Muuseum Kiek in de Kök

Bastionikäigud - Bastion Passages


Useful Information

photography
Muuseum Kiek in de Kök - Bastionikäigud, Estonia. Public Domain.
Location: Tallin.
(59.434689, 24.741232)
Open: All year Tue, Wed 11-18, Thu 11-20, Fri-Sun 11-18.
Closed 01-JAN, 24-FEB, Easter, Pentecost, 23-JUN, 24-JUN, 20-AUG, 24-DEC, 25-DEC, 26-DEC, 31-DEC.
[2022]
Fee: Adults EUR 8, Children (7-16) EUR 5, Children (0-6) free, Students (-26) EUR 5, Seniors (65+) EUR 5, Family (2+*) EUR 16, Disabled free.
Combo Ticket Whole Museum Ticket: Adults EUR 12, Children (7-16) EUR 6, Children (0-6) free, Students (-26) EUR 6, Seniors (65+) EUR 6, Family (2+*) EUR 24.
Combo Ticket 5 Museums: Adults EUR 20, Children (7-16) EUR 15, Children (0-6) free, Students (-26) EUR 15, Seniors (65+) EUR 15, Family (2+*) EUR 35.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaCatacomb
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=7-10 °C.
Guided tours: self guided with audioguide (online download) Eesti keles - Estonian English русский - Russian Suomeksi - Finnish
D=75 min, Max=20.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Kiek in de Köki Kindlustustemuuseum, Komandandi tee 2, Tallinn 10130, Tel: +372-6446-686. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

17th century bastion passages built as a part of the bastions.
1943-1945 used as air raid shelter.
1950s converted into a nuclear war fall out shelter.
1970s cold war bunker abandoned.
1976-1977 popular youth movement ‘Kodulinn’ (Home Town) cleans the passages.
1980s tunnel casements in the Ingrian bastion used as storage.
1991 tunnels used by people who became homeless after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
2004 cleaned up and opened to the public.

Description

photography
Muuseum Kiek in de Kök - Bastionikäigud, Estonia. Public Domain.
photography
Muuseum Kiek in de Kök - Bastionikäigud, Estonia. Public Domain.

This underground site is actually called bastionikäigud (Bastion Passages), not Kiek in de Kök (Peep into the Kitchen). However, the tours include both and bastion passages is a description, not a name. Another term for this site is Tallinn Catacombs. And there are a lot of other sites connected with them, for example the Raidkivimuuseum (Limestone Museum), formeing a 500 m long museum complex. We strongly recommend the combo ticket. While it is possible to book a guide for groups, the site is normally self-guided like any other museum, including the casemats. The audioguide for this is available online in different languages.

And one word on the strange name of the museum, Kiek in de Kök. It's actually the name of the restored cannon tower from 1475 where it is located. The tower was built in a tradition which was spread by the Hanse, the Medieval German trading group, which traded all around the Baltic Sea. The towers were not only useful for fighting against enemies, the watch was also able to see into the kitchens of nearby houses. And even in the Middle Ages people valued their privacy. As a result the disrespectful Low German term "Kiek in de Kök" became popular and was used as a sort of technical term for this type of towers.

The bastion passages were built as a part of the bastions in the late 17th and early 18th century. There are other tunnels, the old Wismar Ravelin passages from the 1630s, and passages inside other fortifications. The whole fortification was an adaption to the invention of cannons, intended to absorb and disperse the energy of cannon fire. The fortification was planned by Eric Dahlberg (*1625–1703), a prominent Swedish military engineer and architect. Construction began in 1686, but due to political disagreements, financing problems, finding labourers, and war breaking out, only three bastions were completed. In 1710 during the Great Northern War the Russian Czar Peter the Great laid siege on Reval (the former name of Tallinn). As the bastions were not completed he easily conquered the city, and the bastions were never used for their intended purpose, to defend the city.

The casements were built on the surface by erecting the vaulted wall, then covering it by several metres thick layers of soil. In a way they reduced the amount of soil which had to be transported, so they were saving money, but as they were also weakening the structure it was important to place them correctly. Nowadays, the street level is also a bit higher than 1700, so people tend to refer to these passages as ‘underground’, which technically is not true.

The main purpose of the tunnels was to shelter the troops defending the city, but also to conceal the redeployment of troops from the enemy. It was also storage space and an easy way to move ammunition and equipment unseen from one place to another. And if the enemy succeeded to breach the wall and infiltrate the bastion, the casemates were designed to slow down their advancement. In later times they were used for imprisoning criminals and during World War II as air raid shelters. During the mid 20th century they became a hideout for thieves and insurgents because police usually avoided tunnels. With the increasing tourism they were finally cleaned up and opened to the public in 2004.

The galleries are about 1.5 m to 2.5 m wide and 2.5 to 3 m high. The massive walls and the barrel vaulted ceiling are made of limestone. They are cool and humid like caves, so they would be ideal for storing food, wine, or beer, but that seems to be the only thing they were never used for. They were used as air raid shelters during World War II, in the 50s transformed into fallout shelters for the population, but abandoned in the 70s. With the punk movement on one side and the Soviet order on the other, there were a lot of people searching for a little freedom. So the tunnels became their hideout, but also the hideout of criminals. They were cleaned by volunteers and transformed into storage for several institutions, but there were security issues, and it was actually too dangerous for artworks or docuemnts. So the space was again abandoned and became the home of homeless, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many people lived from the welfare aspect of the socialism and were not able to support themselves under the new capitalistic system. But finally in 2004 the tunnels were renovated and opened as a museum.