Tallinn Cool

So I left Stockholm this morning, bidding the city a sad farewell. Still, it looks like summer is over (for the moment) after a string of bad weather days. Tallin, by contrast, is quite balmy. That’s only if you consider wearing a pullover in the daytime and a leather jacket at night to be a sign of balmy weather.

The flight from Stockholm to Tallin is less than an hour, though you lose an hour changing time zones. I was sitting next to a bloke reading the Lance Armstrong biography (in English) who had the window seat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of the landscape/seascape between Stockholm and Tallin, as we were also stuck on the wing. I caught glimpses out of another window, and it looks pretty good from the air.

The bus from the terminal to Tallin central was packed. Like really packed. About half those on board were speaking Russian (which is widely spoken here), while the others seemed to be speaking Estonian, although I did hear a couple of Swedes. As you catch the bus into town you still see evidence of the Soviet era. As if created by “central casting”, a lot of the buildings are run down, and some on the verge of falling down. Nearby, there is also a lot of construction going on, with a lot of it stamped “European Union”. Even here in the old town, there’s a lot of work going on to restore some of the buildings. There’s only one square in the old town that I’d describe as “classically old town” if you know what I mean. Elsewhere, there are a lot of building facades where the concrete overlay is being pulled down, revealing the brickwork underneath.

The hostel I booked to wasn’t anywhere near as glamorous as I’d hoped. I’d read good reviews of City Bike Nunne. But in the end, it was all a little too basic for me. My shared room (one other person) was at the top of a fourth story building. I could hardly stand up, the matress was quite lumpy, and it was hot, bloody hot. The killer for me was the lack of lockers. So, after making a mental decision to go and find somewhere else, I walked down the road, found the nearest western style accommodation and booked in there. Along the way I did see a couple of other hostels that looked okay from the outside. But I guess I realised, as a result of this, my tastes in accommodation are pretty western. Swedish backpacker hostels are fine, but I’m not sure I’m as a liberal in my accommodation tastes once you move a little further into eastern Europe. The bloke at the hostel was fine, by the way, about my change of heart, and I said I would pay for the night anyway.

The Meriton in the Old Town is on an entirely different level. It’s still cheap, by Australian standards, and has all of the mod cons you might expect. I’m actually feeling a little bit run down at the moment. I have a sore toe and I’m feeling a little bit congested. I reckon a couple of days resting up in somewhere nice, having a “holiday” will be just the right thing for me. After the hectic few weeks I’ve had in Sweden, I figure a few days of relaxation in Estonia are quite in order.

There’s a lot to see, though. I bought a “Tallin Card” ($45 Australian) and there’s tours and museums and public transport use and all that kind of stuff covered. I figure after a good rest up in the morning, I’ll hop back on the tourist bandwagon, but at a more leisurely pace than previously.

As I walked around town tonight looking for somewhere for dinner, I chose the middle-level between the tourist-style restaurant (which had everything you would expect of a tourist restaurant) and the pubs inhabited by locals. The cafe I chose, Cafe Reval was quite nice. To my ear, most of those eating and drinking were Russians. And a lot of them were young couples. Presumably Tallin is a popular spot of Russian honeymoons or summer holidays? The meal was fine, though I wish I’d ordered a side meal to go with the duck, as the proportions were decidely “nouveau cuisine” with a lot of sauce and greenery, and not too much in the way of actual duck. The staff, though, were very nice, and more than happy to speak in English. They also responded well to my query about how to say “thank you”. It’s “it-tah” (phonetically speaking) by the way. You could see in the eyes of the woman behind the counter a “thanks for bothering because most people don’t” look.

After dinner I went in search of somewhere for a drink. I’d read in the guide book that “Angel” was the coolest place in town. That, although it was a gay club, it was also the place where the hip people meet, and that they enforce a very strict door policy. Well, it can’t have been too strict, as they let me in. Upstairs there’s a quite nice restaurant/lounge/bar area where there was maybe 30 or 40 people sitting around. Mostly, they were drinking cocktails and spirits, with virtually no one drinking either beer or wine. I had a beer by the way. Just by looking around you could see that, indeed, it was a pretty cool place, as most of the patrons were pretty well dressed and mostly fairly attractive. A lot of them had that “I’m so cool I should look bored” look on their faces. The crowd downstairs in the club was more casually dressed. Memorably, one girl was wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “Help Me, I’m Blondi” (sic) emblazoned on it in English. All of the music was also in English, though the only track I recognised was a remix of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. All of the action was strongly focussed on the dance floor, and for a while I stood upstairs watching the DJ do his thing. After a bit of a drink and a bit of a dance, I left the club, deciding a good night’s sleep was what I needed most.

As I walked outside I noticed two young blokes sitting some distance apart on the footpath. One of them said something to me. Although I didn’t know what he was saying, I suspect he was actually a rent-boy. I just knew from the way he spoke, and the way he looked at me, that’s what was on offer. With a simple shake of my head, I continued walking back to the motel. Getting there wasn’t easy though. Stockholm was easy to get around, because of the language knowledge I had, and all of that cultural knowledge you get from speaking one of the Germanic languages. But here in Tallin, where the words don’t even bear any resemblance to something you might find in English, I’ve found it a little difficult, even with a map. After about twenty minutes walking around, and even asking a local shop-keeper and security guard for assistance, I decided it was all too hard. So I got a cab, and for about $8 (Australian) was delivered safely back to my door.

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