Venturing to the Near East

Last year, on our flight to Vienna, Sarah and I made a napkin list on our flight of all the places we still wanted to visit, especially because we hadn’t really done all that much traveling in 2013. I actually don’t remember if Tallinn made it onto that list, but whatever circumstances led us to book Tallinn, I’m grateful for!

Sidenote: If you’re on an easyJet flight with a flight number that starts with 8, your flight will leave from the North terminal and if it starts with 5, your flight will leave from the South terminal. I never remember this, so thought I might if I wrote it down here and then it might be helpful to others too. Note it!

I might have said that it was a short 3 hour flight from London to Tallinn, but a, I have been spoiled by short European flights and b, we had to spend those 3 hours with multiple groups of drunk, disgusting, loud, obnoxious bachelor parties. Apparently Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius have become big bachelor party destinations. Some of the quotes I couldn’t get out of my head include:

“Yeah I don’t really remember the wedding. [My wife’s dad] was pretty pissed. When we watched the video, it was cringeworthy.”
The one next to me marvelled at my shuffling as Sarah and I readied for a game of rummy (yes, oldies next to rowdy idiots doesn’t turn out well) and told me to do it again. Instead I blanked* him and dealt the cards.
“Oh, it’s fine, I washed all the guilt off in the shower”
“I don’t know, that’s when she was putting her knickers back on”

And some of these losers had wedding bands on. Is anyone else vomming yet? Yes, I can be judgemental, I know you all think that anyway ;p
Thankfully, we didn’t run into these idiots again until our flight back, at which point they were a shade quieter, probably because they were hungover.

Anyway. Once we landed in Tallinn (the cosiest airport in the world), it was a short 2.5 miles from the airport to the Old Town (and only €10!). I would definitely award it most convenient airport in the world, to add to its cosy accolades.

We stayed at a place we found on airbnb, and it was convenient, secure, reasonably priced, and probably one of the coolest rooms I’ve ever stayed in since the ‘headboard’ was actually part of the stone wall that used to separate the upper and lower parts of the Old Town!

After putting our things down, we did a little foursquare research refreshing and headed to SfääR Cafe (but again, more on the food over on RostsEatLondon).

After a delicious meal, we went to the Opera House and bought tickets for the ballet that night, Rosalinde. To kill the time in between, we headed to Suur Kloostri, but found that this medieval wall is only open from 11am-4pm each day for tours. So we headed through Toompark to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral:

Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral
Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral

One of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen, inside and out (but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside). Absolutely gorgeous.

We actually ended up following a lot of the recs from the NYT 36 hours in Tallinn article. It is from a year or two ago, so maybe that’s why it was a bit hit and miss, but overall, I’m glad we went to some of the NYT recs that we did.

Tallinn proper was pretty small and very walkable — almost every time I mapped us somewhere, it was about 9 minutes away. The town square was beautiful (especially when it snowed on our way out on Sunday!).

It was also pretty cheap.

After we grabbed our bite at Sfaar, we did a tiny bit of window-shopping and headed to the Estonian National Opera to see if there were any tickets available while we were in town. Rosalinde was on that night, so we decided to get tickets.

IMG_4883 IMG_4886

Our seats were fine, but not great, so as has become my MO, I asked if we could sit in the box I noticed was empty for the second half:

Check out the ceiling!
Check out the ceiling!

The ballet itself wasn’t exactly great, though. I think we’ve both been spoiled by seeing some really great ballets by some really great companies, both in London (once the Royal National Ballet and once, Sarah got to see Bolshoi’s Swan Lake!) and in Warsaw. It just seemed like the ballerinas (and ballerinos?) were really overexpressive with their faces and their bodies/legs didn’t seem as in sync as with each other as the other companies had been.

The next day, we went to the Kalamaja neighborhood, which we had read about on foursquare (of course). We walked around and went through a market (where Sarah got a copycat furry hat :)), explored some of the neighborhood and went to the harbour. Around that area, we saw a design shop, a fish market, and the now-disused Linnahall (which I think would be the perfect location for a Ghostbusters Secret Cinema venue).

On our last day in the city, we headed to breakfast, and on the way it snowed. The Town Square covered in snow was beautiful, but my pictures just can’t convey it. After breakfast, we headed to our KGB museum tour. I really enjoyed this. What’s not to love! Spies and spy gear on a secret floor on the top level of a hotel!? I’m in.

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Summary of things to know, money & other deets –  Tallinn, as of 3 March 2014

In 3 words: walkable, cheap, beautiful
 £118.48 for 1 round trip ticket from LGW to TLL, booked 3 months in advance
Tickets to the ballet: €18; day of performance purchase
KGB Museum tickets: €9; can only go up on hourlong guided tours with a max of 25 people, only 2-3 a day of which are in English. Plan ahead and call to make a booking (but you pay when you get there)! We didn’t know this ahead of time, despite website-checking, but got lucky.
Suur Kloostri tickets: €1.50; Opening hours: 11am-4pm

*crazy British slang that just means ignored


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