Tallinn was in the midst of a festival of sorts, with old medieval-style people dressed up everywhere, random foods for tasting, and all variety of acts going on in the main square, from dancers, to weight lifters, to singers. As such, the fantastic old town had a vibrant mood to it, and everywhere was buzzing and busy.
We caught up with the others just as they were about to climb St Olaf’s church tower. Dedicated to King Olaf of Norway (who was also a saint), it’s believed to date to the 13th century. The tower itself is 123.7m high, down from its peak (excuse pun) of 159m in the 1500s, when it was the tallest building in the world … until lightning struck. It’s been struck by lightning at least eight times, and burnt down completely three times.
A couple hundred steps up a steep and winding staircase, and the view over Tallinn was pretty amazing. From the old town below – one of the best preservedd (in that many of the buildings have not changed in hundreds of years), surrounded by the city wall, looking past that you could see the ocean, and the ferry terminals – where I’d be heading next. I still maintain this is one of the best ways to get to know a city – to go up and see the view, and it’s something I could really have done with in Buenos Aires – with no mountains to keep your bearings it’s easy to lose yourself.
After that we headed to a small pub, sitting outside trying out some of the local brews. It was cool and I was just in a shirt, so it was with some relief when we moved on to the admittedly more touristy pubs around the square to try some of the honey beer – which is quite delicious, and goes well with a plate of table snacks.
As the ‘evening’ fell and the temperature cooled, we headed indoors to a tiny little pub with barrels around the wall, big oak tables, and elk soup. This is right on the north eastern corner of the square and well worth a visit; very cosy and a good way to spend an hour or so, before we tried a couple of places to find food, settling finally on a more regular food – pizza. I’d seen at the ‘traditional’ places that one served bear, but at 48 Euros, it was a bit out of range. This was something evident about Tallinn – as a result of adopting the Euro, and the many Finnish tourists coming in on the ferries, the prices were the most expensive in the Baltics. Coming from Latvia and Lithuania (and indeed the great prices in Poland), the prices stung a little.
At this point it was time to head out, and after a brief stop back at the hostel we went off initially to try and find a burlesque show – and failed twice at that, before resorting to a cocktail in the new town, and then heading to the local bars, ending up in a pub with a local band playing for a bit, before the more ‘regular’ bars. Tallinn has a small but fun nightlife area, although it’s certainly also where many European bachelor parties head. People fell off slowly, with some of the more crazy staying out till 5am, and then rising early again.
I’d by now moved to a different smaller room in the same hostel due to a convenient sequence of events, and alas had found a room of snorers. As a result I was awake reasonably early, but hung around until the agreed upon pancake time. Back to Kompressor – Kelly came and joined us again as well.
We headed out in two groups to the open-air museum, situated just outside of Tallinn, amongst forest right on the beach. The museum is meant to show some of the older traditional buildings as they would have been in a small village back in the day. It was quite interesting, and included an old water mill, a windmill, and a ton of mosquitos.
Heading back in on the local bus, we decided on meeting up at the chocolate house, with rain threatening, we then walked across to the old Patarei (Battery) prison. Originally developed in 1820 as a fortress, you can now go on tours and have a ‘last meal’ with schnappes (but no execution). While it was closed, it was right on the beach and has an open-air bar out the back (as well as a retired submarine rigged up alongside on the beach!). Some drinks there and many stories, we ambled back to town late evening to find some food. The great part of being at this latitude was that even late evening it was very light – with some brief semblance of light in the sky even at midnight.
The downside of looking for food at this time is that a lot was closed, but we were just able to convince a place to stay open for our group, and as a bonus they even served bear, for a much more reasonable price. Naturally I jumped at that, and can now tick off bear with a rich meaty gravy (no, not bearnaise) as a delicious meal.
I had moved rooms again, onto the floor of the dorm with the others as Oliver had headed off for one night to Helsinki, and we spent some time chilling in the dorm before crashing out.
As it was a bank holiday in the UK, the others were able to stay until Monday, and had various flights back throughout the afternoon and evening. So we were able to start the day together again (even the Aussie) – but a small mutiny over having pancakes yet again meant we sought out a cafe which served very welcome English breakfasts and good coffee.
Soon after that, half the group had to head to the airport, Danny went off to get photocopies done and sort stuff for Russia as the new parts for his scooter were due to arrive the next day, and Sam, Jen, Kelly and myself headed on a walk right across town to the Kadroid Palace and its grounds – an imperial Russian summer residence built for Tsar Peter the Great in 1718. It is situated in a 90 ha (222 acre) park in the eastern part of the city – and looks pretty great, with a very smart exterior but it doesn’t have the same regal approach that Buckingham Palace, or say, Windsor Castle has. It almost feels hidden away in its grounds.
We then walked down to the beach for some pictures in the windy surf, before heading back through town. The others headed off to the airport and I shifted hostels (Tallinn was really full this weekend) to Alur, still in the old town and quite a nice hostel. Chatted briefly to an American father and son who were literally in Estonia for the weekend(!). I also realised there that it was the first time in days that I’d been online, a rarity for me!
Danny and I met up again for dinner, heading back to the elk soup place first, where I also excitedly had a game pie of some sort – but upon asking was told that she wasn’t sure what was in it – could be fox, bear, wolf, anything. Disappointing – I like to know if I’ve eaten something new!. We ended up at a final Kompressor pancake meal before saying goodbye – Danny was passing on our original northern route, and heading straight across to St Petersburg in Russia, while I’d head first to Finland.
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