Friday, August 22, 2008

Tallinn - Estonia: A Two-Night Cruise and One Day

Remember this scene of Hotorget (Haymarket) from my Stockholm post? C'mon, we're gonna catch the bus from here to the port for another cruise.

Stockholm, Sweden 30

Near the end of my stay in Sweden, HH said he had to go to Copenhagen, Denmark, for yet another business trip. So on a whim, I stopped off at the Tallink office to ask about overnight cruises to Tallinn, Estonia. Only $40 USD for a round-trip cruise ticket?! It was for a berth in a 4-person cabin but at that price, I booked it on the spot. The same ticket now would cost $140 USD off-season, and $180 USD high-season.

His trip ended up being canceled, but he couldn't go with me anyway because he had to work. So I went alone and it was a bit...lonely traveling by myself. I'm used to traveling by myself to places, but once there, I've always had someone to travel with. Especially since my frequent travel companion is Norwegian girl cousin, and I'm alone when traveling to meet up with her.

Anyway, so I was all by my lonesome :( and the Tallink boat was definitely not as luxurious as the Silja line to Helsinki, Finland. A small cafeteria, a small gift shop, and supposedly a small nightclub that I never checked out. I think there was supposed to be a buffet too but it wouldn't have been fun to pig out by myself. Plus, HH wasn't around to peel my shrimp for me. (He loves shrimp and on the Helsinki cruise, piled his plate high. I just wanted a few, so he peeled my shrimp for me. What a gentleman!) Anyway, that was it for things to do on the boat.

I converted some Swedish kroners for Estonian kroons in order to grab a quick dinner in the cafe. At the time, 14 kroons equaled $1 USD.

Estonian Kroons

There was little else to do except read my travel guide, write in my journal, and then head to bed. Sharing my cabin were two middle-aged women who stumbled in during the middle of the night quite drunk and loud. Oh dear. This segment of my travels was definitely not starting off so well.

The next morning I arrived in Tallinn. It was gloomy and drizzly. I followed the crowd of passengers toward town, walking across a muddy field and some dilapidated buildings. I was feeling a bit disheartened about the trip until I stumbled upon this lovely door. It was the first bit of color I could remember and cheered me up considerably.

Tallinn - Estonia 1

This archway was just the cutest thing.

Tallinn - Estonia 2

And this door was so elaborate. Door by door, Tallinn was slowly winning me over.

Tallinn - Estonia 3

I found my way to Raekoja plats (Old town square). My virtual tour of Tallinn starts here and mainly comes again from good old Rick Steves' Scandinavia guidebook.

Tallinn - Estonia 4

The other side of the square. Obviously, there were four sides, but apparently I only photographed two of them. I think town hall was one of those sides too. Oh well.

Tallinn - Estonia 5

From here I made my way to the Tourist Information office to grab a map of town. Passed St. Nicholas' Church, where ruins from a WWII bombing remained. Then climbed some stairs to Luhike jalg (Short leg lane), one of the gates separating the "two towns" of Tallinn.

Tallinn - Estonia 6

Tallinn is a walled medieval city with 46 watchtowers, 26 of which remain with their pointy red roofs. The upper town on the hill, Toompea, was the government seat. The lower town was a Hanseatic trading center with Danish, German, and Swedish merchants. The short and long leg streets connected the two parts of town.

After climbing the steps I came upon Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built over the grave of an Estonian hero by the Russians in 1900 in an attempt to "Russify" the country. The cathedral is modeled after St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow. During the Soviet era, Russians were sent to Estonia. After independence in 1991, many remained so about 25% of the country is ethnic Russian.

Tallinn - Estonia 7

Tallinn - Estonia 8

Tallinn - Estonia 9

Across from the cathedral is Toompea Castle, which houses the Estonian Parliament.

Tallinn - Estonia 10

Around the back is Tall Herman Tower, the tallest tower of the castle wall. The blue on top of the flag represents the sky, the black for the centuries of foreign domination, and the white for hope.

Tallinn - Estonia 11

Here's a better view of Tallinn's medieval walls.

Tallinn - Estonia 12

The tower on the left is Virgin Tower. The round tower is Kiek in de kok (Peep in the kitchen), which dates to the 15th century.

