of course, you can dispute my choice and nominate your candidates. Nevertheless, I've visited many museums around the world and I can confidently say that this museum of maritime and military history is arranged by the best world standards. None of the the Balts still have managed to excel it.
Lennusadam struck me with its history and interesting exhibition, with unusual conceptual importance and with very modern design.
I do not just recommend but even insist that every guest of the Estonia's capital should visit it. By the way, you can visit it absolutely for free with Tallinn Card.
Here's what impressed me so much in this museum.
Probably, I should start with the building itself. After all, it is very unusual. As I've already written, Lennusadam in Estonian means the Seaplane Harbour. 100 years ago in this place on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, the Danish company "Christiani & Nielsen" built a very original object - hangars for hydroplanes.
One may think that even aircrafts were a novelty for many people. How about the flying boats? Nevertheless, this industry was on the rise in the Russian Empire at that time. They launched into mass production the biplanes "Kudashev" in Riga. Meanwhile, Sikorsky was making history of aviation nearby - in St. Petersburg. They decided to construct hangars in Tallinn (or rather in Reval) exactly for one of his first creations - the hydro-version of "Ilya Muromets" - the largest aircraft of that time.
Danish company that won the competition offered a revolutionary construction project. Hangars were built in the form of a huge concrete construction without columns.
The Danes have done a great work. Their construction has managed to survive two world wars, several regime changes and to stay almost unchanged to our days, though with significant defects. This also happened thanks to the fact that there was a closed and heavily guarded military base here, when Estonia was a part of the USSR.
By the way, the "Christiani & Nielsen" company exists today. Since the 30s, their headquarters has been located in Bangkok. The company can feel calm about their creation in Tallinn. After a thorough renovation, they opened here the magnificent museum of maritime and military history. The original hangar design was completely preserved and strengthened again, and the internal space was efficiently used in the planning of the museum composition.
Let's go inside this huge building. Already at the entrance I was pleasantly surprised by the interior of the lobby in blue shades with a large aquarium in the background and a hung ceiling of boats.
The same decor on the marine theme is used in a gift shop.
Even restrooms with their futuristic design leave a lasting impression.
When you get into the museum, you are immediately amazed by what you see.
The Estonians have created a very conceptual composition of the Maritime Museum in the vast interior hall. they divided all the space on three levels. Hangar's floor became a conditional sea floor, the second floor is a surface of the ocean and the earth, and everything above is the air kingdom. Muffled light, strange sounds of some machine units, mixed with the cries of seagulls and the sound of the surf, even a light vibration under your feet - all this creates a feeling of quite different world for us - the land's inhabitants.
We were lucky, a professional tour guide arranged a short but very informative tour for us.
All the exhibits were also divided into three categories. At the bottom, there was a significant collection of underwater mines and torpedoes, as well as several shipwrecks.
This well-preserved skeleton of an ancient merchant ship is especially popular among the visitors. It was raised by local divers-enthusiasts from the seabed near the island of Saaremaa. It is about 500 years old, and until recently, it had remained the oldest surviving ship in Estonia.
There are also numerous interactive information stands at the bottom. You can learn interesting historical facts and see rare pictures here.
There are also many different attractions for visitors. For example, you can take a virtual trip around the world on a yellow submarine.
There are several simulators nearby. You can feel like a seaplane pilot on one of them.
Or play in a modern version of the Battleship with some historical features on the other.
The youngest visitors also have a separate play area.
You can also put on a naval uniform and take a picture. They immediately send pictures on your email.
You can try yourself as a gunner on the shore on another original simulator.
It's better to leave this part of the composition for the end, because you can spend here many time.
It is better immideately get to the second level. The museum composition is particularly good here. Numerous boats, row boats, yachts and motor boats are suspended on ropes and seem to hang in the air. This is a surprisingly innovative way of exhibits location!
Each of these vessels has its own interesting story. You can see here so-called dugout canoes of tree trunks, navigation beacon buoys of different shapes and sizes, as well as different models of pleasure and sporting boats, and iceboats used to slip on the ice. You can find out many interesting facts about every vessel.
For example, one of fishing boats in the museum was used by Estonian fishermen and their families to run away to Sweden during the Second World War. It has been well preserved in some private collection and after 60 years, it was given back to Estonia and exhibited in The Seaplane Harbour.
One of the museum visitors recognized her father's boat in it. He managed to carry all his family to the Swedish coast for several times. After checking some details, this story really turned out to be real.
A little away from this interesting coastal flotilla, there are guns and anti-aircraft guns.
They were brought to the museum from the Estonian coast's islands that used to be just crammed with various weapons because of the proximity of hostile Finland and Sweden.
However, the main exhibit not only of this level, but of the entire museum is a submarine called "Lembit".
It was built in British shipyards in 1936 to order of the Estonian government. Its service was long and full of events. This submarine has been perfectly preserved and deserves a separate story. However, it's impossible to fit it in this review.
Museum also has the third level, where you can get only after climbing the semicircular bridge to the ceiling. Here you can perfectly see the whole hall of the former hangars, and of the exhibits there' only a recreated model of the English hydroplane SHORT TYPE 184.
After several successful torpedo attacks, this plane was particularly popular among the military officers during the First World War and after it. About 1,000 copies of the aircraft were produced. Several of them were bought by the Estonian government. These seaplanes were placed in the Seaplane Harbour.
It's interesting, but there's no any real survived model of the aircraft in the world. The one that hangs from the ceiling of Lennusadam is a fairly accurate replica recreated by designers and history experts from many countries. It is clear that such museum had to have at least one exhibit like this.
Let's come down from heaven to earth. The museum complex also has several ships and boats outside the hangars. They stand nearby and you can visit almost all of them.
The most interesting of them is the authentic icebreaker "Suur Tõll" constructed in 1914. I have long been interested in such historic ships. Of course, I visited it.
There are so many interesting things you can find in this small piece of the Estonian capital! I do not know how convincing my story is. To understand why I named the Seaplane Harbour the best museum of the Baltics, you should personally visit it. I am sure it will be interesting to both adults and children, both men and women, to the hipsters and office employees, to narrow-focused illuminati and to ignorames that haven't finished the school. Everyone will find here something own. We had a great time here. The Seaplane Harbour was a spectacular final chord in our short but memorable trip in Tallinn.