Estonia's Got Tallin(t)

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July 10th 2015
Published: July 10th 2015
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Thursday 9 July:

First, I should apologise for the terrible title of this blog, but I couldn’t resist! Interesting trivia though: Skype was created by Estonians.

We woke up to a sunny day and we headed for the old town. Heather had found the location of a laundry at which we could drop our washing and they would wash and dry it for €8 a load and we figured we had two loads. It was a bit out of the Old Town and I reckoned it was going to be a 20-30 minute walk so we stuck it in a backpack and I put it on and we headed off. Just a couple of minutes down the road Heather spotted a laundry! So we went in there to enquire if they did a full service. The older lady who ran the place spoke very little English but we got the message through and she was very taken by Zachary. So we left our stuff and off we went. Another minute down the road and we saw a hairdresser. Zachary is badly in need of a cut so we went in there. She didn’t have any spaces available until 1pm so we made an appointment to come back at 9am tomorrow. So good start to the day!

The plan was to head first for the Old Town and see what was happening there. A market was just starting up and we had a look around. We decided to come back on our way home at which time we could have dinner too. So we walked around a bit and looked at some of the buildings. Tallinn is a very pretty old city with a lot of very historic buildings. I think my favourite was St Olav’s Church. This was originally built in the 12th century and extensively rebuilt in the 14th. Between 1549 and 1625 it was claimed to be the world’s tallest building at about 125 metres.

Our main goal for the day was to go to Lennsuadam or Seaplane Harbour. This is highly rated and I thought Zachary might enjoy it. There is no public transport there and the best option looked to be walking. It didn’t look particularly far on the map and it wasn’t – however there is a huge amount of construction and road works going on at the moment and the road which was the most direct to get there had no footpath. We had to do a lot of criss-crossing and zig-zagging. It is frustrating when you know where something is but you can’t seem to get there! Anyway, we did make it and we really hoped it was worth the effort!

The museum is in an original seaplane hangar. It was renovated in 2010, having fallen into disrepair in the Soviet era. Entry was €14 for adults, no charge for Zachary. Overall this was really excellent. They have a 1936 submarine, called the Lembit. You can go into it and right through it. There is a replica of a WW1 era seaplane and a number of other maritime exhibits. It is a very interactive museum with a “discovery centre” area in which kids (and adults) can do a number of experiments involving water, pressure, currents etc. There was also a flight simulator and a game where you manned a machine gun to shoot enemy planes. These were all great and Zachary really enjoyed these. He also got to dress up as a submarine officer. We were in there for over 2 hours and there were a few things we didn’t do.

We had our lunch outside and then went to the second part of the museum which consisted of a number of ships you could go into. We went into the Suur Tõll which is an icebreaker which was in service under various names and flags from 1914 to 1985. It was to be scrapped but fortunately was able to be purchased and preserved. We went right into the bowels of the ship and saw all the machinery. Then we saw all the restored and refurnished cabins, messes etc. This was really good and we all enjoyed this greatly. We also went and had a look on board a recently decommissioned Estonian coast guard vessel which was originally American but gifted to Estonia in 1997.

As well as all this there was a nautical themed playground and great views of the harbour. I would definitely rate this as one of the best paid attractions thus far.

After this we headed for Kalamaja Park which is a historic former cemetery and now a recreational area which has a very nice playground. We had been lucky with the weather thus far but could see the black clouds coming so didn’t stay too long. We walked back through the historic Kalamaja suburb which has very interesting and cool wooden apartment buildings and got back to the Old Town. We heard Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as we neared and came across a group of young people holding a concert in one of the small squares. They were very good. Then it was back to the market and we managed to find a gift we wanted for someone and also bought a bird whistle for Zachary. It was coming up to 4 and we were tossing up whether to try and pass another 30 – 60 minutes or eat now. Our decision was made for us as a few drops of rain very quickly turned into a downpour of biblical proportions. We managed to find shelter for a few minutes before ducking into an Irish pub for some dinner. They had several sport channels on, including day two of the Ashes test in Cardiff. How bizarre that the first cricket I have seen on TV on this trip is in Estonia! We had an adequate dinner although having now tried two Estonian beers I will conclude that beer-making is not one of their strengths. It was very cheap though – mains were mostly between 6 and 8 euros. What a difference from Helsinki, just 80 odd km away. Another heavy downpour while we had dinner and then it cleared so we headed back to the apartment. We picked up our laundry on the way. She charged us only €15.80 to wash, dry, and fold. We gave her a 20 and had to struggle to get her to keep the change. She managed to communicate to us that she had a 2 and a half year old granddaughter. She was absolutely lovely and a real talker. If we had actually spoken Estonian we would never have got away!

