Estonia 2014 – Day 1 – Arrival and Old Town

Flew out from Gatwick North at 12:30 ish, and touched down in Tallinn Airport at around 5:15pm local time, which sounds worse than it actually is, but the flight itself was around 2.5 hours, which inflates to 4.5 hours after timezone changes.

As I was leaving the airport, I got pulled aside by the customs officer, who started asking me If i was carrying any drugs, anything to declare, etc. Obviously thought I was trying to smuggle in some DVD’s or something in my tiny hand luggage (I mean, c’mon at least scan someone who had unscanned hold luggage).

There to greet me at arrivals was of course the smiling from ear to ear L-fel, who was shorter and funnier looking than expected, as soon as he opened his mouth though everything felt natural. As we journey into city via bus to get to my hotel, I get a full rundown of the city’s history from my experienced tour guide. A short walk later, and I’m at my hostel for the night, the Center hotel Tallinn.

Worse than travelodge, who would have thought.
Worse than travelodge, who would have thought.

If ever there were a firm example of ‘you get what you pay for’, it would be the Center hotel that i am typing this from (though to its credit, it does at least have free wifi, something even travelodge UK don’t offer). After checking in with the rather unfriendly hotel staff, I head up to my room on the 5th floor, a tiny square room with no ventilation, I head to look out the window and there is a girl in only a shirt smoking on the balcony, how she got there is a mystery to me still, why she was there with no trousers… well…

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Despite being 5 or 6pm, the sun is still bright and the skies still blue, so we head into Tallinn city centre, or Tallinn Old town as it is otherwise known. Majority of the city is fairly modern looking, an odd mix of old buildings and new glass faced retail and business buildings, and then all of a sudden you hit the Old Town and it feels like you have gone back in time.

I’ve been to my fair share of old castley looking places, but this is the first time it’s been so natural, unlike many old places filled with battlements, stone walls and lookout towers, in the Old town segment of Tallinn these features are all just there and people (tourists aside) just seem to almost ignore them, like they are completely normal. The result is a slice of city that has all of the modern conveniences we know (daim frappe from McDonalds was amazing) mixed with a surreal old time feel.

We walked the cobble roads around the old town for some hours, through small parks, around castle walls and past churches. Rather impressive in particular were the Alexander Nevsky cathedral and the view from Toompea hill, the latter of which featured a balcony overlooking the rest of the old town.

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After this, for whatever reason, Lfel decided to go full adventure mode, I had no idea what I was in for, but we headed towards the harbor area, which turned out to be just a small collection of old docks with no ships, just a bunch of fishermen. It was around this point that a rather eerie fog started floating in from the north.

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There was a massive kind of egyptian looking temple thing to the east of us, complete with staircase upwards, naturally, we headed towards it. This giant structure is the Linnahall, apparently an old sports/concert venue in the past, it has since fallen into a rather sad state, but was home to an impressive quantity of graffiti, some better than others of course.¬†One thing lead to another, and we were soon walking down a disused path down the linnahall and through a fence into a funfair which was situated next door. We didn’t ride on anything, but the fog had given the whole place a rather creepy feel, the fact the place was half empty as well didn’t really help.

 

After slowly making our way back to civilization, we stopped in at an italian restaurant called Vapiano. Upon entering the restaurant we were presented with a smart card, this as it turns out is your tab, you then go up to the counter which is actually a line of chefs, you order your food, and then they cook/assemble it in front of you, fast food style, at the end of the meal, the lady at the door scans your card and you pay your bill. It was a really unique system that I don’t think i’ve seen anywhere else before, a strange kind of restaurant twist on an asian style hawker system, but the service was reasonably fast and friendly, and the price was very reasonable (25eur for 2 meals and a starter w/ alcohol), I had a sweet spicy chicken pasta dish with an amazing pear cider, much better than expected.

After dinner I was too exhausted to keep exploring the city, not that there was a massive lot left of it to explore anyway mind you. We headed back to Lfels place for a casual bit of games before I returned to my small prison cell in the hostel.