Let’s start with a little geography lesson. Tallinn is in Estonia, which is the northernmost of the Baltic States and it is a port city, about 80 kilometers from Helsinki, Finland. It is north of Riga and Vilnius, which are both capitols of the other two Baltic States and all three were, at one time, Russian properties. Okay, got that out of the way. Now, on to my day in Tallinn.
So my first day in Tallinn was quite wet. It was raining, but not a constant downpour nor an annoying, but
manageable drizzle. No, the rain here was more of a hard drip. It was enough to get you wet and keep most people off the streets, but not wet enough to let you feel comfortable staying in the hostel and watching something from their pitifully weak selection of DVDs. So instead, I ended up in a bookstore, writing blog posts. I did also help an American couple figure out Euros as opposed to Estonian Krowns and their relative values. They were in from a cruise ship and somewhere along the line had gotten Euros in their change and it was perplexing them, loudly, to no end. So after about 20 minutes, I offered assistance. It was gratefully accepted and a few minutes later, they left and I was able to continue writing.
When I had written all my posts, I was going to try and upload them, but even though the bookstore had free wifi, I couldn’t access it. Seems the only way to get a password is to text to a certain number then they text you back the code. Everything here is done with mobile phones. These are some high tech folk here. They invented Skype (and they’re very close to Finland, home of Nokia!). So I knew I’d have to upload back at the hostel – I just wasn’t ready to go back. I was hungry.
Tallinn is an interesting place in that it seems fairly new to the tourist game but they are attacking it full force. They have a great old town and are starting to get some tours organized. They also have theme restaurants. So on my way back to the hostel, I stopped in at the Peppersack for dinner. The wait staff was all dressed in medieval garb (I particularly liked the girl with the, I’m sure, period tattoo on her arm) and took a look at the menu. I figured I didn’t do anything exciting today and we’re going to have to have something to write about, so the food it was. I ordered a duck breast in raspberry sauce, which was quite nice and then I saw, right there on the menu, lamprey. A lamprey, for those who don’t know, is a small, eel like creature with lots and lots of teeth and when it attacks, it latches on and sucks your blood out. So what the heck, I figured I’d try it!
You know what, it doesn’t taste like chicken. Nope, it tastes like eel. And I don’t like eel. So I had two of the five pieces and concentrated on my duck, which I finished heartily. Then it was back to the hostel and a night of uploading pictures and starting my online class.
The next day, though, I went and explored the town. It was sunny and much nicer out. I took a couple of bus tours to all points of the compass, which was good and bad. The bus tours, with headsets in all languages, are fine, and the big selling point, about being able to hop on and hop off at the various stops is cool, except when the bus only comes every 90 minutes! So when I wanted to stop and maybe go up the TV tower
for the view, there was nothing else around and waiting for 90 minutes for another bus? Not so much. So I snapped a few quick shots, heard some stories (like how the Estonians garnered their independence from Russia by singing) and headed back to town. This wasn’t a bad thing since I was supposed to meet Piret, my savior of Sunday night, at Old Hansa at 14:30.
Old Hansa is the original of ye olde tyme food shoppe places in Tallinn. The menus (which I couldn’t afford to buy since they are wrapped in leather and yes, are for sale in the gift shop) are all done up with medieval drawings and all the food is designed as if you were visiting a tavern the king himself might visit. It was great! And since this is a food
post, I decided to try something I’ve never had before – Bear! It’s a dark meat, a bit gamey, but still quite nice. It was in a lovely sauce. And before that, Piret had
ordered us some appetizer samplers which included jellied tongue (yes, I tried it) and some sort of beef with horseradish sauce. After I finished my bear, Piret and I talked about dessert. She said the apple pastry was to die for but but took 15 minutes to bake and she had to go to a meeting, so if I wanted it, I was on my own.
How could I refuse?
So I ordered it, said goodbye to my companion and started talking to the couple sitting next to us. Then the dessert came. It was huge and delicious and would have been worth going to Tallinn just for that. I didn’t mean to eat it all, really. I even offered some to my neighbors (after seeing mine, though, they ordered their own) but in the end, I cleaned my plate.
My waitress came over and told me I had eaten the best meal in the house – the best meat dish with the best dessert and there were not many who could do that. So I joked and asked if she could write that out for me, in Estonian, so I could
A few minutes later she asked if I could hang out for a bit and talk to my neighbors because there was a certificate coming for me. When it finally came, it was brilliant. It says something to the effect of “on this day the great man accomplished what few have been able…” I don’t know exactly since not only is it in Estonian, but it’s in Olde Estonian script, handwritten and (I think) has been embellished. I say I think because when I went to thank the girl who did it, I told her I was going to frame it and she took it back to make it prettier. I haven’t seen the final version since it’s rolled up and carefully packaged.
After that, I toured a bit more, took in some sights and then headed back to pack up. I had an early morning ferry to Helsinki and I didn’t want to be late.