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Clare
Clare

Days 6 & 7: Tallinn

After two relaxing days in Latvia, it was time to move on to what was scheduled to be our third and final country: Estonia. The journey from Riga to Tallinn took about four and a half hours but it didn't feel anywhere near that long, as we had the good fortune to be travelling on one of the world's most comfortable buses. We had booked tickets with a company called Luxexpress and although, with the benefit of hindsight, I probably should have noticed that the company name included the word "lux", I really wasn't expecting anything special given that we had only paid €16 each. We were therefore amazed to find that we had extremely comfortable seats, more leg-room than we knew what to do with (there were so much space, our legs weren't actually long enough to reach the footrests!) and free wi-fi. The comfort was surpassed only by the Luxexpress bus on which we travelled back to Riga on Sunday morning, which had seats so soft they actually felt like beds. Tim began mentally planning future holidays which would involve spending the maximum possible time upon Luxexpress buses!

We arrived in Tallinn around 13.30 and began navigating our way towards the hotel. When booking hotels in new places, I normally aim to find somewhere within 1.5km of the bus/train station we will be arriving at, so as to minimise the dragging of cases, but in Tallinn this hadn't proved possible and we had about 2.5km to walk. This wouldn't necessarily have been a problem, had it not been for the fact that my suitcase was broken. If you have been reading the blog assidiuously, you may recall that Italy killed my suitcase. After the nightmare of dragging it around Abruzzo without functioning wheels, one of the first things I did when I got back to the UK was to order a new one. Tim and I did quite a bit of suitcase research on Amazon, and I eventually opted for a big hard case made by a German manufacturer. The wheels looked sturdy, as far as we could tell from the Internet, and the fact that it was German-made gave me hope that it would be good quality. I was extremely disappointed, therefore, to find that one of the main wheels broke during its first outing in Vilnius. The wheel had buckled somehow, which made pulling it rather difficult, and by the time we got to Riga the unexpected friction as I dragged it along was causing bits of wheel to melt and fall off. By Tallinn, the wheel had ceased to function in any meaningful way and we were left wishing that we had brought Tim's indestructible (Ukrainian!) suitcase instead.

Anyway, we progressed slowly towards our hotel and we were more or less coping until we reached the narrow streets of the Old Town. The Old Town in Tallinn is truly beautiful but on that first day we were in no condition to admire it as we alternately pushed and pulled the wretched case along cobblestones, up and down huge stone kerbs, in and out of random holes in the pavement... Adding to the trauma were the facts that it was over 30 degrees, the town centre was full of tourists so it was impossible to walk in a straight line and the Google map I had printed was far from sufficient to correctly decipher the rabbit warren of streets. A lack of street signs meant that we completely missed the final turning for our hotel, accidentally walking out of the city walls, and ultimately it was gone 14.30 by the time a pair of very hot and bothered travellers arrived at the Olevi Residents Hotel. We were looking forward to checking into our room, turning on the air con and doing some serious cooling down.

Unfortunately, things didn't exactly work out like that.

We checked in at the hotel reception and they explained that a porter would show us to our room. He was a nice enough chap, though his command of English was only slightly superior to our command of Russian. He led us out of the reception, down an extremely tight spiral staircase, through what appeared to be part of a restaurant kitchen, along a corridor, down some more steps and eventually stopped outside Room 18. We opened the door and were hit with a blast of heat. There was a large fan on the far side of the room, which the porter obligingly went to turn on for us. It whirred briefly, before deciding that that was too much like hard work and cutting out. Oh dear. We would have opened a window to cool down... except there wasn't one. It appeared that we had been given a room in the basement and there was no natural light at all. Tim suggested that the porter might like to go and get us another fan. He returned a few minutes later with a tiny device which seemed designed for blowing out warm air rather than cool and if it made any impact on the temperature of the room, it probably made it hotter.

We stuck it out for a few hours before heading out to explore Tallinn and grab some food. When we returned to the hotel room later in the evening, it was like a sauna. There was no way we could have slept in there, so Tim headed off to reception to complain. The hotel seemed pretty full so I wasn't sure he'd have any luck but his impressive negotiating skills (=telling the staff that the room was "dangerously hot") had the desired effect and he soon returned with the keys to room 62.

Room 62 was on the sixth floor and the hotel didn't have a lift. Reaching it was rather a struggle but it was worth it when we did to achieve the luxury of a window. There was still no air conditiong or fan, but opening the window cooled the room down to a reasonable temperature and it was a massive improvement on being stuck in airless basement!

Accommodation problems suitably resolved, on Friday we were ready to start exploring Tallinn in earnest. What a beautiful city! Almost every street that we walked down was photo-worthy and so it is difficult to know where to start when describing it.

beautiful-old-town-streets

We deliberately made an early start with our sightseeing, because we knew there was a risk that the Old Town would be swamped by visitors from cruise ships during the middle of the day. By the time the coach-loads of them arrived at 10am, we had already enjoyed the best of the sights in peace and quiet. The one good thing about our hotel was its central location and so we were able to wander straight out into the main square, which is dominated by the enormous town hall building.

town-hall

From there we found our way to the East Gate, where we saw the first of countless fantastic towers built into the old city walls.

10-towers-at-east-gate.jpg

20-square-tower.jpg

30-round-tower.jpg

40-tall-tower.jpg

50-fat-tower.jpg

60-row-of-towers.jpg

The towers weren't the only noteworthy sights, though. Among our other favourites were this amazing Russian Orthodox cathedral:

orthodox-cathedral

As well as the Estonian Independence monument:

independence-monument

Having seen the main sights of the Old Town during the morning, we had a cunning plan to avoid the hordes of tourists in the afternoon by heading out to Kadriorg park. Kadriorg, which means "Catherine's Valley" in Estonian, is a suburb of Tallinn which is dominated by an enormous park, originally commissioned by the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, and named after his wife.  As the park is a few kilometres' walk outside of the town centre, we gambled that most other tourists wouldn't find their way there... and happily we were right.

kadriorg-park

After a lovely stroll around the park grounds, which house the palace of the Estonian President and a cottage which Peter the Great lived in while the park was being developed, we unexpectedly found ourselves at the seaside.

tallinn-beach

The heavens opened not long afterwards and sheltering under a somewhat inadequate trellis, we watched the ships cruising in and out of Tallinn harbour. That seemed to plant the seed of an idea in Tim's mind and as we embarked on the long walk back into Tallinn (we walked over 15 miles in total that day!) he said, "Why don't we go to Helsinki tomorrow?".

Erm, maybe because Helsinki is kinda, like, in Finland?!

Actually, it turns out that Helsinki isn't very far away from Tallinn at all. A bit of research on the Internet that evening revealed that a company called Tallink runs regular ferries which travel from one capital to the other within two hours. Initially the prices looked expensive, but by going out and returning on the same day we became eligible for a special day-cruise discount so that the final fare was only €30 each. It seemed like too good a chance to miss out on, so we booked our tickets and went to bed extremely excited by the prospect of visiting country number FOUR!

 




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