Tallinn is a city still split by the Iron Curtain. Forty per cent of the city’s population continue to identify themselves as Russian, and for many it’s their only language.

Earlier this year the city was gripped by riots in April when the Government ordered the relocation of the Bronze Soldier (a monument erected by the Soviets in 1947) and exhumation of Soviet soldiers from Liberator’s Square.

According to Külli, the Government’s actions were more than just a symbolic gesture reinforcing its independence, the incident was a pointed message to Moscow and Estonian residents of Russian descent whose loyalties often lie elsewhere.

“It was strange that we had a situation during the riots where we had 18-year-olds saying things were better during the Soviet days, when they don’t have any idea what it was like,” she says.

Talking to Külli it’s easy to get the impression that Tallinn is a city still not at ease with itself. A city still not sure if the enemy lies within. But despite the obvious tensions that remain, Tallinn is doing its utmost not to be consumed by them.

For most visitors it’s a city where the charm of a time long before communism is the dominant feature. Old Towns can seem a dime a dozen throughout Europe, but Tallinn’s is somewhat unheralded, which is surprising given its wonderfully maintained streets.

Lined with myriad craft shops, restaurants and bars it’s not as though the idea of tourism has passed it by. But the area is still central to the city’s identity. More than 700 years old, it is split in two, with Toompea Hill hovering over the Lower Town.

Historically associated with the upper-classes, Toompea Hill is still home to the Estonian parliament.

For all the stones and concrete of Tallinn’s Old Town, Estonians are nature lovers at heart. “Estonians are very stubborn,” Külli says. “A lot of people follow nature religion. We have always had foreign rule and with foreign rule came Christianity. But nature is what many people still identify with.”

This connection is best seen at Metsakalmistu Cemetery (Forest Cemetery). Situated in the Pirita District, a 15-minute bus ride from the centre, the cemetery is poles apart from the wide expanses of many Western cemeteries. Opened in 1939, it is the final resting place for Estonians who long to spend eternity among the lush trees and wildlife that contradict any morbid feeling.

It’s a contradiction which neatly sums up Tallinn, a city where the ghosts of the past are slowly giving way to hopes for the future.

Go tenpin bowling
OK, so it’s perhaps not the most culturally revered of activities while you’re travelling, but the Estonians love it. There are a few different lanes in the city, but if you head to the one at Pirita Beach you can skittle some pins while enjoying the ocean view.

Get naked
You don’t want to be running around in the depths of winter in the nuddy, but Estonians get a kick out taking their kit off
for a sauna. You can sweat it out in one of dozens of saunas that dot the city.

Avoid bucks parties
Might be easier said than done because the price of beer in Estonia is pretty cheap compared to other countries in the region – you’ll get a pint for around £2. Avoid anywhere that plays English Premier League football and you should be right.

Don’t get robbed
While it has the feel of a smaller city, don’t get too lax with your personal security in Tallinn. We were on a public bus for less than five minutes before someone tried to rummage through our day pack.

• Krysten Booth travelled to Tallinn with Opodo (0870-277 0090; www.opodo.co.uk). A seven-night break including flights
and four-star accommodation starts from £388.