While I was spending time in Finland, the thing I found was one of the best parts of being there was how close everything else was! Finland itself is not a large country, especially compared to my home, Australia. While I was half the country to the West, it only took 1.5 hours to get to Helsinki. By now I’d been lucky enough to go to Kefalonia and had explored a good part of Finland including Rovaniemi, Turku and places in between. Having done something bigger with Kefalonia, we decided to do something smaller. So a day trip to Estonia to visit Tallinn was planned. If someone asks you how much you can do in a day trip to Tallinn, the answer is: “Yeah, a bit I guess.”
Finding the Modern Medieval
The funny thing about being overseas, it can seem like home is almost following around. Giving you little reminders here and there so you don’t forget where you’re from. Sometimes these are little smile-inducing reminders, or glaringly obvious and at times embarrassing reminders.
The day was typical of Nordic summer. Green, warm, bright, and yet not unbearably hot or uncomfortable. Setting off on the ferry was a pretty fussless affair, but the feel of the salt water coming through the windows and sights of large freight ships gave it a nice atmosphere. Making me feel like I’d begun a larger journey than what I was undertaking. As a fresh, bright eyed tourist, I was taking in as much as I could, probably resembling a Meerkat more than a person. I tend to pass myself off as being observant. And that’s when I spotted it. A small plaque showing the date and place of build for the Ferry. And it came from Perth, Western Australia! I was pretty happy when the bottle shops had Australian wine, but seeing that the ferry was Australian almost blew my mind a little… But that smile was overtaken by my upcoming arrival Estonia and the old town of Tallinn.
And when I say old, it means OLD. This part of the city has been preserved nearly exactly to what it was like more than 400 years ago. Walking off the ferry and across a modern highway crossing, we came across the first glimpse of the Old Tallinn and the architecture you only see in historic drawings, mostly. The flatteringly named “Fat Margaret”. This sits on the very edge of the Old Town and the mix of old and new is quite stark.
Once you enter the old town, the roads go from smooth to cobbled and automatically you imagine the hooves of horses and the rolling of carts along the pathways as it opens up to the main town square. The architecture within the city walls immediately offers you a glimpse of what the world used to be and you suddenly have an appreciation for those things which built the world we are in. It got me thinking that sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of those days, whether it be a facade, or a whole city.
Taking a tour through yesterday
We entered the main town square at what was just about lunch time, so after taking in the main square we sat for lunch… Can’t remember it so much, except I can remember that oddly there were so many Australian’s! About 40% of the people in the square… Hot Tip: You can spot us by our sports jerseys, but I’m not a very good Australian so I was busy looking European and my usual unphotogenic self.
Once you get out of the square, you’ll find out that Tallinn is a town that needs to be walked. It’s true to its classical history, so much so that you might not actually find something great to do, but you’ll always find something great to see, usually in the architecture or some of the historical tidbits. One of those places was Epping Tower along the city wall. Firstly, you need to go up some deceptively steep stairs (with a low ceiling as well) into a stone-staircase (equally as unsuitable for people above 5’4″).
But as you go higher up the tower’s tightly spiraling staircase, things get a bit more awesome. Firstly, the views get better out the windows and you get to sample some of the “comforts” of middle-age accommodation, try out some of the armours and weapons of the time (looking a bit like a right adequate douchebag, but feeling like a 10 year old) and it all gets topped off by a great view of a pretty great garden area from up top.
Now, since it was only a day trip, obviously there wasn’t a heap of time to do much besides wander around and do our best to sample Tallinn through the Old Town, but I can tell you that if I had more than a day, I would gladly spend it wandering around the old, and new, town because I was pretty much blown away by the cultural and historical awesomeness (and parkour potential) of the place.
So while I may have only spent a few hours in the Old Town of Tallinn, it gave me a feeling of having experienced a very unique place in the world and a strong desire to go back. If not for the fact that I would see more, and different, things if I did go back, but also so I could find the restaurant we had a second lunch at. Set in a small courtyard circled with roses, vines and parasols, the greatest part was the mini orchestra playing ballads to a small audience, as most people simply didn’t see the little courtyard and unfortunately missed out on what was definitely my highlight from this day.
My tip, go to Estonia. It’s a great place filled with little moments that will make it into a single, great memory. Knowing that you’ve seen a piece of history that’s survived countless years and conflicts (and hopefully will continue to do so into the far future) will leave you with a pretty good sense of satisfaction.