The Robot, Tallinn, Estonia

Robot Bin, Tallinn

Estonia is the first country of my trip: the Robot Bin is the first bin in my dustbin tour. The Robot provoked a sort of coup de foudre in me. There he was, in the pretty Old Town of Tallinn, in front of part of the old wall, near a cluster of busy amber and souvenir shops and the panoramic view across the city to the Baltic sea. As soon as I saw him he made me decide on the subject of dustbins for this tour: robot, astronaut, Dr Who or sci-fi film character, as you choose. An endearing piece of bin bag overlapping on his left side made him seem like an insouciant teenager, almost human.

Apart from the dustbin, the old town of Tallinn reminded me of a Grimm’s fairy tale and of small German towns I’ve visited: winding cobbled streets, pretty towers and little churches, all spotless and well-designed. The language, with its double vowels and üs and äs reminds one of Finnish or German, both close geographically and historically.I visited the Viru Hotel, a spying centre for the KGB during the Soviet occupation, now a museum; visitors seem to come as much for the great view of the city as for its rather gloomy contents. The former KGB offices in the old town were being transformed into luxury flats.

My ten days in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gave me the impression that these three countries are proud to be independent at last, but that they are also keen to preserve their memories of the recent past with numerous memorials and Museums of the Occupation.