Tallinn, Estonia

[October 2016]

I stayed at an AirBNB in Kalamaja just past the railway station. This has become a trendier area of Tallinn over the last few years while still maintaining the charm of the old wooden houses. Nearby is the Telliskivi Creative City, an old factory turned artistic center. Given the hype of the area, I expected there to be more places to eat, but I didn’t stumble upon too many.

I ate breakfast at Boheem off of Kopli twice. The omelettes and bread are amazing. You won’t regret it. I was disappointed when they were closed Sunday morning, not allowing me a third serving. The Like a Local map also recommended a place called Kukeke across from Telliskivi. It sounded great and noted that they serve breakfast late… The doors don’t open till noon, so it’s breakfast served late, not at breakfast time.

At noon, I joined the Tallinn Free Tour at the Tourist Information Center. Our guide was young, fun, and informative. We stopped at all the must-see spots in Old Town.

The first stop was Freedom Square where the quality of the monument was up for debate. We made our way up to the Kiek in de Kok (“peek in the kitchen”), a defence tower. From there, we took a stroll through the Danish King’s Garden, walked over to the park outside the House of Parliament where we discussed the flag, and took a wee look into the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

This area is raised above the Old Town, so there are two great viewing platforms along the city walls.

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We hiked down the walls and moseyed back into Old Town where we were told about the town hall building and the pharmacy museum (still an operating pharmacy) across the way. Like any good tour, there were lots of funny stories and jokes told along the way.

I took a peek in the museum then quickly made my way towards Kompressor, a pancake (more like crepe) joint that I was dying to try. These crepes will blow your mind.

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I believe it was that evening that I went into the Master’s Courtyard off of Vene near the Town Hall. This little nook features metalwork, jewellery, wool work, and more. I think I hit every shop and spoke with several of the artists, all of whom were delightful.

Despite the cold and the rain, I continued to roam around only to retrace most of the tour’s steps. Had I been following the map during the tour that morning, I would have realized that I’d already been to the viewpoints I was hunting down.

On day two, I made my way to the Telliskivi Creative City. There are lots of good finds inside, but it was pricier than I expected. Then again, that’s most hipster areas… In addition to shops, there are several restaurants. If you’re with someone that is keen to shop, you could certainly kill some time here.

Just north is the Seaplane Harbour Maritime Museum. This was a welcome break from the cold. There is an outstanding collection of historical boats from across the Baltic and Scandinavian region. There was also a neat exhibit on Viking culture at the time.

Afterwards, I walked over to Linnahall. You can only get to the top by following the center stairs, so don’t enter from the side if you want to sit on the roof. This was built by the Soviets for the Olympics. Boats can dock to it, but I don’t believe the interior is currently used for anything. The exterior serves as a canvas for graffiti artists.

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After another crepe at Kompressor, I met up with a friend of a friend. She walked me over to Kadriorg Park, the Presidential Palace, the Russalka monument, and then I dipped my toe in the Baltic Sea. The park is lovely. There is a fountain with a gazebo in the middle. Further into the park is a “Japenese” garden.

Back in town, we stopped at the Town Hall where you can enjoy medieval atmosphere and some delicious soup. Not far from Town Hall is a big beer house, the Tallinn version of the Hofbrauhaus. The interior is of similar decor and there is live music and dancing. It screams tourist trap, but it’s cheesy and fun.

Sadly, this concluded my trip. Given another week, I would have just gone to cafe after cafe enjoying the Tallinn, former Soviet vibe.  TOPS, Energia Cafe, and Vanaema Juures all sounded right up my alley. I’d then ferry across to Helsinki. I learned that US Citizens can take a ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg without a visa for three days provided they have proof of a return trip and hotel reservations. Something to keep in mind…

Next stop, back to reality.

 

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