The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour in Tallinn is home to one of the coolest museums I’ve visited anywhere in the world.
The museum is housed in the old seaplane hangar, which was built 100 years ago on the order of Russian emperor Nicholas II, to become a part of the neighbouring naval fortress built by Peter the Great.
It’s a massive, cavernous building, and was the first column-less thin shell concrete dome of that volume anywhere in the world. It was used for seaplanes until the Second World War.
Don’t let the nautical theme of the museum throw you off. I’m not really into seafaring either. We just stopped by on a whim — and we had a blast.
The centrepiece is definitely the 1930’s submarine Lembit. You can climb through the torpedo loading hatch and explore inside, imagining what life must have been like hunting shipping on the high seas in WWII.
There are lots of old ships to climb around on, of course. And examples of anti-aircraft guns and coastal batteries.
But it’s the interactive exhibits that are the true highlight of this place.
They’re just so well planned, and so much fun to try.
You can learn all about wave action and coastal erosion by designing your own shoreline, and then generating waves to see what happens.
You can see how a propellor operates by altering the pitch, turning the blade really fast, and observing the wake.
You can create whirlpools, raise sunken ships and pilot a biplane in a dynamic flight simulator.
You can even do a lifeboat drill, climbing up the sloping deck of a ferry as alarm bells sound and red lights flash. After finding your way out of the corridor — tilted on an angle to indicate that the ship you’re in is about to slip below the waves — you slide down a chute into a modern covered inflatable life raft.
It’s fun for kids, but it’s even more fun for rather childlike adults.
If you’re ever in Tallinn, I highly recommend checking it out.