tallinn Riga
Riga, Latvia

Big Christopher
In ancient times, before Riga had been built, a very large man named Christopher (in Latvian: Kristaps) built himself a hut on the right bank of the Daugava River. He earned his living by carrying people across the river on his back (or in some versions, in his ferry boat). They disembarked at the spot where Riga now stands.
One night Christopher awoke to the sound of a child crying on the left bank of the river. He waded over, picked up the mournful babe and began carrying him back across the river to the hut. With each step, Christopher found that the child became heavier until by midstream only with the greatest of effort could he made it to shore.
With his last ounce of strength, Christopher laid the child on the rug in front of the hearth in his hut and dropped off into an exhausted slumber. In the morning Christopher awoke to discover that the child had disappeared, leaving behind a coffer filled with gold. Christopher was a humble man and from this treasure, he spent not a coin until his dying day. Then he gave all the money to build Riga near the spot where his hut once stood.

Vilnius, Lithuania

The Iron Wolf
Grand Duke, Gediminas, was on a hunting trip in the forests of Šventaragis valley around the mouth of the River Vilnia. When night fell, the party, feeling tired after a long and successful hunt, decided to set up camp and spend the night there. While he was asleep, Gediminas had an unusual dream in which he saw an iron wolf at the top of the mountain. The iron wolf was standing on the top of a hill with its head raised proudly towards the moon, howling as loud as hundred wolves inside it filled all of the surrounding fields and woods. Awakened by the rays of the rising sun, the Duke remembered his strange dream and consulted the pagan priest Lizdeika about it. The latter interpreted the dream as follows: ‘Let that happen to the Ruler and the Lithuanian State what was fated to happen!’ He told the Duke that the dream was a direction to found a city among these hills. The howling of the wolf, explained the priest, represented the fame of the future city: that city will be the capital of Lithuanian lands, and its reputation would spread far and wide, as far as the howling of the mysterious wolf…’ So the Grand Duke of Lithuania, obeying the will of gods, immediately started to build the future capital, and took it the name – Vilnius – from the stream of the rapid Vilnia.


Tallinn, Estonia


Old Thomas
A long time ago in Tallinn, on the beach, there lived a poor widow named Kala-Mai and her son Toomas. Mai sold fish to the local citizens, and she used to leave for the city very early each morning. When the sun rose, the town gates were opened and the drawbridge was lowered. The guards knew Kala-Mai and her son very well, since while Mai was selling fish in the city, she left Toomas together with the guards in the watchtower.
Toomas always had a great time there. He studied the arms of the guards very carefully, but was still too small either to lift a spear or to discharge an arrow from the bow. The guards said, “We’ll make a special bow and spear for you, ones which will be suitable for a small man!“ And they did make them for him.
When Toomas became sixteen, he had already been walking to the city and selling fish himself. Being thankful for the fish, one old monk taught Toomas to read and count. Toomas had also not forgotten his archery and frequently practiced near the city walls together with the guards, who also taught him how to protect oneself from being hit by a spear and how to use a sword.
In those times, every spring, the Parrot Shooting Festival was held in Tallinn. In the Rose Garden, a wooden bird, called a “parrot“, was placed on top of a high pole. The competitor who managed to shoot the bird down was chosen to be the King of the Archers for the whole year. Toomas was waiting in the Rose Garden for the festive cortege of hunters to arrive. It had happen several times in the past that before the archers arrived, some daredevils had tried to shoot the parrot down. However, no one had ever succeeded.
In spite of the fact that the people standing around Toomas thought that he was just a boy, he did manage to shoot down the bird. After it happened, the news spread very quickly, and Toomas’ name became known all over the town. The head of the guards asked Toomas if he wanted to become one of them. Toomas gladly agreed. In his life, Toomas was such a brave and responsible town guard, that after his death people started calling the figure of a town guard on the top of the Town Hall tower Vana Toomas – to commemorate the brave guard.