When standing on Maakri tänav in Tallinn with your back towards the Radissoni hotell, you’re at a crossroads in many ways. For one, you are surrounded by both shiny, new high rises and hundred-some year-old stone and wooden houses. Secondly, you have your choice of the aboveground parking colossus to your right, or the underground “Europark” catacomb to your left (previous site of a pre-17th century burial ground, but that’s another story). And you are also witness to a fantastic metamorphosis.
Although unrecognizable to anyone who saw it a mere 5 years ago, the remaining strip of PÄÄSUKESE (Swallow’s Street) has retained its name of yore. The tiny national bird has held its ground in the concrete jungle and begins an inclining flight towards Lauteri tänav as KUKE (Rooster’s Street), most likely strutting the last stretch. A noble bird in its own right, the kukk teaches kids their ABCs as the age-old symbol of the primary reader the aabits and holds a place of honour atop most old European church spires. And did you know that in Estonian a checkmark is a “birdie”? You check something off by marking it with a linnuke, a little bird.
FYI: street signs in Estonia don’t usually include the street (tänav) part in the name. It’s a given and generally not written out, thereby leaving all place names (streets, towns, cities, parks...) in the possessive (genitive) case and ending in a vowel. It’s so and so’s street (Munga – Monk’s) or the descriptive place of such and such (Hundinurga – Wolf’s Corner’s). The only exception is…. Tallinn, since the linn (city) part is still intact. The name derives from taani linn, Danish city or fortress (linnus). Remember 1219?
Text and photos: Riina Kindlam, Lindanise (lin-danise, Danish fortress)
Pääsukesest kukeks – Swallow turns rooster (1)