Smart Cities: Tallinn, Estonia


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The “E” in Estonia might as well stand for electronic. Smallest of the three Baltic states, this country, centered on its capital, Tallinn, is a global leader in digital innovation that unites people. It’s the first nation to declare Internet access a basic human right, first to accept digital signatures for most transactions, first to institute online voting, and, this year, one of the first nations with crazy-fast 5G network capability. Estonia’s dizzying shift from Soviet state to high-tech hub catapulted Tallinn onto the world stage. Global innovation incubators are seeding startups like Starship Technologies, a maker of “delivery robots,” by the co-founders of Skype (another Estonia e-invention). The new Telliskivi Creative City hub is drawing crowds to its arts shops and cafes. But the headliner this year (into 2020) is the celebration of Estonia’s centennial as a republic, to be saluted with scores of events—and loads of Estonian pride.

Old Town’s Leib Resto ja Aed, named for Estonia’s prized black rye bread (leib), serves classic Estonian fare, such as pike perch fresh from Pärnu Bay and venison from the island of Saaremaa. Reserve a table at upscale Restaurant MEKK for lunch (weekdays) when the ”modern Estonian cuisine” offerings, from creamy salmon soup to smoked pork belly, are an affordable 8 Euros (about $9.60). In Tallinn’s tech-hub Ülemiste City, treat yourself to Nordic-cool Juur’s tasting menu—3, 5, or 7 courses, rye porridge to moose—sourced from Estonian forests, fields, and waters.

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