Tallinn, Estonia

To reach Estonia from Finland we needed to cross the Baltic Sea by ferry. Garmin told us the ferry terminal was five minutes away. It took 30 minutes. Luckily we left early enough so that we weren't late, but we were still one of the last cars in line. The ferry itself was amazing: several cafes, shops, kids rooms, plus a few levels of cabins for those doing the overnight trip. Despite all the eateries it was still hard to find a table to sit down at. We eventually found one and lazed around for the 2.5 hour trip. There were great views of Helsinki and Tallinn, plus the fortress-covered islands off the coast of Finland.

Once we arrived in Tallinn our first priority was to locate an ATM to withdraw the local currency. Everywhere we looked was paid parking and we didn't have any Estonian money on us to pay for it. About half an hour later we spotted an ATM far enough away from the city to offer free parking, which we quickly grabbed. I inserted my bank card and guess what the ATM gave me back? Euros. Apparently Estonia had changed their currency in the last year or so (since our travel guide was published), so now we had tons of euros in our wallets.

We used Garmin to drive towards a palace, hoping we could park beside it for free, but for some reason we couldn't find it. All we could see were residential houses and nothing that signalled a palace was nearby. We gave up on this and instead made our way to the local campsite.

 

The word 'campsite' is a term I would use loosely. We parked in a concrete car park in the middle of an industrial estate, with enough room for maybe 20 campervans and a couple of tents on the tiny patch of grass beside the concrete. There was one building (which looked like a factory from the outside) which housed reception, showers and toilets. The showers, although unisex, were communal, which was interesting. 'Interesting' is also used loosely.

The rest of the day was spent chilling out, eating dinner in the van then taking a walk along the coast, where the sport of rollerblading appeared to be popular. We had planned to walk up to the Song Festival Grounds, a significant site for Estonia, but there was some sort of rehearsal going on that seemed to involve every teenager in Estonia. Signs were plastered around stating that the grounds would be in use by this group from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day. Security was everywhere and they weren't letting anyone through the gates. So with that let down we walked back to the van, past dozens of rundown buildings, and spent the night watching TV on the laptop.

We were boiling hot when we woke up this morning, which meant we were in for a warm day. After a slightly awkward communal shower, we left the caravan park and looked for a car park just down the road. There was so much security around for whatever was going on at the Song Festival Grounds that we didn't have a choice but to look elsewhere. We finally found a supermarket with a large enough car park that no one would notice a campervan parked there all day, then walked two kilometres into town.

As soon as we entered the old town we were immediately transported back to medieval times. Every building and every staff member replicated the feel of a middle ages town. It was fantastic; I loved it the minute I stepped into it. Danny thought Ljubljana was better because it had a river, but I disagreed. One of the first signs we saw was for elk soup for €1, which we couldn't resist. The restaurant was a tiny, partially underground, stone-walled room, barely enough room for a dozen people, and all they offered was soup, pies and drinks. The soup was tasty but didn't have much meat, so we backed it up with an elk pie (also €1). It was delicious, a bit like a beef pie but less fatty and more juicy.

We spent most of the day wandering around town, not bothering with any museums or art galleries. We climbed 257 large steps (with the help of a rope) to reach the top of a church tower, giving us great views of the city and harbour. Danny finally managed to find somewhere cheap to get his haircut, which suited both of us as it had been over three months since his last cut and he wouldn't stop complaining about it. There were loads of churches (including one very over the top Russian church with a horribly bright aqua interior), market stalls set up along the old city walls, souvenir shops and artists selling their work. Most buskers seemed to be accordion players. One tower we passed was called "Kiek in de Kok", which amused us no end. Overall it was a beautiful city, not too big or too crowded and we probably could have spent several days there. 

 

Restaurants were everywhere (enough for one for every person in the city it seemed), and all the food was extremely cheap. Beer was cheap too, much to Danny's delight. We even saw a Russian restaurant with wild boar and moose on the menu (Danny was keen but we didn't stop). Lunch was eaten at a bar that sold over 85 beers; Danny got through two.

 

We walked back to the car, stopping in at the oversized supermarket we were parked in front of (we are abnormally fond of big supermarkets). For a change I made dinner tonight: margherita pizza followed by banana and honey pancakes. My meals are obviously not as healthy as Danny's. 

 

After eating we drove back to the palace we couldn't locate yesterday and managed to find steps leading down to it. The palace was small and uninspiring, although the manicured gardens were decent. We spent the night just down the road from the palace entrance, which was nowhere near as quiet as we were hoping. But it was free and there were no security guards threatening to move us on, so we really couldn't complain.

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