By Cacinda Maloney
Tallinn, Estonia is a vibrant, medieval city sitting right dab on the shores of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. With her old world charms, you will be glad you visited her during the post-Soviet era to see how she has evolved since the USSR dissolved in 1991. Back then, she was known as Reval. I can tell you that twenty-four years later she is alive and well! Estonia is ticking all the right boxes, so now is the time to go. Estonia has moved to the Euro currency and in my opinion the prices were much less than Western Europe, yet she has all the “old world” romance a girl could as for.
If you go, the city has two main areas to explore:
- The “Old Town”, which was added to the UNESCO world heritage site in 1997 and has pretty, cobblestone streets, shops and trendy restaurants.It was named as the European Capital of Culture in 2011.
- Kalamaja, the gritty, up-and-coming “arts and history district” where you can still see the old soviet apartments, abandon warehouses and graffiti, yet it is intertwined with trendy restaurants and cutting edge fashion and design houses.
I was in Tallinn in 2014 and must mention that the Lennusadam Sea Plane Harbour Museum in the arts and history district is a must visit. The space itself is spectacular and at that time I had a chance to see the Titanic Exhibit, which was extremely well done and well attended.
This time around though, I had a guided city walk with EST Adventures with our guide Andrew. As we walked the streets, he told us about the different cultures that make up the history of what Tallinn is today. From Danish Kings to Latvians, Germans, Swedes, Finnish and Russians, these lands have been inhabited for centuries with different dominate rulers during different times. He was full of knowledge and had many stories to tell us. Go ahead and get a guide and walk around the city for the day, you will learn so much more than being on your own. This also helps you orient yourself to the town for the following days that you are there.
I stayed at the well-appointed Schlossle Hotel, which is a member of the group of Leading Luxury Hotels of the World.
It was quite charming with the cave-type room I stayed in near the back building, although the main building’s rooms seemed quite standard. They did have a gorgeous room where the breakfast was served (which is also a restaurant at night) and the servers were quite attentive.
The location is perfectly situated near the center of “Old Town” and it was easy to get a round and a close walk to the famous Russian restaurant that was rated #1 on TripAdvisor called Rataskaevu16 and The Farm.
If you have a few days to spare, I can recommend an unusual adventure called “bog walking”
and then for kicks, you can try a new experience to me called a “home restaurant”. This would be for a one-day excursion and takes around 4-5 hours. The bog is right outside of the city proper, not more than an hours drive and you are literally in the forest, then the bog. This “bog” or marsh is basically miles and miles of water fields with densely packed greens and berries that live in the water. The group I was with had so much fun wearing modified snow-shoes that attached to our rain boots, which allowed us to “glide” thru the bog. Don’t worry about bringing any equipment, as they bring everything for you.
While there, we also had a chance to pick local, off-season berries. You will find that this is a popular sport amongst the Finnish, as well and much like the popular sport of mushrooming in Europe. After an hour or so of bog walking, we drove down by the seashore to Mer Mer, a “home restaurant” – and within no time we were sitting in a family’s dining room right on the beach.
It was quite a unique experience and I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the life of a local Estonian couple. Our hosts were an older, yet hip couple who lived on the beach and turned their dining room into a restaurant for special groups. The food was exquisite and well prepared. We were even surprised when the main dish came out and it was actually beaver! You just never know what other people have for dinner!
Just a reminder that all the experiences mentioned here can be had by booking with JayWay Travel.
This is a continuous series on the Baltic Capitals:
Disclosure: My time spent in Estonia was courtesy of the wonderful host JayWay Travel. My enjoyment of the charms of Tallinn were all my own and I jumped at the chance to return.