Estonia – Travelogue

estonia

Journal extract…

…So I’m just wrapping things up in Tallinn, capital of Estonia (hitting the headlines this year after riots in the city, hosting the Eurovision and winning silver and gold in the Finnish Wife Carrying Contest!). Occupied for centuries by the Danes, Swedes, Russians and Nazis, it finally got independence in 1991 and is centred around a beautiful medieval old town dotted with spires and soviet housing projects. The girls here are so absurdly hot, it’s too intimidating to look them in the eye, let alone pretend to ask for directions… Unfortunately, the city has long been dubbed ‘the new Prague’ by hoards of horrid English stag/hen groups – they’ve particularly increased in number lately and I’ve been cringing at them, along with everyone else, since arrival.

Getting here was a game in itself, time and cost meant I had to fly and skip Europe, but I’d booked the flight to depart in the middle of the night. I ended up being awake for 32 hours and then sleeping for about 19, which all made me quite queasy. Annoyingly the weather when I landed was exactly the same grey dull drizzlyness I’d left behind at Stansted…

Things settled down after the sleep-a-thon, and at least sleeping through the day meant I’d avoided the worse of the token ‘snorer’ in the dormitory. This gorgeous little city in this tiny country of just over a million people is not a million miles different to Prague or Salamanca in Spain – all very clean, and for several months a year, the sun never properly sets. My first stop was the cobbled square of the old town, where I checked out the town hall, listened to a choir and climbed a bell tower. A few map-reading glitches on my part led me then to the ‘ Dolly Museum’ rather than the ‘Occupation Museum’. With only one visitor, who was probably the curator’s child, I felt awful admitting I’d no interest in dollies (in recent years anyway) and was simply looking to find out more about the great oppressors. I finally found it having hopped on a ‘trolley bus’ – basically, a regular bus which runs like a tram using overhead electric wires – akin to a huge bumper car, if you will… The collection of Soviet and Nazi statues, junk, propaganda etc.. was interesting, though I felt I’d be seeing a lot of the same as I headed through Russia.

On Friday, we got down to serious business. I relocated to a less depressing hostel and woke up a random German girl to ask if she’d like to see what promised to be “one of the world’s widest selections of mountain goats”. So said the tourist map. Either this meant that there was a better selection of goats elsewhere in the world, or whoever was deciding couldn’t make up their mind and deemed them all to be worthy collections. The reality of Tallinn Zoo was, unfortunately, a little more distressing – the worse case being a caged polar bear with a 2 metre pool. Huge defeatist signs, seemingly acknowledging the crapness (in 3 languages), promised that the conditions were temporary and investment from the government was ‘coming soon’… maybe… sort of…

After checking out the hyenas, warthogs, bison and other comedy animals, I had some savoury pancakes (which seemed to be filled with dog food) and linked up with some Danes and a Belgian to hit the beach. After finding a clear spot amongst the seaweed, trash and random car parts, we sat down for 10-minutes (a largely symbolic gesture, to give the journey some purpose, as the walk over there had led to blisters all round!).

A Baltic Folk Festival was in full swing when we returned to the old town. I didn’t quite understand the odd costumes, songs and, in particular, the Georgian children fighting each other with sticks – it’s just a shame I haven’t more time to learn about Eastern Europe as I reckon it’d be great to backpack around.

I’m fulfilling a bet (sadly enough, placed with myself) to don the rooster costume at least once in each city – no money involved, just my ever-floundering dignity. Estonian reactions to Chickenman have been mixed – one chap offered me a drink, most locals have smiled, whilst one tried very hard to fight me on a bus. The latter incident, however, may have been related more to my impromptu ‘S Club 7’ rendition sing-along, which was obviously not appreciated by the drunken Russian. I decided not to press him for ‘requests’, after he began kicking the chair, ranting in Russian and having a full-on tantrum.

There’s some fantastic facial hair going on in Tallinn, from Lenin-esque wedges to flamboyant handlebar moustaches – I feel that, as I head further East, the facial fashions can only get more and more exciting. Other questionable fashions include the usual European penchant for trousers in bright primary colours and a hell of a lot of Ribena-colour dyed hair. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on the my own, and the locals, hair situation as the epic journey unfolds…

Today, I catch a 7 hour train to St Petersburg in Russia…