The Devil’s Wedding and the cats of Tallinn

About time for a new installment of the infrequent Cats of the World series and today we’ve come to the cats of Tallinn, the adorable little capital of Estonia.

Tallinn’s UNESCO-listed wonderful old town is a spooky, exciting place – full of lore. The Devil’s Wedding is perhaps the most famous legend. If you ever take a walk along the streets of Medieval Tallinn, stop at the 15th century guest house at Rataskaevu street 16. Now look up at the top floor. See the window that isn’t a window at all, but rather painted on? Legend has it, the Devil once stayed there, having a wedding party. Loud party noises are still said to be emanating from this haunted house in the middle of the night.


Eerie, isn’t it? Now turn your attention to the large well across the narrow cobbled street. This is the Cat’s Well.


The cats of Tallinn

In medieval times, peculiar sounds would occasionally emerge from the well, so the Talliners of the past naturally assumed a demon resided at the bottom. For some reason, they also thought live cats would appease the demon, so they chucked them in, essentially leaving the poor creatures to die from thirst, starvation and/or exposure.

Today, Tallinn’s cats seem to fare much better. On my last visit, a cold January weekend, I observed an elderly woman coming from the supermarket with a large bag of cat food which she distributed to a gang of happy strays in an alley near Viru Gate, the entrance to the old town.


Later, when wandering aimlessly around a large supermarket, I noticed the cat food section was very well stocked and quite busy. Contrary to my pre-conceptions, the cat food shoppers weren’t all old women; in fact, many were neither women nor old. Some even looked decidedly wealthy. So either cats are very popular pets in Tallinn – or people make a habit of feeding strays. Either way, I think it’s wonderful.

unesco logo

The Historic Centre of Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.



17 Responses to “The Devil’s Wedding and the cats of Tallinn”

  1. ayngelina 29 October 2010 1603 #

    Interesting story but also a bit eerie to see so many cats.

  2. inka 29 October 2010 1837 #

    Wnderful story Sophie and I’m very happy for today’s strays of Tallin. However this is one place I’ll have to stay away from because I’m allergic to cat hair. Gives me asthma.

  3. Tina T 1 November 2010 1009 #

    Isn’t Tallinn just the sweetest little city?

  4. Robert G 11 November 2010 0929 #

    Yay, Tallinn 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie 11 November 2010 1000 #

      Robert, good to hear from you. You still in Tallinn?

  5. Anne-Sophie 11 November 2010 1001 #

    Thanks for the comments, guys. These cats do look a bit eerie; would make very good Halloween cats 🙂 They were very friendly though.

  6. Reidar Horrisland 5 December 2010 1748 #

    Hi.I;m Norwegian and me and my brother have been on many visits to Tallinn.We just love Tallinn, despite the howling traffic in the streets.But we have seen many miserable strays around town.At one point we seriously discussed taking one with us home to Norway.But it proved much to difficult to satisfy the authorities in Norway.But I agree, the cat food section in many supermarkets around town is just as well equipped as in Western Europe.Before the demolition of the small supermarket at Kadriorgue, there were many strays there that we always fed on our way from the Pirita Hotel to the city centre.They occupied a large, very old concrete building adjacent.And there was a very nice small cafe in the area where you could enjoy delicious cakes and coffe.It was one of the highlights of each day in Tallinn to take morning coffe there and at the same time feeding the poor strays.And the area was beautiful, neighbouring the Kadriorgue Park.And no tourists around, being outside the city centre, but many Estonians enjoying their luchbreaks of just a cup of coffe and sweets.A real shame that this small haven is now totally flattened and a huge concrete building is being built instead, with office space and flats.But the work on it halted in 2009, probably because of the financial crises.And all the strays have vanished.A sad end to a nice haven, for both cats and man.

    • Anne-Sophie 7 December 2010 1910 #

      Thanks, Reidar. I’m Norwegian, too 🙂

      You know, Tallinn is my favourite Baltic city and I’ve been there many. many times. Never really been in Kadriorg much, though. Next time! Thanks for an interesting, yet sad story.

  7. Savvyruss 8 December 2010 1540 #

    I love Tallinn too – although don’t particularly remember seeing more cats than usual! When you get to Kadriorg Sophie, check out Kumu – great art gallery.

  8. Marie 12 December 2010 2237 #

    A tour of the Baltics is on my list. Look forward to Tallinn.

  9. David Ponting 17 March 2011 1223 #

    I Love Cats. Cats are the most beautiful pet.

  10. Branden Harvey 4 April 2011 0507 #

    Hmmmmm. Cats…

  11. Octavia 22 March 2012 1941 #

    I just love when places are connected to stories or legends. Makes them even more special. Very interesting post!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 March 2012 1340 #

      Thanks, Octavia.

  12. Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 March 2012 1341 #

    A very belated thanks for commenting to Savvyruss, Marie, David and Branden.

  13. Melita Sovey 29 March 2012 0256 #

    If you like dogs as I do, then do not forget to check our website where you can talk about dogs. (An all other animals …)

  14. Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 March 2012 1410 #

    I do like dogs. Will have a look.

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