Russia to the Baltics

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September 30th 2007
Published: September 30th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

The streets of TallinnThe streets of TallinnThe streets of Tallinn

More Scandinavia than Russia
Tere. Greetings from Estonia. Two days ago we boarded a train in Russia and seven hours later we arrived in Scandinavia. Estonia, whilst a neighbour of Russia's, is closer in culture and style to her Scandinavian cousins. Finland is only 48 nautical miles to the north whilst Sweden is a six-hour ferry trip to the west.

Estonians are Lutherans - no gilded, ornate, coloured decoration in the churches here. Not that many of the locals practice their religion. That was beaten out of them by fifty years or so of Soviet occupation (with an occupational interlude by Nazi Germany), prior to which there was a period of approximately twenty years of independence, before which Imperial Germans were in charge, before that the Russians again, then the Swedes, the Germans again, the Danes... you get the idea. In fact Estonia became an independent, self-ruled nation (for the first second time) in 1991 and they are revelling in their autonomy and the nation is thriving as a result. English is on its way to becoming the lingua franca (so communication for us has been easier - we can read the maps and ask questions without the need for sign language) and the
Relaxing in the town squareRelaxing in the town squareRelaxing in the town square

Tallinn was our destination of choice for a bit of relaxation. The weather helped and we were just in time - September 30 marks the end of the tourist season and the outdoor cafes!
Estonians are a friendly bunch.

For the past couple of days we have been camped out in Tallinn, the capital. When I say 'camped' we've actually been staying in a rather posh 600-year old hotel where they turn down the crisp white sheets and feather doona and leave ice-cold mineral water and an ice bucket by your bed at night. Hardly roughing it.

Tallinn has been our designated destination for a bit of R and R generally after the hectic touring pace we set in Russia. It's only a small town (400, 000 people) with a cobble-stoned, walled city (The Old Town) with pastel-coloured buildings and a large town square edged by cafes as its focal point. It is filled with tourists from all over Europe, including some loutish lads on bucks weekends. The weather has been warmer than expected - around 18 degrees - and we've not ventured far from the shops, cafes and lanes of the Old Town. The boys have taken advantage of some local pubs who have been showing the Rugby World Cup on their big screen TVs. Had we been inclined we could even have watched the AFL Grand Final at 8am in
Tallinn in the eveningTallinn in the eveningTallinn in the evening

The tower of the town hall in Tallinn. We bought tickets to see and hear a wonderful soprano and chamber music trio in the town hall on Saturday evening.
one nearby establishment!

Tomorrow we head to Riga, the capital of Latvia. Given the unexpected contrast between Russia and Estonia, I'm intrigued to know what Latvia will be like. We've got a five-hour bus trip through the Estonian then Latvian countryside to get there. Will it feel 'Eastern European,' Scandinavian or something a little more 'Germanic'? By this time tomorrow we'll know. Stay tuned...

Additional photos below
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Poster in a bar window. Who would have thunk it?
Church spire, TallinnChurch spire, Tallinn
Church spire, Tallinn

We climbed 256 steep stone steps to reach the top of the tower of St Olaf's church. Wonderful view - sore legs.
St Olaf's towerSt Olaf's tower
St Olaf's tower

This is the tower!

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