Paldiski, a small port town 50 kilometres away from Estonia’s capital Tallinn in the Pakri Peninsula, is probably one of the most underestimated cities in Estonia. If you ask any Estonian about it, they will probably say it’s just a depressing small town. But it is their loss because Paldiski actually is a great place for a day trip, not crowded by tourists and reminiscent of the top secret Soviet town that it once was.
Before 1994, Paldiski was one of the most important military bases of the Soviet Union and was called “the Soviet Pentagon” by the locals. It was full of nuclear rockets, submarines and there used to be the largest nuclear-submarine training centre of the Soviet Union. Civilians were not allowed there, and people could only imagine what was going on in this now sleepy small port town. When the military left Paldiski, it was left in decay. And now, walking around the city, you can still imagine how it used to look in the Soviet era.
As for Soviet-era sights, you can see them all over the town but the main one is the Nuclear Submarine Training Centre. It is now managed by the state-owned company involved in nuclear radioactive waste management and pollution cleaning. But, you can see some remains such as its striking tall chimney and a small exhibition at the entrance of the building. You can’t enter the centre but it is worth observing from the outside the fenceas well if you are interested in the classified Soviet-era sites.
When you have combed through the Paldiski town, there are other sights just outside it. The large white giants that generate energy stand proudly on the shore near Paldiski, in the Pakri Science and Industrial Park on the Pakri Peninsula. They are a stunning sight from afar, but you can go near them and see from up close how the turbine towers look. It is a very secluded place, and there are not many people there, so the massive wind turbines and their whistling sounds create a scenery of a post-apocalyptic movie. It is not recommended to go close to the turbines in the winter, since the ice blocks may fall from them.
Estonia is proud of its 41 lighthouses, and they are carefully preserved as historical monuments and opened for visitors, just like the Kõpu lighthouse in Hiiumaa. But, the largest of them stands on the shores of the Pakri Peninsula near Paldiski. It is said that its location was picked by the Czar Peter the Great himself. It is now open for visitors, and you can get up the 275 stairs to see all of the Pakri Peninsula and Paldiski town from the height of 52 meters.
Paldiski is actually an interesting place to take a day trip. Once the top secret Soviet site, the town is not yet crowded with tourists and offers an authentic experience.
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