Tallinn - Estonia 13

From there I made my way to a viewpoint. This building just made me think of the crumbling Soviet Union, or that's what I say now because I can't recall why I would have photographed this.

Tallinn - Estonia 14

Behind the building was Patkuli Viewpoint. Look! Even more red pointy roofs of towers.

Tallinn - Estonia 15

This view faces a slightly newer part of town.

Tallinn - Estonia 16

Recognize Kiek in de Kok?

Tallinn - Estonia 17

After walking around in a steady but light rain for several hours, I decided it was finally time for lunch. I stopped into Kuldse Notsu Korts (The Golden Piggy) where I ate Estonian black rye bread, pork, and turnips.

The little break energized me enough to wander around some more.

Random building that I just liked the looks of.

Tallinn - Estonia 18

Muurivahe, a street along the tower walls that sold various sweaters and other Estonian goods. There's apparently a Chinese restaurant on this street too if you're so inclined.

Tallinn - Estonia 19

The two towers served as gates into the medieval part of town. Beyond on the right, if I remember correctly was Kissing Hill. So called because if a maiden is sitting there, she's waiting for a kiss. And no, I did not go sit there.

Tallinn - Estonia 20

I liked how these houses were built right into the old medieval walls.

Tallinn - Estonia 21

Katariina Kaik
(St. Catherine's Passage). Come closer.

Tallinn - Estonia 22

Don't you just love the arches?

Tallinn - Estonia 23

Another pretty door.

Tallinn - Estonia 24

By late afternoon, the sun had finally come out. Yay! I know Oregonians don't use umbrellas and all, but I was getting quite tired of walking around in the drizzle. On a small street between Nunne and Lai Lai are climbable towers. For the cost of 7 kroons, or about 50 cents USD, I climbed a dark, narrow wooden staircase, up a darker, narrower stone staircase, to walk along the watchtower walls.

Tallinn - Estonia 25

More red pointy tower roofs from atop another watchtower.

Tallinn - Estonia 26

The tower on the left was where I ascended. This was one of the coolest things I've ever done. I was the only one up there, so I ran along the watchtower walls, looked out from various windows, made-believe I was a medieval soldier protecting the town. OK, maybe not the last part, but it was still very cool.

Tallinn - Estonia 27

Tallinn - Estonia 28

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Tallinn - Estonia 30

It really was great fun. Time to descend. The dark, narrow stone staircase was quite scary to go down in the dark. This was taken with the flash on, but there was absolutely no light. I had to clutch the walls and feel my way down carefully.

Tallinn - Estonia 31

Suur Rannavarav ja Paks Margareeta (Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret's Tower). Don't you just love the tower names?

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Time to get back on the boat to return to Stockholm. I decided to sit on the deck and admire Tallinn one last time.

Tallinn - Estonia 33

My roommate on the return trip was an Estonian woman who was heading to Sweden to move in with her boyfriend, a fellow nurse she met in a nursing chat room.

I quizzed her on various aspects of Estonian culture to see if Steves' guidebook was correct.

During the Soviet era, was her only glimpse of the Western world through Finnish television?

Yes, and in fact, watching Finnish television was how she picked up the language.

Did the Soviets really move in Russians to "Russify" Estonia, and are there any lingering tensions?

Yes, some old school Russians refused to learn Estonian, even after independence.

I told her I bought some nesting dolls as souvenirs. I had always wanted some you see. Sadly, they're Russian and had nothing to do with Estonia at all she said.

Russian Nesting Dolls from Tallinn, Estonia

One last view of the outskirts of Stockholm coming back from the Tallink.

Stockholm, Sweden 33

Stockholm, Sweden  34

Bye Sweden! And bye to HH!

We went out for dinner that night, revisiting a Bangladeshi/Indian restaurant with the hottest vindaloo I'd ever eaten. HH was at work the next day when I left for the airport.

I spent a couple of days in Oslo, Norway to visit with my mom's oldest brother and Norwegian guy cousin. It was my third time visiting Norway so I didn't take any scenic pictures. Just lots of pictures of me with my uncle, and my cousin and his friends.

After Norway, I headed to Hungary to meet up with Norwegian girl cousin. I've posted about that trip before, Eger and Sirens Valley - Hungary: Floral? Fruity? Woody Notes? What Notes?

