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Published: July 11th 2012
A statue which is a symbol of freedom for the people of Estonia from the Russians
So this is my most recent little excursion from Britain. Pretty tame to be honest this time around. A little saunt to the European neighbours over in the Baltics.
This trip was a little different to the trips I am used to, it is pretty much city based and for the first time I am left pretty much to my own devices. Ironically my only real concern before going was that I wouldn't enjoy the trip as much, owing to the fact there would be a reduced amount of countryside in it.
On the whole, I need not of been concerned, but certainly there were days I pined for the wonders of a tropical forest or African Savannah, or even the hills I walked in Spain.
So I flew into Tallinn from Dublin. I had spent a few days travelling round Ireland before leaving for this little tour, but it was relatively common stuff, involving family.
My stay in Tallinn was in the Red Emperor Hostel, a relatively new hostel quite close to the old town. I would recommend anyone to stay in this hostel. It was an excellent little place, which despite the
current rennovations going on, still ranks as one of the best places I have been in.
So I am checked into my room by a lovely kiwi called Sam. I am barely in my room for 5 minutes before I am joined by a fellow new comer, a Canadian who I shall now refer to as Lucy. Lucy is an amazing little traveller, based in Ireland. It turned out we came over on the same flight, I arrived quicker despite using the bus to her taxi. Naturally, we decide we should hang out for the day, which in the language of any good traveller means we sample the local food and drink.
Now at this point I should point out I had just completed an all nighter in Dublin airport to ensure I caught my flight, so I was knackered.
Now I really intend this set of blogs to give an idea of where to go should you ever be in these areas, so I will give you my experience in the certain areas, unfortunately my knowledge of Tallinn and Vilnius are not nearly as comprehensive as that of Riga, so certainly here, don't assume it to
Our first stop in Tallinn, was the Ill Draakon an amazing little pub based underneath the town hall underneath the main square. It provides the most amazing soup in the world. Elk soup! Its gorgeous and made even better with an elk pastie like pie and a local brewed dark honey beer. The only downside to this place, if you want a spoon, you have to sing for it. Something which didn't sit too kindly with a Chinese tourist who couldn't quite get the humour behind it. Naturally I gave a belting rendition of You'll never walk alone.
From here Lucy and myself had a nice little walk around the city, checking out the sites. I must say of all the cities I have been in, Tallinn has to be one of the most historically intriguing. An obvious medieval influence is present in the city. Something which is utterly played upon by the local people. It some amazing sections of Medieval walls, which you can walk upon and some great little towers to check out.
So in this night, we ended up at the olde haus in the old town. Its an extremely expensive place
to drink but you know what, it was worth it. Because of one extremely sad reason. Which I will need to give some back story to. My favourite books of all time, are the hobbit and the lord of the rings. They are quite simply a travellers book and any traveller should love them. Now my love for this pub actually owes itself to the lord of the rings film, the fellowship of the ring. So I am in the pub, and I say a dark beer please. The woman looks at me and goes, 1/2 a litre or a litre. I just look at her and go (just like in the film, Meriadoc to Peregrin) "it comes in litres? I'm getting one!" Pure class! It was also in this pub I tried for the first (and last) time the Norweigan shot, Aquavit in both forms. Now its important to note here, that to drink this you must hold the glass in your index and little finger only, else it is bad luck. Additionally "Terviseks" is the toast if you like while in company and it also worth mentioning that throughout the Baltics, that it is a great insult not to look a person in the eye while toasting with them. Supposedly to the point that they will walk away from you. I thought German was bad - if you don't look in the eye, it's seven years of bad sex (well that explains a lot)
To be honest this pretty much ends my first night in Tallinn, I really don't remember getting back, only that I was knackered!
So my second day was a fairly standard chillax day. I finally had a good sleep from Dublin, I got some washing done and I bummed around the hostel. Lucy went out on the free local tour, which I decided against, opting instead to do it on my last day when I was totally up for it. I met her afterwards when we went to a place called compression, which does the biggest and most amazing pancakes. Both sweet and savoury! I hadn't eaten all day, yet I could not bring myself to finish the mammoth portions! All for a mere 2Euro.
We returned to the hostel in the hope of catching the prison tour of Patarei. Unfortunately the numbers were not high enough to make it worth it for the guide. So instead we decided on a nap so we were fresh for a few drinks.
We decided first off on just staying in the bar all night at emperor, despite the pre arranged pub crawl. However, when they came back after being ditched by a bunch of Kiwi sailors looking to recruit more, I decided to tag along - something I am more than happy I did.
