From Stockholm, it is easy to board one of the ferries heading north to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where we continued on our nordic trip. On the Tallink Silja Line which has a daily ferry crossing, we managed to book tickets at 58€ each. It was a B class cabin for four people and single gender only, with two double decker beds and attached bathroom. In my room there was an interesting Ukrainian guy who drives trucks around Scandinavia and he was making his way back home via ferry and overland, to minimise costs. He shared with me several interesting stories of driving on highways, especially along mountainous roads with hairpin bends in Norway where the scenery was amazing.
Stockholm-Tallinn, M/S Victoria I(Operated by TALLINK GRUPP)
12.01.2014 (Sunday) departure at 17:45 Stockholm/Värtahamnen – 13.01.2014 (Monday) arrival at 10:45 Tallinn/D-Terminal
The 16h overnight cruise ride was very pleasant, there was duty-free shopping for alcohol, a disco for those looking to have a fun night, a cafeteria and an amusement arcade for the gamers. Food was not included in the ticket so we chose to bring our own food from Stockholm as food sold on board was quite overpriced. There is also a lower compartment in the ferry to transport cars as it slowly made its way across the Baltic sea.
Upon disembarkment in Estonia, we were greeted with a flurry of snow. There is no immigration control as these two countries are part of the European Union (EU). Estonia is a Baltic nation in the northern Europe, comprising a mainland and over 2,000 islands in the Baltic Sea. The capital Tallinn has flourished from a former Soviet city into one of the most fascinating capitals on the continent. During Soviet times, Estonia lost about 25% of its population during WWII due to its close proximity to Russia. However, today it is known for its enchanting medieval Old Town, which is the best preserved in Northern Europe, and fairy tale buildings found alongside an endless choice of bars, restaurants and upmarket hotels. Another fun fact: did you know that the Skype software was developped in Estonia? Yes, it was thanks to Estonian talent! After which Microsoft acquired the company.
Once again, we checked out the Tallinn free walking tour. The places covered included
– Tallinn’s Famous Churches
– Freedom Square
– Kiek in de Kök
– Danish King’s Garden
– Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
– Tallinn Town Hall Square
– Old Tallinn City Wall
– Harju street
Tours depart from Tallinn Tourist Info Center. On the corner of Harju and Niguliste street at noon everyday.
For a panoramic view of the city, head to Patkuli viewing platform. I remembered climbing a winding series of steps from Shnelli Park in order to reach this viewpoint. This is the best vantage point for viewing Tallinn’s fairytale Town Wall and towers, St. Olav’s Church and the harbour area, and best of all it is free! A common tussle that Estonia has with Latvia is over who was the first to erect the oldest decorated Christmas tree, as our walking tour guide told us gleefully. Riga proclaimed itself as the “Capital of the Decorated Christmas Tree”, while Estonians chose to believe that they were the first to decorate the Christmas tree as seen in 1441, almost 70 years ahead of its neighbor. Nonetheless, you should still visit all three Baltic states to get a feel of how each country is different in one aspect or another.
Tallinn is quite a compact city and it can easily be covered on foot within a day. It also adopted the euro currency, which makes it easier to buy stuff. So after exploring the whole city, we decided to go on a food tour. Do try rukis, which is a kind of rye bread that is common in Nordic countries. It can be easily bought in supermarkets.
Kompressor (Rataskaevu 3, Tallinn 10123) made it to our list for their delicious pancakes. They call themselves the legendary pancake house. Do avoid peak hours in order to get seats and enjoy the cafe. The pancakes cost 4-5€ each, with a variety of fillings to choose from, and it is quite a big portion so it is good for sharing. We also had a sauerkraut soup with meat (2.80€) with a generous serving of sour cream in the middle.
There was another place that we went to for lunch but I had forgotten the name (shall take down more notes conscientiously next time). All I remember is that the restaurant is located slightly away from the old town, at a quiet little corner with little pedestrian traffic. We chanced upon it and felt the prices were reasonable, so we decided to have lunch there. We had the beef stroganoff with puff pastry topping and it was simply delicious. The beef was very tender and it was served with potato balls by the side, a typical Estonian staple. The set lunch menu also came with a dessert- a slice of cake for that day we visited.
Lastly, for a local experience, you can bare all and visit Kalma sauna (entrance 6-9€), which is the oldest operating public sauna in Tallinn and still maintaining the traditions of wood heating. Saunas are definitely something Scandinavian as we will find out soon when we travel to Finland. For now, that’s a wrap for Estonia! Hopefully we can come back again in summer as there are other cities that I would like to visit.