The KGB, the exploding purse & The Hotel Viru, Tallinn.
Absolute top of the list of things to do in Tallinn is the KGB Museum at the Hotel Viru. Our guide, Jana, was vivacious, animated and bursting with amusing stories about The Hotel Viru and its history.
It was built in 1972, to bring much needed tourist revenue into Estonia. It’s bright and cheerful inside now but originally the decor was dark and gloomy, even a bit scary, with that typically Soviet, austere-but-trying-to-be-grand look about it.
Finland had a job shortage at the time and the Soviets wanted some of their oil so they did a deal and Finnish workers built the hotel which is why it took two years to build, instead of 7 or 8.
There was a three week gap between hotel completion and opening. Very handy. Gave the KGB time to get in there and install their radio equipment and bugging devices on the 23rd floor – the floor that didn’t officially exist. Although every so often, somebody would helpfully write next to the buttons in the lift, ’23rd floor – KGB’ and a cleaner would be sent to scrub it off, pronto.
The public lift stopped at the 22nd floor then a secret stairway went to the non-existent 23rd floor where there was a sign on the door saying ‘Nothing in here.’ One employee did wander into the surveillance room by mistake and found himself looking at the business end of a gun. ‘Oh hi guys, what are you listening to? Anything good?’ probably wouldn’t have been what he said to the men with the head phones.