The German-Pole Sightsees in Tallinn.
Oddly enough, much of my time on this short holiday was spent in a traveler’s haze, never really knowing what time it was. Tallinn is only +1 hour from Vienna, so, jet lag was not the issue. The it-never-gets-dark business was of little issue, too (I could sleep standing up in a Bombadier lavatory on a turbulent flight. If need be, of course.)
So why the grogginess? With Jack, in return for funding his lifestyle during his undergrad days we expected updates on the various road trips and holidays he was enjoying on our Euro. These usually came in the form of a trip report after he had enjoyed said experience.
We reminded Anna Grace of the same expectation when she departed for the U.S. She is apparently our overachiever in that regard. 0049: The shells on the beach? Must send Mom a photo. 0312: The cat with two different colored eyes at the farmer’s market? Must send Mom a photo. What Mom of a chatty 17 year-old daughter would “Silence” her phone for the sake of uninterrupted slumber?
All of this, and a long previous day in Helsinki meant that I slept in until the late hour of 0630 on my last full day in Tallinn. Coffee and breakfast in my luxe apartment while sifting through headlines and social media came first; commenting on aforementioned cat and sea shell snaps followed second; and eventually I walked out the door around 0830. Balti Jaama Turg (Tallinn’s farmer’s market) was my first destination, a few minutes outside of the medieval center. The tour guide had mentioned that the Telliskivi neighborhood had gone hipster, but I was not prepared for the groovy mashup of Estonian grandmothers selling moose meat alongside a man-bunned produce hawker, with a hefty dose of ost-algia paraphernalia for sale on the upper level of a beautifully-converted warehouse, all of which was balanced by the Babushkas selling housedresses and Harley-Davidson/Eagle freedom tee-shirts side-by-side. And dill, the national herb. In short, phenomenal.
I chatted with a Babushka Butcher who recommended two of her favorite smoked sausages, both of which she said I, “could easily take home to Poland.” To pair with the sausages I popped into a sleek cheese shop where the 20-something shopkeeper was happy to tell me stories about the Estonian cheeses on display; in particular the ones that had been aged with spruce needles and clover. The wheels sat on a shaded shelf almost like a fine jewelry display. I sampled both and purchased a small wedge of each, which were vacuum sealed for me, “to take home to Germany.”
My mistake here was not first visiting Kalamaja, the fisherman’s district, so I had to make a quick return to the apartment to deposit the cheese and sausage. The turnaround cost me less than 30 minutes, that is how compact Tallinn is. Back to Kalamaja I trammed, to wander its pretty streets of shiplap homes, many of which are now historically protected. I am not certain if this neighborhood receives much tourist attention, for I did receive a few looks when I pointed my Canon in one direction or another. There is a fish market and the remnants of an Olympic venue in this neighborhood, too, but the market only opens on Saturday and I wasn’t interested in wandering to the harbour to climb upon an abandoned setting, so from Kalamaja I trammed all the way (15 minutes) across Tallinn to Kadriorg Palace.
Functional, but not resourceful. One drops their coins into the box; the tram driver then prints a paper receipt showing that the fare had been paid. Nor is the system efficient. The driver keeps to the schedule, so there is always a glom of people hovering about, waiting for the next stop in order to pay.
(But before that I made time to cause a mini-scene at the big Rimi. I dropped in to purchase a bottle of water and thought I’d make-like-a-local and use the self-checkout. Except. The self-checkout is so modern that the registers only accept Maestro (no cash), and only above €1 purchases. When I realized I could not use my card for my €0,89 water I picked up the bottle and started toward a clerked-register. Of course I set off an alarm. Of course everyone in the store looked at me. And of course a clerk arrived and said to me in her best former-Stasi-guard tone, “NO CASH.” Of course this little German-Pole was embarrassed.)
On to Kadriorg. Peter the Great built the pretty little (in comparison to Vienna’s Schönbrunn) summer palace for his love, Catherine.
The approach is through a park that at any other time would be serene, but not so on my visit with renovation works in progress and the aroma of freshly poured asphalt on a 30° day wafting across the senses. I toured only the collection of Russian and Netherlands art on display in addition to the open rooms, and was impressed not only with the art, but especially with the Marquetry Room and its detailed wooden panels. There are also Faberge pieces in the collection, but they include gilded platters and serveware, and not the more recognized eggs.
Porcelain propaganda-ware for the dinner table.
Back to the medieval center once again, for lunch and more sightseeing. I fell for a sign at a Thai restaurant that read, “The Chef is from Thailand!” and its shaded outdoor tables, and ordered a lime soda and a spicy, cold rice noodle salad with chicken that was exactly the taste and flavor I desired; the people watching a gratis side.
The balance of the afternoon was spent revisiting the locations of the first day’s walking tour with my real camera: St. Olaf’s church, the Burj Khalifa of medieval Tallinn’s days; climbing to Estonia’s highest peak (300m?) at Toompea; snapping Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the pretty diplomatic quarter with its pastel residences; a drop-in at Europe’s oldest continuously-operating pharmacy (since 1422!), which also houses a small museum telling the history of the apothecary; waving to Thomas at the Rathaus; taking a peek inside the Guild; and walking along an open section of the Tallinn walls. Estonian handcrafted wool clothing caught my attention at a number of shops in the city; eventually I convinced myself that I “needed” a couple of pieces. In between I watched those tourists used to an air-conditioned life huff and puff and guzzle water while examining their perspiration-smudged maps for orientation.
Something tells me this, “In case of Emergency” sign on Tallinn’s city walls would not pass OSHA muster.
The pharmacy. Not sure what dried hedgehog extract might cure…
Estonian winter apparel is rather similar to Scandinavian.
The heat on this final day had begun to bum even me out around dinnertime, but then the gentle aroma of tandoori revived me like a smelling salt. An Indian restaurant on the town hall square (Yes, yes. Touristy. I know.) called to me and I sat for a more-than-respectable Murg Tikka; the people watching a gratis side once again.
Determined to snap Tallinn at sunrise before my departure I declared an early end to my day. At 0345 I rose; messaged, “Gute Nacht!” to Anna Grace (but of course!); grabbed my camera and greeted the brand new day from the overlook at Toompea. Despite the early hour I was not alone. A couple of drunk guys were asleep on the plaza to my left; and a young couple making out were on my right. SteventheSeagull, though was nowhere in sight. I roamed about and snapped the narrow lanes just filling with the morning sun; snapped the morning rays on Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the town walls; waved to the crews picking up the night’s detritus; and then tumbled back into bed for a couple of hours.
My buzzing phone woke me around 0700, but not because Anna Grace was sending photos of the artisanal bagels she was eating from a Chicago street stall. LOT had failed me once again; my two-hour flight home was now delayed by one hour. Sigh.