Spontaneous trip to TallinnMarch 13, 2016
I was asked earlier in the week if I was going to Vaasa. I felt like a small trip would be quite fun, but seeing how much a Vaasa trip would’ve cost on such a short notice (for me and Paulina), I decided not to get any tickets.
But since it was Paulina’s birthday this week. And I got the urge to travel somewhere, I remembered that people have talked about how cheap it is to travel to Tallinn by boat. I checked the prices and sure enough, it was only 40€ for a round trip on a single day (and that’s 40€ for two adults). The trip only takes about 2 hours (one-way), and it’s on a boat similar to the normal Finlandsfärjorna that I’ve talked about previously.
Anyway, booked the trip late Friday evening.
The one negative thing with the whole trip, was in order to get anything done, we really needed to take the morning boat, which leaves at 08:30 from the western terminal here in Helsinki. So I had to get up at about 06:30, since I wanted to have my morning coffee and my morning shower before going.
I calculated that the morning routine would take about 20 minutes, since it’s the same thing I do every weekday, I then figured that we’d need to be at the harbour at least half an hour before the departure, and I guesstimated that it would take a good 30 minutes to get to the harbour. It was actually pretty well calculated, seeing just after we had checked in and started to walk towards the boat, they announced that the check-in was now closed. So we made it, with only a couple of minutes to spare.
The morning boat was really boring, nothing at all to do, so we both basically just sat around reading our books, trying to kill time.
We arrived at Tallinn around 10:30 AM. We got out of the terminal and just stood there for a while. Neither me nor Paulina have ever been in Tallinn previously. And neither of us knew anything about the city, nor how anything works. We picked up a map at the information stall, and then just started to walk after a bunch of people, figuring we’d end up in the famous old-town somehow.
This isn’t something we’ve done before, we usually know pretty well what it is we want to do, or see, when we go somewhere, but because the nature of this trip, being completely spontaneous, we hadn’t had any time to prepare for anything.
We got to the old city without any problems. Once inside of the city walls, we started to look for a café. Paulina can be pretty choosey when it comes to these kinds of things, she wanted a specific sort of café, whilst for me, any would’ve worked as long as they served coffee, preferably with something to eat. After walking about for something like 20 minutes, dismissing multiple places, we finally settled for a small place called “Amore”.
It was a small and really quite cute place. And their cakes were just short of awesome.
After getting some fuel, we started to walk around. Since we were only going to spend the day, we decided to just stay within the old city, a day trip to Tallinn can last anywhere from 1.5 hours to 10.5 hours, we opted for something in the middle, six and a half hours. I’m not really sure why the short one and a half hour trip exists, but if I’d have to guess, it’s because the price of alcohol in Estonia is
a lot massively cheaper than in Finland, so a lot of people go on liqueur-runs, basically just getting of the boat, going to the closest shop that sells alcholic beverages, and buy truckloads of it. But I digress.
So because we had a pretty short time frame to work with, we didn’t want to just randomly run around town, but instead methodically explore just the old city.
We weren’t here for liqueur nor for shopping, we only wanted an experience of some sort, and I think the old city really delivered on that point. Sure, it was a bit tacky, especially when there were a lot of actors dressed in medieval clothing running around, and I can’t deny the fact that it was super touristy, I kept thinking about all the people you’d see in Stockholm’s old city, and how tourist infected the whole place is. I decided to bury that thought, since in actuality, I was a mere tourist in Tallinn, might as well just enjoy it.
I had no idea on what to expect from Tallinn. There’s not that much I know about the city, nor about Estonia, the only tidbits that I do know is that it was once part of Sweden, and that it was occupied by the Soviet Union until the beginning of the ’90s (the fall of the Soviet Union). Other than that, I had no idea. Oh, right, the taxes are a lot lower, hence the cheap liqueur prices.
To be honest, I was quite surprised over how interesting the city of Tallinn is. Architecturally there was a lot of different styles, with the neighborhood Rotermann being the most interesting. A blend between old industrial buildings and modern buildings are intertwined, it’s kind of hard to describe, and I haven’t yet made up my mind if I liked it or not, but one thing’s for sure, it was super interesting to see.