So, a tiring but enjoyable day. Heather is finishing her course of antibiotics for her leg. As you may be aware she can’t really take antibiotics because of her Crohn’s and so that she has been on medication for over two weeks without her insides incapacitating her is remarkable. But she may need a quiet day tomorrow as she isn’t feeling the best, in which case Zachary and I will head for the main park area of Kadriorg which also has a Science / Discovery Centre nearby.

Friday 10 July:

Happy Birthday Dale! Hopefully the op went well and you can celebrate properly at a later date.

A bit of a sleep-in today which was nice. We got ourselves organised, including getting kitted out in wet weather gear as it was rather rainy, and then I took Zachary up the road for his haircut. As usual he was a perfect angel.
We got back and decided to just hang out for the morning. After we had some lunch Zachary and I headed for Kadriorg on foot. The weather was on the improve so we didn’t get wet. I had an interesting ATM experience on the way. After putting in my PIN and amount required I expected to get the usual message of “Approved, please take your card”. However it gave me my money, but not my card. This was a bit concerning as you can well imagine! About 10 seconds later, as I was wondering what was going on a new screen came up which looked like the welcome screen, but it had the option of “Continue” on it. I tried that and it gave me the option of a receipt, another transaction, or return card. So, card was safely returned but it was a bit odd.

It took us the best part of an hour to get to Kadriorg and I found the road on which the museum / centre was on. On the way we saw a park with a number of kids’ rides (train, small roller coaster etc) which we decided we might do later as well as a couple of good playgrounds. We found the place I was after and went in. Entry to the museum part was €3 for me and €2 for Z. Looking at the ad for it I expected it to be a science / discovery centre but it wasn’t. It was just a few small rooms, each with a different theme of past times. Zachary was able to use an old sewing machine (needle removed), shop till, and try “skiing” but overall it was a bit lame. However the other part had a few rooms with different play activities which he quite enjoyed. The weather cleared so we headed outside to the large playground and he was here for quite some time, playing very nicely with another boy who was about 7. We did a couple of rides – the train and the roller coaster and then walked through Kadriorg Park, having a look at the beautiful pond / fountains (hand feeding some pigeons while there) and the Baroque place. That done we strolled back into the Old Town going via the new city. The weather was now unexpectedly summery.

Tallinn seems to have 3 distinct areas: The historic, medieval Old Town, the New City, and the Soviet Area. Slowly the old Soviet buildings are being replaced and infrastructure is being improved. There is incredible amount of demolition and construction going on, especially in the area in which we are staying. Tallinn has obviously come a long way in the 25 years Estonia has regained independence. It would be very interesting to come back in 20 odd years to see how it has further developed. It is certainly a city of the future.

Meanwhile, Heather had explored the 13th century St Catherine’s Dominican Monastery (Tallinn’s oldest intact building) and other parts of the Old Town and managed to do a bit of gift shopping. We met up at 5pm and went to an Estonian restaurant for dinner. We ate in the cellar which was cool and ordered medieval style roast pork with oven baked potatoes. I had a proper dark beer (an improvement on the other stuff I’ve had here).

Then we wandered our way back home and off to bed on time. We have a four and a half hour bus journey tomorrow to Riga, Latvia and it is a bit of a whistle stop tour through the east before we head to Istanbul in 10 days.

We barely scratched the surface of things to see and do here in Tallinn. We didn’t go to the upper part of the Old Town, nor did we go to Pirita which is the main coastal / beach area. There is at least a week’s worth of activities here. It would be great to spend more time here, but it will have to wait for another holiday!

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11th July 2015

Interesting times...
Gidday Ed You guys are sure having some interesting times. Tallinn seems to be a place sometime to go back to ' finish off ' your sightseeing. You probably know we are in the middle of another cold snap. i.e. -3 in Hamilton tonight. Even Mt Taranaki has an avalanche warning ! The All Blacks v Samoa game was boring - no great advertisement for the game. Just got back from the Naki and off to Auckland to stay with family next week. Cheers Steve
11th July 2015

Cold Snap
Yes it seems like we chose a good winter to be away. Having said that the summer here is struggling to get started but we are getting a few more warmer days now. Turkey then Greece coming up - both will probably be damn hot! Do you secondary school teachers ever work by the way?

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