Travelers to Cuba -- particularly government officials, businessmen, journalists and other useful visitors green-lighted by the Obama Administration -- should first be required to visit the Hotel Viru in Tallin, Estonia.
It might save them years of blackmail, extortion and public advocacy on behalf of the Castro dictatorship.
Re-opening this month as a hotel-museum, the Hotel Viru offers a glimpse of how the Castro regime's secret police learned to keep tabs on (and manipulate) its ingenious foreign visitors.
Welcome to Sokos Hotel Viru:
Soviet Hotel Life under the Keen Eye of KGB
A glimpse on life in the Soviet Republic of Estonia during the explosive sixties, the time of the Cold War. The country's Soviet-run government, watching the billions made by global tourism establishments passing by, decided to try and bring some of the currency to their own territory. To do so, the government needed to start building hotels suitable for accommodating foreigners. But the hotels suitable for foreigners also had to suit the KGB.
This would be a fitting introduction to the story that is the birth of Hotel Viru, the first skyscraper in Estonia and the creation of the first hotel museum to be opened in January. Hotel Viru, built by Finnish specialists at a record speed of three years and opened in 1972, has since been a distinctive part of the silhouette of Tallinn and is filled with different stories about the hotel itself, Soviet society, and the development of Estonia.
The first twenty years of the hotel were spent largely under the command of the KGB, followed by the successful launch into a market economy after Estonia regained its independence in 1991. Since the very beginning, the hotel has also had an important part to play in the stories told by the Finns - from builders to owners and lessees to tourists.
The watchful eye of the KGB was a part of the hotel's everyday life and kept the very last floor, the 23rd, of the hotel closed for the public. The largest skyscraper balconies overlooking the city, the sea, and the Old Town have remained closed until now as all the efforts so far have been focused on modernizing and renovating the lower floors of the hotel. But the stories have never stopped accumulating…
We have decided to make the last floor of the hotel accessible to the public as the first hotel museum in Estonia and open up the KGB room/museum, allowing people to take a look at the major sights of the city with the help of a map from the best possible viewpoint found in the city centre. At the museum, we will tell our guests the stories of the hotel and the KGB's part in them, introduce the history of the city centre by showing various objects and images that feature the funny seventies, tough eighties, and the cowboy capitalism of the nineties. Although the hotel lives on and new stories are born every day, we need to draw a line somewhere and have decided to conclude our story-telling at 2003, when the hotel was taken over by the Sokos hotel chain.
The KGB room has been preserved as the comrade officers left it in 1991. We have taken numerous guests from nearer and farther countries to see the room throughout the years and the interest towards it has been immense. We have never managed to stay in the 15-minute time limit of the tour and our guests have always surprised us with uncountable questions, comments, and memories. We have seen people for whom the Soviet era has been only a page in the history book realize, by seeing a robust eavesdropping device and by taking a step back in time, that all of this was reality only a few dozen years ago, and not some ancient relic dating back two thousand years. Back then, tourism was far from an innocent form of entertainment since each foreign guest was greeted with the full force of ideological weaponry.
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