The city is also fairly small, with a population just shy over 400 000, it looks a lot larger. Though to be honest, I only saw Rotermann, the harbour, and the old city, hardly a statistically valid observation on the city as a whole. Or what do I know, that might have been the gist of the city.
One of the first construction site we walked past had a make-shift bridge, made out of a door.
Anyway. After walking around for a couple of hours, we decided to find something to eat. Earlier in the morning we had seen a restaurant called “Schnitzel haus”, and me being me, really love schnitzels. We were at the northern most part of the old city when we decided to eat, so we had to walk through the whole old town again, since the Schnitzel restaurant was located furthermost to the south. But the weather was awesome, so it didn’t really bother us at all.
From the outside, the restaurant looked really anonymous, and to be honest, a bit run down. I almost wanted to tell Paulina that we should find something better. But we had just walked a fair bit, and I didn’t want to start searching for another restaurant. Me and Paulina have pretty different tastes in food, and the only thing I think we both can agree on, is that German food is good, so if we’d decide for something else, it would probably take hours before we could agree on something.
When we walked up to the door, I noticed that Paulina seemed to be a bit hesitant with the choice as well, I could almost see how she was thinking the exact same thing as me, and I could tell she didn’t want to spend the next hour arguing over what to eat.
We both kept quiet, and walked in.
Am I glad we didn’t change our minds. The restaurant looked nothing like the outside. It was a large room, with rock walls and a really cozy interior, they even had an open fire place. The restaurant looked like what I’d imagine a traditional German restaurant should look like (I’ve never been to one, so my imagination might not be the same as reality, so I wouldn’t know).
And for the record, the schnitzel was really good.
After we had eaten, we only had a bit less than two hours left before the boat would depart. So we slowly and steadily started to make our way back to the harbour. We left the old city and walked through Rotermann, looking at the buildings. We entered a couple of shops as well, but the outside was usually more interesting than the inside.
We found a mall called Foorum, which we entered on the sole fact that there’s a Forum in Helsinki. It looked like an upper-class mall, with fancy shops, I wouldn’t know, since I didn’t enter any of the shops. The architecture was far more interesting.
They had these wooden chairs laid out in a row through the whole mall. The chairs reminded me of eggs, or more precise, the plastic egg chairs that were popular back in the seventies, sans the retro modern plastic look.
Never mind the looks though, they were comfortable as hell (or it might be the fact that after walking the whole day, anything would be comfortable). They also had a neck support thing that I could only imagine would be awesome when you have an headache.
Me going through images that I had taken throughout the day.
We didn’t want to repeat the morning, with only barely making the boat. So we walked to the harbour with an hour to spare.
If you ever find yourself in Tallinn’s harbour terminal. Take a moment to look around. It’s probably the prettiest harbour terminal building that I’ve ever been in. The resemblance to an airport is immense. And they’ve really built it to let in light, with large glass panels covering almost every direction. I only wish the other harbours that I’ve been in would even look half as good as the one in Tallinn.
The boat trip back was a bit more rough than the morning boat. Not the sea though, it was as calm as ever. But the people. It’s like back a couple of years ago when the Finnish government decided to lower the alcohol taxes and everything got way out of hand, and they had to basically increase the taxes again just so people would drink responsibly again.
Adults were sitting on the floor all over the boat, drinking the alcohol that they’d bought in Estonia. A young woman had stolen a shopping cart from the tax-free area and brought it to the bar and sat in it whilst drinking beer (since all other chairs were taken), I guess you could call her lucky that the sea was a calm as it was, otherwise she would’ve been carting around like crazy.
At one point we saw a guy, barely able to sit straight on the floor, yelling in his phone different profanities and hate speeches, all whilst his four year old daughter stood next to him. That was probably the saddest thing I’ve seen to date.
And the worst part, the clock was only around 7 PM.
We got off the boat without any bigger trouble, zigzagging around drunk people, and/or people who were wheeling carts with boxes upon boxes with cheap beer. When we stood outside the terminal building, we saw how crowded the trams to the city were, so we bit the bullet and just took a taxi home.
And luckily, our local kotipizza has opened again after they’ve been closed due to a renovation.
So to end an almost perfect trip, I got pizza.