For towns hoping to preserve any period of history, the trick is maintaining authenticity: castles, churches, shops, and streets – all must fit the time.
Another aspect of historic accuracy that most centuries-old villages take seriously is business signs.
Nobody wants to see McDonald’s anachronistic arches in the middle of a Medieval treasure like Tallinn’s old town, but to be fair, most of the shops and restaurants thrive or fail on the tourist trade. So the question is: how to find a balance between what works aesthetically and what advertises the business?
Few people could read in the Middle Ages, so signs had to be symbolic and easily understood. And the merchants of Tallinn have risen to the challenge and created artistic, eye-catching signs to grab tourists’ attention.
Whether advertising pretzels, beer, or coffee …
James & Terri
I love these. Still smiling as I type. I apologize for not recalling where you have previously found some of these interesting shop signs. Simple but oh so effective and smile inducing.
Thanks Sue. Some of the best were in Germany: specifically Rothenburg and Bacharach. Those Germans have the quaint Medieval village down, but the Estonians do an excellent job as well. ~James
you are right sometimes less is more – and the opening sign is my fav – glad these have been preserved
I like that photo as well Yvette. In fact, I’ve seen a similar sign in Rothenburg’s old town. Given all its curves, I’m sure that it was difficult to make. ~James
truly an art to make…. and again, beautiful *(and thx for the reply J)
What lovely creative signs! Your posts have made me regret I passed over an opportunity to attend a congress in Tallinn a couple of years ago. It wouldn’t have been a direct flight, but mostly I thought the experience would be a bit bland. Ha! one should always venture beyond more beaten paths.
Bea, if you get another chance to visit Tallinn, I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed. Of course, like most post-Soviet cities in Eastern Europe, there are bland parts of town, but Tallinn’s historic area plus the modern center is very cool. A hotel in one of these areas will put you within walking distance to all the good bits, and it has a very nice vibe as well. ~James
Yes, thanks for all the enticing information: you’ve very much put it on the map for me.
Having laptop issues this morning so hopped on the Reader on my phone and what do I find? Love it! A bit of serendipity. Love to you both xx
Jo, you must have seen lots of these old-town signs on your travels in Europe as well. I love the concept that they work for non-readers as well as foreigners who don’t speak the local language. I can’t tell you how many times in my travels that I’ve ordered a meal by pointing to a picture on a sign board or menu. ~James
Love the boot too.
Peggy, I’d never seen anything like this boot, and I was impressed. It must have been 5 ft long, and was a bit of metal-work genius. Very eye-catching. ~James
So much fun and so much more universal than words. Not language specific. Good post!
Thanks Peta. Your point about universal language is a good one. As a traveler, I’m sure you’ve used simples signs many times. I know that when I travel, I need all the language help I can get. ~James
Love all of these, such creativity used in designing a sign reflective of what’s inside. I am a bit of shoe hound so of course, the boot is my favourite!
You would have loved this posh little shop Lynn. The sign was wonderful, but the styles and prices were well out of our reach – at least for a couple of travelers who needed sensible shoes for negotiating all those cobblestone streets and alleys. 🙂 ~James
These signs are great and so clearly advertise what you’ll find inside. Fun!
Thanks Juliann. I love the simplicity of these signs as well as the artistic qualities. As I drive along the interstate I think that there certainly must be a lesson here. ~James
I love the old signs in European Cities and towns. They so clearly show what is for sale.
Thanks for the comment Terry and for dropping by the blog. As a traveler, I also appreciate that these signs work in any language; simplicity at its best. ~James
I want the shoes as a rainspout at our house! 🙂 –Curt
Curt, this craftsman not only has talent, but has a sense of humor as well. This sign was my fave for sure. ~James
Cities today force me into ocular overload. With every sign competing for our immediate attention, symbols so easily recognized, no name is needed. I love the simplicity of these signs and I agree, the boot is the best!
I agree Laura. I feel that so much of the advertising we see in the US is more of an assault than anything else. It ends up being a spiral that can only go up and up. There are so many signs and notices that in order to really get my attention, something has to be over-the-top. Were does it end? Simple and clever always work for me. ~James
These old signs are perfect. I especially like the boot!