I wasn't done traveling that summer, but I'll take a break from this series for a bit.

You can read all Europe posts with the tag Series: Europe, but I suggest reading this particular trip in this order:
"Meet-Cute" Stockholm - Sweden
Helsinki - Finland: A Two-Night Cruise and One Day
Sigtuna - Sweden: More Rune Stones Than Any Other Town
Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) - Sweden: Beowulf and Burial Mounds
Uppsala - Sweden: Birthplace of Celsius
Tallinn - Estonia: A Two-Night Cruise and One Day
Eger and Sirens Valley - Hungary: Floral? Fruity? Woody Notes? What Notes?
Agios Georgios, Corfu Town, and Vidos Island, Corfu - Greece
Glass Bottom Boat, Corfu - Greece
Gaios, Paxos Island - Greece
Parga - Greece
Autostitch of Parga - Greece
Paleokastritsa, Corfu - Greece
Butrint and Saranda - Albania

Stockholm, Sweden to Tallinn, Estonia Cruise info:
The ship was barebones, with a small cafeteria, nightclub, bathroom, and few luxuries. But if all you care about is a cheap ticket to another country, it's more than adequate. Prices vary according to accommodations. There's also an additional $7.50 USD each way fuel surcharge.

Silja, which boasts more amenities, launched a Tallinn line after my trip. I can't vouch for this particular route on Silja, but I took the Silja line to Helsinki, Finland and had a very positive experience. I'm including this information in case you'd like a more luxurious option. This more luxurious option also means you're paying more than double the prices of the Tallink cruises. Prices vary according to accommodations. There's also an additional $7.50 USD each way fuel surcharge.

Tallinn is only 50 miles from Helsinki, so you can also inquire about helicopter or speedboat options.

Kuldse Notsu Korts (The Golden Piggy)
An Estonian rustic restaurant with country-style antiques and Estonian proverbs painted on the walls. Try the black rye bread with garlic and oil.
Dunkri 8, near the main square.
+372 628 6567

For more info about Tallinn's food scene, check out Tallinn: Culinary City Snapshot by of Pille of Nami-Nami.

Muurivahe Street, near the corner of Viru.
Woolen and wooden handmade goods.

Katariina Kaik (St. Catherine's Passage), near Muurivahe.
Several handicraft stores.

Things to See and Do:
Kiek in de Kok (Peek in the Kitchen)
Museum with medieval cannons and charts left over from the Livonian Wars, and modern photography exhibits.
+372 644 6686

Tourist Information
Good for maps and free brochures.
Kullassepa 4, near old town square behind city hall.
+372 645 7777

Climbable towers, located on a small street between Nunne and Lai Lai.
Cost was 7 kroons, or about 50 cents USD.

1 year ago today, my jungle red hibiscus repaired itself.


  1. My parents visited Estonia a couple of years ago on a European vacation. I remember seeing a couple of the doors you show here in pictures in their album. Maybe the doors are some of the more interesting parts of the country's charm.

  2. Those photos-what a pretty place! Travelling alone isnt always fun but it seems that you have found a good balance in that and a time to reflect as well!

    I hope HH peeled more shrimps for u especially since he didnt go to that trip!

  3. Wow, thanks for a little visit to Estonia! There's something so picturesque about those red roofs and pastel buildings against the overcast skies. That photo of the dark stairway made me feel claustrophobic. Hopefully, it isn't too long a stairway!

  4. So beautiful! The door and archway so in fairytales. That motivates me to save more money for my travel fund.

  5. Jonathan,
    I should have taken more door pictures because they were just so lovely.

    I make HH do other things for me! ;) It's nice to finally share Tallinn with someone. It's just not the same traveling alone though. No one to relive adventures with.

    That stairway seriously freaked me out. It was completely dark. I was up there alone. And I had no idea where to step.

    Lady, you already travel plenty! I'm so jealous of that travel fund!

  6. I declare, Estonia has fabulous doors! Looks like another place to add to my ever-increasing list of places to visit!

  7. Oanh,
    Somehow I'm imagining you saying that with a Scarlett O'Hara accent, even though I know you're not! The doors were just for you. :)


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