A Touch of Soviet Class

The spring of 2015 dawned as warm as ever. When the temperature for the first time allowed me to leave my jacket home, I took a long walk by the riverside. The result: my face was instantly burned, and three hours later it was aching.

More was to come the following day. My feet didn’t like the long walk at all, and the strain was too much for them. A tendon in my sole took the worst hit, and the following day I couldn’t walk. I was forced to go to the hospital, where they prescribed me painkillers and gave me crutches.

What a perfect set up for a family holiday in Tallinn.

Despite my condition, we left. We took a walk downtown, but it was painstakingly slow, as I had been walking all day and my hands and arms had started to hurt. The sun was already setting, when we checked in to our hotel room, but when I looked out of the window, I was immediately in for an adventure.

That is the parking lot of our hotel and behind it is the strangest and most spectacular brutalist structure I had ever seen. I did a quick googling to find out more about it.

The place was Linnahall, a sports and culture complex built in 1980 for the Moscow Olympic Games. Originally called the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports, it was built, when Tallinn hosted the main sailing event of the games, as it was impossible to sail in Moscow.

The complex housed a skating rink, a concert hall, a heliport and a ship terminal. The skating rink closed in 2009, the concert hall in 2010. The place, a national monument was left largely abandoned.

Time had really done its damage. The place was crumbling down despite being derelict for less than five years. This, I guess, is Soviet construction quality.

Some might call the place ugly. Personally I foud it to be a masterpiece of Soviet architecture. Although the architects were Estonians Raine Karp and Riina Altmäe.

The quality of the photos is a bit bad as I only had my iPhone 5 with me during the trip.

The entrance to the skating rink was blocked by a steel net.

A closer look reveals the mess a bit better.

Steel net had also been used to block access through holes in the building’s facade. The Linnahall was just 35 years old during my trip. The quality of construction was extremely bad.

The entrance to the concert hall was not only blocked by steel net but also by barbed wire. They really didn’t want to let people in.

The place was a strange maze of stairs, catacombs and different levels.

Below the entrance to the concert hall was the entrance to the administration department. The lights were on, but I wonder if anybody was home.

The place wasn’t fully abandoned after all. On the lowest level there were some garages, where people were fixing cars.

The access to the other side had been blocked by a barrier.

There were several different ways up the building.

But some of the ways were strictly off bounds.

I wonder if that thing actually can still receive something.

The building just seemed like a big set of stairs.

If the shape of the building (and the weather) would have been better, I could have imagined lots of people enjoying a picnic on the grass. To add to my previous description: the place was like a massive set of stairs in the middle of a park.

We’re slowly reaching the top.

A look back towards the city. Can anybody else hear the tunes of the Soviet national anthem?

So we are at the top and have reached our prize. It’s raining in Tallinn, but here we can bath in a golden sunset.

Another look back towards the city. The chimney looks interesting. Perhaps there is something more to explore down there.

Back in 2015 the Linnahall was still used as a terminal for Linda Line, a small shipping company operating between Helsinki and Tallinn.

What made the view even more special were the cruise ships arriving in Tallinn harbour.

One final look at the devastation. It looks like the whole facade has collapsed in one section.

And just a quick reminder, that I really wasn’t in a very good shape for an adventure. The walk around the building and up to the top took around 35 minutes. And it took at least 15 minutes more to cross the parking lot to get back to the hotel.

This time I was unable to gain entrance. But a nice gallery from Linnahall has been published here. There are also currently plans to restore the building to its former glory.

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