|October 17, 2010
Today our short sojourn to Finland was over and we had to get up and get packed to leave. We had an afternoon ferry to Tallinn so we weren’t in a huge rush. We sat in the common area at the hostel and lazed around, eating the pastries we’d bought yesterday for our breakfast.
Eventually we decided to leave the hostel and grab some lunch before we got the ferry. We had spotted a Thai restaurant near the ferry terminal and so we headed there. The food was really good and it had been a while since we’d had Thai so we really enjoyed our pork meatballs and chicken green curry, washed down with local Karhu beer!
We got checked in for the ferry to Tallinn and it wasn’t long before we boarded. I fell asleep on the ferry and when I awoke we were already getting into Tallinn, just an hour and a half later. Everyone had been telling us how lovely Tallinn was so we were quite surprised when we were faced with the harbour which was very crappy! However, we walked into the old town and it was much more picturesque with the old wall running around the city. The main problem we had then was that we couldn’t find our hostel, The Monk’s Bunk. We walked around for about 45 minutes and no-one had heard of it. We eventually asked at another hostel (which was linked to ours) and they told us the place had moved and hadn’t been at the old address for well over a year! We eventually found the right address and checked in and lazed around, getting to meet some of the people at the hostel.
For dinner we found a small basement pub called Karja Kelder and we were able to try both local food and local beers here. We both had a beer called A. Le Coq although I went for the Tume (dark) and Elizabeth went for the Hele (light). To soak that up I had a stew thing which consisted of potato, bacon, egg, onion, cheese and tomato whilst Elizabeth had fried cheese and fries! The food was excellent and a fraction of the price of Scandinavia and we were already wondering about how our waistlines might suffer even on our first evening!
October 18, 2010
The hostel isn’t exactly a party hostel but there were plenty of people coming and going late last night and early this morning. I didn’t feel like I got much sleep but once we had got up we were both keen to walk around and explore so that we could see more of the lovely city walls.
We decided we would head out to the bus station first so that 1- we knew where it was and 2- we could buy tickets for our bus journeys over the next week or so. We bought our tram tickets and found the right tram to the bus station. The trouble was, I’d forgotten to bring anything with the dates and times of the buses we needed to book so whilst we easily achieved #1, #2 was a complete and utter fail!
Back on the tram and back in the old town we visited a handicraft market and just wandered around. We saw loads of cool buildings including St Olaf’s Church, which is named after a Norwegian king, the Holy Spirit church which has a cool clock claiming to be the oldest in Estonia or Eastern Europe or something, Raekoja Plats (Town Square) with the impressive Town hall adorned with weird dragon heads, Toompea Hill and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with the Russian Orthodox style onion domes and stunning mosaics, Toompea Castle and rubbish view over the crappy part of town as well as the medieval wall which seems to run everywhere around the city.
In amongst all this we briefly stopped at some souvenir shops to get our magnet and then a bar called Hell Hunt for lunch. Hell Hunt actually means Gentle Wolf so it isn’t quite the dark, dingy, scary bar it might’ve been and inside it was quite busy and had a good selection of beer and food. I tried another dark beer and Elizabeth had the Siider (cider) which was really sweet. To eat I had the bean stew which was similar to last night and Elizabeth had a dish consisting of potato, mince and cheese! Most of the local dishes here were quite similar and almost all had meat, potato and many had cheese too. Nice and healthy lunch for us!
Back at the hostel we hung out in the common room for a while before we headed out and met Lawrence, the American guy we’d met in Helsinki, for dinner We went to the Beer House to start with where I tried the BH Premium beer. I’d asked the server what he recommended and he had said that and when I saw the menu I saw why – it was twice the price of all the other beers but it was probably the best one we had in Tallinn! For dinner we all had some type of sausage as the menu had quite a German feel to it, as did the entire place, looking more like a German beer hall than the bars we’d seen so far. Even the menus were in the shape of beer glasses! After that we went to the Depeche Mode Bar, a bar which plays only Depeche Mode, but after one beer we left at it was getting a bit too depressing. Walking back towards our hostel, we were stopped by a crazy woman who worked in the funky medieval bar which was actually in the town hall. We tried a beer there but didn’t stay too long as Lawrence managed to offend one of the locals. She asked if he wanted to try her soup and he said he didn’t because she might have germs. If that wasn’t bad enough, he continued to say he wasn’t her fault as she probably had germs she didn’t even know about. It was a weird thing to say to a generous offer and I quickly made my way outside and waited for Lawrence to stop digging his hole! We then headed to Karja Kelder for a quick beer (this time Saku Kuld) before we met everyone back at the hostel to go out. Two English guys, Ed and Toby, had been staying for a month but were leaving tomorrow so they got everyone together and we all went to a bar called Shooters and got very drunk.
October 19, 2010
We both woke up this morning really hungover and as a result we did nothing all day but try and eat ourselves out of our sickness and headaches! This started with an early lunch at Pizza Grande where we shared a large spicy meat pizza and continued in the early evening at Kompressor for dinner. Kompressor had been recommended to us as doing some great pancakes but I was not impressed as they didn’t have much filling and were a bit sickly, not helping my hangover at all. Back at the hostel it was still quite quiet so we put a film on the projector and laid down and watched Iron Man II. Part way through a large group of Italians came in and were being annoying as they wanted to watch the Milan match (which didn’t start for two hours!) and so we struggled to hear the film over their noise. When the football started they pounced on all the sofas and surrounded us so we packed up my laptop quickly and headed out for some peace and quiet. We headed to Karja Kelder again and we both tried the Saku Tume (dark) beer and I couldn’t resist but having the same stew I’d had the other night. The Kompressor pancakes just hadn’t helped me feel better! The above paragraph might not sound like much but it took a lot of effort and willpower to leave the hostel three times in one day for food!
