Covert operations, submarines, marine mines and ice yachts, Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor had it all.

The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor is one of the newest old things in Tallinn. New and old are both relative in the former communist capital of Estonia, where most buildings date back to between the medieval and baroque times. With the renewed  tourist interest in Estonia as a destination, its history, the location (a short walk from the international cruise ship terminal) and a savvy appreciation of the value of the visitors’ dollar (a common theme in this city) their investment in the museum has paid off in spades. It is now the most popular tourist attraction in the region.

 

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Built in the golden age of transportation, as part of Peter the Great’s naval fortress, back in 1916, the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor was originally constructed as a hangar for seaplanes. The three-domed building is significant as the first reinforced concrete structure using big shell frames. Probably its most famous visitor was Charles Lindbergh, and his radio operator, navigator, and wife, who flew into Tallinn from Moscow in September of 1933 in a Lockheed Sirius hydroplane.

Located in a run down area of vacant blocks of land and condemned buildings, where some have been turned into works of art, the deteriorating site had been mothballed during the soviet occupation. Half-track military trucks can still be seen in the area to this day. After undergoing extensive renovation, the Lennusadam museum opened in 2012.

Housed in domed hangars, there’s a dramatic juxtaposition of aged relics and cutting edge technologies on display. Upon entry, you’re supplied with a NFC (near field communications) equipped card (it looks like a branded credit card). You use this card to enter the turnstiles, yet it serves a greater purpose. As you traverse the museum, each exhibit has a touch point that lets the viewer access and save information to read later or to share things of interest along the way.

The museum is split across two levels inside, taking you on a journey through the maritime history of Estonia. The exhibition centerpiece, the Lembit, a British-built submarine, made for Estonia back in 1936, dominates the cavernous concrete expanse. Above soars a replica World War 1 era short-type 184 seaplane, the first type to torpedo from the air. It was a fixture in the Estonian navy of the time.


The polished concrete floors and ambient lighting creates an otherworldly feeling. The blue hue cast by well-placed bulbs takes you to a place beneath the waves. An iron walkway guides you past early rowboats and kayaks, then on to modern ice racers.

Whether it’s the speed and exhilaration of cascading across thin ice on a racer or on the more modern equivalent, the hovercraft, there’s definitely a spirit of adventure captured beneath these domes. The flipside is that much of that adventure has been lived through military initiatives, with a sizeable collection of torpedoes, anti-aircraft flak batteries and sonar buoys that would trail behind ships to help detect the enemy beneath.

The centerpiece of the exhibit, without doubt is the Estonian submarine, the Lembit. Entering it, we’re taken back to the golden age, between the wars. From the torpedo tubes to the tiny galley and washroom to the wood paneled stateroom, it’s hard to grasp what it would have been like sliding deep beneath the ice, with enemies stalking you above.

In addition to the NFC tech in play and the HD screens delivering interactive content at each main display, there are also biplane flight simulators and a giant yellow submarine, which is a kid-friendly theater/simulator that takes the audience on an undersea journey to the bottom of the sea.

 

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Outside the main buildings, is a fleet of ships, from naval cruisers to coast guard ships. All are accessible for limited exploration, making it a popular destination for families.

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WHAT?

The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor is a modern exploration of maritime life in Estonia, including a sunken ship and a classic submarine.

WHERE?

Vesilennuki 6, 10415 Tallinn, Estonia

HOW?

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