Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tallinn, Estonia

Chris planned our little getaway as an early 10th anniversary and he chose Tallinn and Helsinki.  It’s easy to get to from Frankfurt – 2 hour flight, and we haven’t been to either location and both sound exciting.  My mom was super in staying in a foreign country with 3 little hooligans.  

Tallinn is an absolutely lovely city.  Estonia is not exactly known as a big touristy destination but I am guessing that most people who do the Baltic and Scandinavian tours or cruises make it to Estonia.  As for me, I spend many summers in a village outside of Narva as a child and have great memories.

We stayed at the hotel within Old City (Tallinn’s Old City is a pretty small) and were able to do and see pretty much everything Tallinn has to offer in the 48 hours that we spend there.  When we arrived Sunday night, it wasn’t clear that while restaurants were open many do not serve food after 8 or so; the restaurants just function as bars.  Thus, at nearly 10 o’clock we finally found an open place, we were thrilled.   The fact that food delicious was a great bonus!

Town Hall Square was only minutes away from our hotel.The square is somewhat typical of many other places – big Town Hall, TONS of restaurants with questionable quality food.  Having said that, Estonian food was unbelievable once we stepped 2 minutes away from the square.  One of the evenings we went to a place called Kohlav Moon, it serves Russian food with a modern twist.  In Chris’s words – “best food in Europe.”  Even the things that he might not usually enjoy (such as cold borscht), he loved.  Also, we learned that Estonia really likes their elk and other weird meats.  However, the only wine they had was dry and super dry, and that was both in stores and restaurants.  Strange!

While in Tallinn, we did most of the normal touristy things.  Seaplane Harbour is a big museum which had many different size boats – anything from a 2-seater to a submarine to a big warship.  Yep, it’s pretty clear that I know nothing about ships/boats but the museum also had interactive part was was pretty cool.  

TV Tower was one of those maybes on our list.  We ended up going at the very end of the day when many other places are closed (FYI things close at 5PM).  What makes Tallinn a bit weird for us but probably not to other people is that in June the sun does not go down until nearly 11PM and it rises at 4AM.  Moreover, the hours between that are still not dark. So when museums and such close at 5PM, it’s still really really sunny so it feels kind of like you have a whole day in front of you.   Anyway, back to the TV Tower- it was empty when we got there – as in no line, go right up.  We took the elevator and learned that Skype was created in Estonia.  At the top we saw probably most of Estonia :)  Seemingly Estonia is pretty flat so on a nice sunny day, you can see really far.  Problem is that there is not that much to see.  We went to get some  coffee and had a delicious snack (yes, again food was amazing) at the top, and then made our way down to the catch a bus to the a destroyed monastery.   

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral had lots of gold, but unlike most of the other churches and cathedrals we visited, at this one you can only walk into about the first third of the place.  Also at the front door there is a security guy who looks like Russian mobster from the 90s – it’s nearly 80 degrees outside and there he is – leather jackets, soldier-style boots, all in black … Weird!!!  

Kiek in de Kok and Bastion Passages was an interesting places.  Kiek in de Kok is a tower in which we climbed up pretty small and narrow steps.  It had some historical information on the weapons, the military uniforms but I kind of expected more from such a massive looking tower.  Bastion Passages are tunnels under the wall and the tower.  We had an English speaking tour and she did ok, but clearly lacked some enthusiasm.  The tunnels apparently were used for many years from 17th century until WWII to store ammunition and hide people.  In the later years, tunnels were so built out that they had their own water lines, communication systems, and electricity.

Overall, we loved Tallinn and really enjoyed our stay but after a couple of days it was time to head to ferry heading to Helsinki. 

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