I can’t say I was especially bowled over arriving into Tallinn’s passenger ferry terminal. That isn’t Tallinn’s fault of course. Whenever you arrive in a new country, the first thing you tend to see is a car park and and a fleet of waiting taxis and buses. Tallinn was no exception. Undeterred though, I set out expectantly underneath a grey sky that was producing even more snow than in Helsinki just 2 and a half hours earlier. The research I had done told me things were going to get much better.
Not immediately however. The route to the Old Town so many people come to Tallinn to see was lined with shopping centres, some of which I thought had an air of the Soviet Union about them. Rather than rows of shelves, the shop I popped into was lined with a series of glass-topped counters manned by stern-looking older ladies. The counters were filled with a variety of items from meats, cheeses, confectionery and alcohol to smoking paraphernalia, menacing-looking knives and hunting gear. One stall specialised in mugs with Vladimir Putin’s face on them. I must to admit, I was quite tempted by these. Some ladies tried to engage with me in Estonian, while others stared vacantly at their phones or looked silently and directly at me with unwarranted venom. I left the store mug-less and bemused and headed for the steeples of the Old Town.
Tallinn is one of those exceptions where first impressions don’t count. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a treasure trove of cobbled streets and narrow alleyways lined with curiosity shops and welcoming cafes and pubs. The city has a long and varied history with many of Estonia’s neighbours having staked a claim on the nation over the course of time. This is reflected in the Old Town’s architectural variety. Even streets that lead to nowhere in particular were picturesque and rich in character. I had come to Tallinn with high expectations and despite the weather and the initial dose of asphalt, engine fumes and retail weirdness, those expectations were very much met.
As much I love snow, even I have a tolerance limit. I had four hours of exploration time in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn before the boat headed back to Helsinki and I wanted to spend every minute wisely. But there’s only so much horizontal snow hitting me in the face I can put up with. Cold, soaked and with a face that was red-raw, by the third hour I sought warmth and shelter. Regretfully, I didn’t head into this inviting establishment. Had I have noticed the English writing on the sign, I definitely would have. I’m not the sort of person that passes on an opportunity to have a bowl of Elk Soup, let alone a ‘decent’ one.
It was my first night in Helsinki and it was time for dinner. I wanted something tasty and authentically Finnish. So what did I choose?
What do you reckon the components of this delicious meal are?
Answer: It’s Sautéed Reindeer surrounded by mashed potato, accompanied by pickled gherkins and a pot of loganberries. Delicious and comforting.
This is St Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia, known locally as Toomkirik. On an ordinary day, it’s a very pretty building in what is a very pretty city. A dusting of snow though adds a little a little bit of extra magic.
Here’s a photo I took on my last morning in Helsinki, Finland. The snow had stopped falling, but the lying snow was sticking around, thanks mostly to the low air temperature. It was -8°C when I took this shot whilst wandering through Kaisaniemi Botanic Gardens towards the city’s main railway station. The pathway was very icy, but my trainers held up to the challenge and kept me upright. It would have been particularly embarrassing had I of slipped over, since commuters were gamely cycling past me at speed. A local told me that residents of Helsinki will cycle to work in all weathers.
I’m back from my weekend in Finland and Estonia. There’ll be more photos throughout the week from what was a smashing trip to the Nordic region. I also have stacks of photos from my earlier visit to Hong Kong to post.
There’s so much awesomeness to come! Enjoy it!
It’s bone-chillingly cold in Helsinki today. Huge piles of snow litter the squares and pathways, like this one in Senate Square. The city clears snow away very efficiently. In the city centre, some pathways are heated so that snow doesn’t even get a chance to settle. Wintery deposits don’t really affect these hardened northerners.
In the background of the photo and on the left, you can see a small group of Ukrainian demonstrators, who are opposed to today’s referendum in Crimea. A crew from a national TV channel were filming as the protestors chanted in Russian and held aloft signs with English slogans written on them.
As promised, here are a few shots from my day in Tallinn, Estonia. If you can, pop Tallinn near the top of your “Must Visit” list. You won’t regret it. It’s lovely!
Tomorrow, I’m going to see what Helsinki has to offer. As much as I love snow, I hope it clears up a bit. My trainers are already soaked through.
Hello again from Helsinki where, as promised, Winter has returned. Boy, its been chilly today!
I went on a mini adventure today to Tallinn in Estonia, my third new country so far this year. What I discovered was a beautiful and picturesque city packed full of history and ornate architecture. I spent a happy few hours wander the narrow cobbled streets in the snow before I had to head back to the ship. I’m certain I’ll be returning some day (perhaps when it’s a little bit warmer).
The photo above is of the neighbourhood I’m staying in in Helsinki. Photos of Tallinn to follow shortly.
This weekend, I’m visiting Helsinki in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia.
I got here via Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost and mostly no-frills airline that gets you from A to B. Norwegian differs from the likes of RyanAir and EasyJet though in two ways; everyone gets a comfortable leather seat and everyone gets free on-board WIFI. Being able to share photos on Facebook whilst 11,000 up in the air was very enjoyable and made the short journey fly by.
I can’t say the overall experience with Norwegian sparkled, but they got the job done efficiently and got me to my destination safely (despite the best efforts of some very windy conditions upon arrival). Considering what I paid for my fare, I can’t really ask for more.