So we started off at the local shot cafe, a place where you can only buy shots in multiples of 5. a pretty good start, there were 5 of us and we shared 25 shots. don't ask what was in them, I don't want to know or remember. It was here that me and an Australian who's last name was Bad (So naturally like any good Aussy was known as Bado!) Recruited a local 16 yr old to the group. Poor lad only stepped out for a cigarette, he ended up going back with a new shirt (our tour guide like the look of his and she swapped instantly in the street with him) and a few drinks the worse as he came to the next bar to consume what I call the cocaine shot. First you light the shot, capture the fumes in a glass, which you put over a straw. You put the flames out, down the shot. Then inhale the fumes and whats left of the shot you snort through another straw. This is lethal, naturally I did two, one to learn and the second showing a lovely Dutch girl the ropes.
From here me and Bado went to the bar with no name (actual name) where we met two Russian girls. I am sorry, but yes we played the move. I went for the blonde - who naturally spoke no English and him the Brunette. Well, we hung around for a while and then we head to the bar next door called shooters. It was here that we bumped into two more Russians.
Gatia was an amazing young lady and yes I quite liked her, we spoke all night and danced like you could not believe. Imagine pulp fiction, Travolta and Thurman in the middle and around them. Well yeah it was like that. I twirled her in and out of my arms and caught a cheeky kiss (which was fine until I learnt she had a boyfriend who's friends were all around us... needless to say I ran out of there like a bat out of hell. Although I learnt the next day that she wished to see me again. This night ended with me walking home at 4am in blazing sunshine. something which would take some getting used to.
So this is my third and final day in Tallinn and Lucy has left to visit her friends. So I decided on doing the walking tour around Tallinn. Now there is one of these free walking tours in all of the Baltics, as well Helsinki and Parnu. While they are free, they merely ask for a tip to allow them to continue. I think this is relatively fair. 5 - 10 Euros a piece is a relatively fair amount I found for each.
So the one in Tallinn took us around the old town through freedom square, out in the park, down next to the old walls and up to a brilliant viewing spot of the city. I totally recommend this tour, its brilliant.
I returned to the hostel just as the tour was commencing to the prison. I couldn't resist, we were getting shown around by a tall, pale and skinny Estonian, with an accent which was just the pure potrayal of creepy. Who better to show you round a prison which is undoubtably haunted.
So the prison I remember quite well, firstly we get shown around all the areas which are open to the public, basic cells. which should hold 20, but actually held 100s. The whole place gave a creepy vibe. Which was helped by the fact it was at least 6 degrees colder inside - god only knows the torment the prisoners must of had in the winters.
Next we got taken back into the areas which aren't open as yet (the prison was only decommisioned in 2005) the gates here still have locks on them, so we were given strict instructions not to close any doors, less we be locked in a place where no cell phone signal could penetrate. So, we were given fairly free view now to go into cells now and look around. One particular cell, we were given a quick lecture on. Supposedly in this cell, many prisoners began hearing a womans voice eventually sending them mad, before the committed suicide. The story being told by this man was quite possibly the creepiest thing I have ever heard. It still sends shivers down me. It was after this, he overs up three torches, for people to look inside this particualr cell. It was pitch black and gave off the creepiest vibe before we heard the story. However, if my past travels taught me anything, I am not scared of anything, nor will I be the last to take up an oppurtunity like this. I was the first in and the only one to go right to the back of the dark desolate room. Even daring to turn the light off, so I might glimpse what it was truly like. 4 others followed me in, an Aussy guy and three chinese people (1 girl in the group) As I am asking a question about the writing on the wall, I hear the door slam shut. I take little notice of this in the first instance, but it is followed by the most unerving high pitched wail by the chinese girl. This made me jump and realise the possible trouble we may be in. However this lasts a literal split second. As we soon hear a muffled laughter from outside. As we exit, the poor Chinese girl is practically crying. I myself am in stitches. I was actually disappointed in not being locked in. Would of given me some adventure!
We next went outside and got shown around the walking area. 23 hours indoors and 1 hour to walk around an area which was only the size of a good sized bathroom. This sounds like torture to me true enough. All of this still in place up until 2005. Such a horrible thought.
During my trip the prison I met three Asian people, Daniel, Apple and Bao. An unsual group of people to hang around for a night, but hell they were cool! I had the honour of watching the Ukraine England match with them in a local irish bar (they are everywhere). Wow they got drunk. So we picked up a few pieces of pizza and headed to the emperor. had a few drinks and then chilled out in the shooters bar. Dam Bao loved to dance.
So this is pretty much the Estonian leg of the trip done. Pretty ordinary, I would naturally prefer to be a jungle somewhere, but I figured for my first place of solo travel, this place would be best. I realise I can be a loose cannon, so I wanted to test my own instincts when I don't have to worry about others. I decided I prefer solo travel, not so that I don't have to worry about others. But because I like the freedom. To choose what I want to do, something which was a real plus for me in Riga, because god knows, I wouldn't of enjoyed this part half as much if I didn't have this freedom.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien
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