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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2008

Location: Tallinn, Estonia


So after a four hour bus ride, we arrived from Riga, a little refreshed given we slept most of the way. As we left on dusk, most of the journey was in darkness, and with not too much to see between cities, we were happy to get some shut eye, figuring the night of Good Friday in Tallinn could be a big one.

Upon arriving, and having seen a couple of digital clocks with temperatures on them, and noting that the temperature was around -5, we got of the bus and decided to taxi it to the hostel, mainly as we were freezing and had no idea what part of town we were in. As it was, we were just around the corner and probably could have walked, we just couldn’t figure out exactly where we were.

We checked in, eventually, as the taxi could only drive us to the outskirts of the Old Town, and finding our way around the cobbled, crooked alley ways wasn’t the easiest thing of all time. It was also made the more difficult by actually trying to find the front entrance to the hostel as the building was shared with a strip club on the floor above… and the strip club definitely had the bigger signage out the front!

Having checked in, and being around midnight, we dropped our bags and headed out for a night cap. We had both decided to have a quiet evening, and decided to save ourselves for the rest of the long weekend. We wandered around and ended up at the sports bar where we had a couple of pints. For the first time seriously on the trip, we actually felt as though we were in some sort of danger. The Estonian guys were super loud and rowdy, well and truly drunk, and as big and brutal looking as any of the other Baltic guys we had met. We finished our couple of beers and called it a night.

The following morning we headed to the tourist information booth first hoping to get some information, but it seemed as though every other tourist in Tallinn had the same idea. We gave up trying to find information about seeing a basketball game, and decided to grab a tourist map and start wandering. We saw the sights of the town wandering around in the snow for a couple hours, including the medieval Town Hall, which is the Gothic town surviving in Northern Europe and was built in the 14th century. It is located in Raekoja plats, or the Old Town Square, and is now surrounded by restaurants, bars and cafes. The only other building of significance in the area is the Raeapteek, the Town Council Pharmacy, in the north east corner of the Town Square. The significance being that there has been a pharmacy or apothecary’s shop there since at least 1422… that’s a long time.

From the town square we headed west and through more small alley ways until we made it to the Dome Cathedral, the Toompea Castle (the traditional seat of power) and the Russian Alexander Nevski Cathedral, built as part of Alexander III’s Russification policy. We wandered around the Old Town walls, looking at the round defense towers that are still in pretty good condition. In fact, they are in better condition that most Old Town walls I have ever seen.

We wandered around the outside and through the Toompark before ending up at the southern gated entrance to the Old Town. From there we headed into an Irish pub for a meal and watch some football and have a couple drinks.

After the game, for some reason (who really needs a reason) we decided to head into the casino a couple doors up. Once again, heading to the casino in the afternoon, we managed to make a little bit of money and pocket a souvenir chip. We continued wandering around the Old Town, dropping into a few random pubs here and there. For dinner we headed to a ‘local’ restaurant called the Peppersack that was full of tourists easting local fare. The food was good, but not all that memorable.

Later in the evening we headed back to the casino again, and met a bunch of rowdy Irish lads. We played blackjack with them for a bit as most of them were kicking around at the roulette table. Eventually we all decided to pack up and leave (losing money again in the evening after winning in the avo) and wandered to a couple bars with them. We ended up in the Town Square and at a small pub downstairs with next to no-one in there.

Potter immediately took over and rummaged through the CD’s behind the bar and started asking for his cheesy 80’s requests to be played. And the bar chick, there all by herself, was more than happy to oblige and listen to the warbling of Potter. Eventually the place started getting busy with young locals and we convinced some of them to get in on the karaoke/dance off that was taking place.

At some point in time Potter disappeared, I believe to go and get Maccas, and we arranged to meet up back at the hostel. It was getting early, like 4 or so probably, and we ended up climbing up to the third floor and headed into the strippers. Well, that was a mistake. It cost a bit to get in (well, just chump change actually), and Potter grabbed us a couple of beers. We probably should have asked for the deals first, but we didn’t!

It certainly wasn’t like any strip club I had been to before. We were the only people in there, except for the girls and manager, and we sat in a corner waiting to be swarmed, or at least approached by someone. Instead we sat there chatting with our beers, and eventually one of the girls got up on stage and danced. She came across to us and indicated that she would like to give us a private dance (or so we thought), but we waved her away, wanting to see the other girls. Still expecting the girls to come across and say hi, we continued our beers, as a couple more people came into the club. About 5 minutes later a second girl got up on stage and did her dance, and headed to the other customers who both proceeded to give her some money for a bit more of a dance. Then she came to us, and asked for some money.

This is where we were a little dumb founded. Why are we handing money over? Her English was pretty good and after we said no, she started arguing with us, pretty intensely. She said we should be tipping her, and I suggested that if we’d met all the girls we’d make choices and perhaps get a lap dance. The prices should told us, 600, 800 and 1000 EEK (30, 40 and 50 pounds), and the comment “I recommend the 800” shocked us a bit. Then she continued to demand being tipped for the stage dance, which to be honest we only marginally paid attention to, trying instead to get the other girls to come over and talk with us. We continued to say no, and continued to get more frustrated, the whole time with her bare chest in my face and knee pushed up against my groin. Finally I got to get up and Potter followed my lead, as we took our beers one floor below and into the hostel – I knew having a strip club above the hostel would be trouble. As we went to sleep, Potters last words rang true, “You know, she wasn’t unattractive”. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The next morning Potter was feeling worse for ware, probably due to the tequila shots he decided to start drinking the night before. I headed out to grab some food for us and noticed that the town had taken a battering of snow. People were out walking the streets with snowboards, presumably going for a ride somewhere near the centre of Old Town.

We headed out to the port terminals to have a look at what was down there, and aside from an old derelict looking building, covered in graffiti, there really wasn’t much to see, aside from the snow covered docklands. Next we ended up at the broken line monument, a black curved slab, in two pieces, laid in the memory of the 852 people that died in 1994 when a ferry suck between Tallinn and Stockholm.

We wandered back in towards Old Town, through the city gates and past many guards’ towers and decided to grab some Chinese for lunch. Next stop after that, Potter headed back for another avo snooze and I wandered around town looking for an ATM. My word, I couldn’t find one to save myself. I ended up walking all the way down to the bus station before I found one. Of course, in hindsight, I managed to find a fist full of ATM’s dotted around town.

I managed to drag Potter out of bed and we headed to a different Irish pub and watched the soccer for a bit. There were a couple of big matches with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U playing each other, and as keen as Potter was to watch them, it took some effort to get him back out of bed (1:30pm) and we sat there sipping Lemonades! After the matches we headed to Old Hansa, the main tourist trap restaurant in Old Town. The place was incredible, and the food just as good. In fact, they had Bear, Boar and Elk all on the menu. The food was great, the cinnamon beer was interesting, and the toilets looked like they hadn’t been touched since the 1400’s. Incredible!

After the dinner, we headed off for one last drink before finishing our time in Tallinn. We headed into the oldest pub in Tallinn, which also just happened to be right next to the hostel. We had a final beer there, before calling it a night, and retreated to the noisy confines of the hostel. The French & Austrians next door were incredibly noisy and were keeping everyone in our room up. Eventually we got some sleep and headed off early the following morning to the airport for the loooooonng journey back to Southampton. Of course, landing in Stanstead, the snow had followed us, and we had a 10th straight day of snow!

Then became the joys of trying to catch back up on everything that I had missed out on the previous 10 ten days and get ready for the upcoming Aussie Rules tournament.