Tiit Veermäe
Before After

Patkuli Steps

I was completed in 1903, to the great joy of those who love to take romantic walks or to simply stroll around. At the beginning of the 20th-century, walking was still popular because you could see and be seen, and also enjoy “oh, those views!”

The opportunity to climb the viewing plat- form and admire a 180-degree view of the city and harbour became a serious tourist attraction. At that time there was no Facebook or Instagram; not even television or radio. 157 steps led from the beginning of Nunna Street to the Toompea overlook.

Not much of this is remembered at all today, but back then there was a serious discussion about my name. Some thought that I was named after Johan Patkuli, the great traitor of Sweden. My name actually came from the Patkuli redoubt – nearby earthworks which had in turn gotten its name from a completely separate character, a vice-governor during the Swedish time, Dietrich Friedrich von Patkuli.

But during the first period of the Estonian Repub- lic, they found that there was no need to retain his name, since he was responsible for letting the outskirts of the town burn before the Russians invaded during the Northern War, causing over- population in the city which led to the plague spreading even more quickly. This turned out to be a turning point in the war because the city surrendered to the Russians. But, you know what they say about hindsight.

The Patkuli observation deck which was built on the grounds of the former manor house is remembered as a place where people would come during the Occupation and look towards the sea, longing for signs of freedom.

If one looks at the twists and turns of the steps as seen from their foot up to Toompea, the most striking feature is, of course, the proud pil- lars of the state government building which was built between 1787 and 1792 as the municipal residence of count Jakob Pontus Steinbeck. Later, the building was home to several differ- ent owners, the dormitory of the Toom school, and was, for an extended time, a courthouse.