October 20, 2010
Having wasted yesterday we decided to try and actually do some stuff today so we started off with the Occupation Museum. This had some OK displays of items used in everyday life in Estonia from the 1940s until 1991 when it regained independence but most of the history of the country was on seven 30 minute videos which were difficult to watch/hear with lots of school groups around. The country had been independent until the late 1930s when the Soviets took over but this occupation only lasted a couple of years until the Germans invaded. This didn’t last long either as soon the Soviets were pushing the Germans back and had reclaimed Estonia as their own in 1944, a situation which lasted until 1991 when many of the Soviet states reclaimed and regained their independence. It was a shame we couldn’t watch and concentrate on the videos and that they were so detailed as we both left feeling we hadn’t learnt very much from the museum
For lunch we headed back to the medieval place in the town hall where we got to try elk stew, boar and wild mushroom pie, beef and pig pie and apple pie. The food was really good and was so cheap – each item was only 15 Krones which is about $1.25!
After lunch we took the tram to Kadriorg Park and went to KUMU, one of the art museums in the city. It wasn’t cheap to get in but the displays were excellent and the building was really cool, too. The first exhibit was photographs by Estonians which showed them during and after the Second World War, many of them in exile across Europe and America. There were some really interesting pictures here especially those which showed the Estonian communities in New York and the annual marches and festivals they had. Their acceptance into American society seemed almost seamless, if the pictures are to be believed and are a true portrayal, and it almost makes some of the xenophobia and racism we still deal with today even more unbelievable and unnecessary. The accompanying exhibit showed Estonian art from 1945 to 1991, the year they gained independence from the Soviet Union. The paintings were really interesting and many seemed to take on quite a style of their own. You could see some influences of more famous painters in some of the works but many of them stood out and it was a really interesting collection. We sometimes skip local galleries as we haven’t heard of the artists but this was one situation where I’m glad we didn’t. I know we shouldn’t really skip such exhibits or quickly browse through them as I’m sure we might miss some gems but too often, especially with me not being a huge lover of paintings, I need something to capture my imagination and inspire me before I even walk into the gallery. It’s not the right way, I grant you, but it is how it is! The next floor down displayed Estonian art from the 18th Century up to WWII and although this was a lot of landscapes and portraits it was at least interesting trying to look for landscape pictures of places we’d been or were going to! The final exhibit was paintings by Estonians in exile. Many of these artists had fled Estonia during the war to escape from firstly the Russians and secondly the Nazis. The style of painting was much different to the previous pre-war art as you could tell the influence of American artists on some of these painters. Many of them continued their old styles while in exile but you could tell from some the way their works evolved as their cultural experiences altered and grew. It was a really good range of exhibits, almost solely Estonian, and was worth the trip out and the entry fee.
When we got back to the hostel it was still really quiet so we took the chance to put a movie on in the common room and this time we watched Seven Pounds which was pretty good. I quite like having a place where we feel that not only can we see stuff and have fun but that we can also relax. We’ve been to a lot of places now and too many of them just aren’t relaxing unless you hide yourself away in bed. Thankfully this place was quiet during the days and had a comfy common area.
For dinner we returned to Pizza Grande and had the large pizza which, by my calculations, was 1,256cm² of cheesy goodness. We’d had the medium the other day and that was big enough but this thing was massive. We felt bad as we still managed to consume the entire thing! The hostel had planned a bit of a bar crawl tonight so we came back and chatted with some girls in our room and waited until everyone was ready. Yanush, the manager from our hostel, took us along the road to the Monk’s Bunk’s partner hostel, The Tallinn Backpackers. When we arrived we could tell it was much more of a party atmosphere here but it felt more like a frat party. They have a game where you have to drink your height in beer – you finish one can and then they tie another on top of it and so on until it reaches your head and beyond. We weren’t remotely interested in doing this and I grabbed a couple of blueberry ciders and we watched and chatted and found it all quite amusing. There were a few guys with beer stacks up to their heads and most of them probably had about 12 or so beers in them. One guy, however, had 17 cans stacked up and had to stand on the window ledge to be able to reach his top beer, which he downed very quickly. It soon went from funny to weird to gross as he looked like he was about to vomit, then he did vomit a little bit before he managed to cover himself and half the hostel in puke. Yanush decided he’d had enough and we agreed and so we left as the smell was quite bad and I guess I’m just a little too old for that kind of crap. We went to a small bar in the old town which everyone else was heading to later and had a couple of drinks before having an early-ish night leaving all the drunkards to go off partying. It was still a fun (and, er, memorable) night and it was good chatting to Yanush about where he has travelled. He is originally from Victoria, Australia but has been in Europe for quite a while now and was even giving us tips on places to go in Albania! We were also chatting to a Kiwi called Johnny who used to be the manager of our hostel before Yanush and was good fun as well – we’d met him on Monday night when we were out but I can’t remember much more than drunken conversations then!