We took a recommendation from Rick Steve's Europe book and hired Mati Rumessen for a private tour for our family of five during a cruise stop in Tallinn. It seems like every time we go on a trip and visit different cities, there is always what we call a "sleeper city," one that we want to go to but not thinking it will be great. Then we are blown away by it. On this trip for us, it was Tallinn, and much of the reason was due to Mati's knowledge, experience and tour guide skills.
We knew very little about Tallinn before our visit, but were fascinated by it's relatively young age of being an independent country. Mati truly brought the history alive for us. He has lived in Estonia his whole life, and spent two years in compulsory service in the Soviet Union when he was 18 and Estonia was still controlled by the Soviet Union. (He was a driver for some of the top military during his service, and his driving expertise impressed even our three late teen/early 20 sons as he performed 3 point turns within inches of other cars). That experience alone could fill several books and we peppered him with questions regarding his service and learned more than we ever could have without knowing someone who had actually served there.
He was also part of the Estonian resistance at the TV tower in 1991 when the Soviet Army rolled their trucks into Tallinn and surrounded the tower. I didn't know this part of Estonian history before, but this event is what turned the tide and what ultimately led to Estonia declaring itself an independent republic. If you haven't heard about this event, google it and then imagine hearing first person from someone who was part of the Estonian resistance facing those soviet troops.
As he was describing this and other events such as the Song Festival, it was incredible to hear it from someone who lived through and was active in the struggle and ultimately part of the people who helped Estonia gain it's independence.
If you like history and are visiting Tallinn, and I'm assuming if you are reading this you do, Mati is a must-have tour guide!! Our family is blessed to be able to travel quite extensively and we almost exclusively do private tours with just our family and we have had some great experiences. We find it hard to rank them, but we do discuss and vote/declare our top five, and Mati in Tallinn earned a top five spot in our family's experiences.
Abe, Cindi, Noah, Andrew and Zach VanWingerden