I arrived in Tallinn via the Viking Line EXPRS Ferry from Helsinki on a Sunday afternoon after a scenic 2 & 1/2 hour trip. After disembarking I began to walk to my hotel located in the Old Town. Once I entered into the Old Town area it was no easy feat to find my way around. The cobble stone streets and alleys are like a maze to visitors . After a few ” I’ve seen this before ” moments, I accidentally find my hotel staring right in front of me. It is cold and my jeans and jacket are stiffening from the frigid temperatures. Being Sunday afternoon it is relatively quite on the street. Few people, let alone tourists seem to want to go for a walk in single digit temperatures. After unpacking my stuff in my small but clean and modern room at Hotel Meriton, I venture out into the labyrinth of alleys. I’m finding my GPS is moving my location around too much for me to trust it and I start to get my bearings from church steeples. Although the Old Town district is fairly small it is easy to find yourself in circles.
After a couple of hours of mesmerizing scenery, I’m starving and looking for a restaurant that is somewhere middle of the road price wise. I’m finding it hard to distinguish between pubs and restaurants from the outside looking in. It turns out just about every pub serves food, good food. Something else that I noticed, was although it was Sunday evening, either every restaurant I walked by had only one couple dining in it or it was completely empty. I mean large nice places just desolate, besides the wait staff, really odd. I found a brewery called Olleklubi . Here I ordered a steak , cabbage, onion and potato dish that was phenomenal . Inexpensive at about €10 with a pint of their Honey beer. Highly recommend this place.
I walk out into the cold Tallinn night and start to walk aimlessly through the streets. It is a cold winters night and a light snowfall has begun to dust the ground. The sky looks orange. The sidewalks are so icy you find yourself having to adapt how you walk to avoid taking a fall. The architecture in the Old Town is beautiful . Rare to find so many old buildings preserved and condensed into a small area. Remove the cars and the lit store signs and you would feel you’ve stepped back a couple hundred years. Seeing it all in the cold and snow has just increased the visual effect to me.
I come upon a pub called Hell Hunt and stop in for some local beers. I start off with their own lager and browse the food menu . Under snacks is listed, pigs tongue. Yes, you know I am going for it. It is served cold with a yogurt sauce and is quite good and I polish of the plate and order up their wheat beer. One of the best I’ve had. So after my pigs tongue and four pints I’m worse for wear and check out, €10, a bargain ! Despite it being Sunday night, the place didn’t start filling in until late.
I awoke early to have a look around some more . Now that it was daylight out I was able to find things a little more easily and the layout of the Old Town was becoming a little easier to navigate. Step out of the Old Town and I was looking at an Armani shop and Burberry. Here you can find all the luxuries of modern day life. I turned around, this is not what I was here for. Despite this , it is where you need to go for common items you may need to buy. Even a bottle of water is hard to find in the Old Town. It is mostly restaurants, cafe’s and pubs scattered among apartments and homes . The Russian Embassy was also one block from my hotel. So if you are ever here looking to go on to Russia maybe you can get a visa there.
On my last night here I went to a place specializing in Estonian food. Again, large venue and I was the only soul in a restaurant that could easily hold over a hundred. The waitress was very nice and my wild boar and stewed vegetables were great, so I don’t know how all these places make money. I’m sure Mondays in January are slow for any restaurant in cold climates but I laugh to my self when I think how it’s lonely when you travel solo and go out for dinner but this is just eerie. *Note : I wrote this as I ate dinner and afterwards I spoke to the waitress who told me that January through February is the slow time with very little tourism. She also spoke of how the locals do not tend to dine out that often unless it is a special occasion. So it was lonely but the food was great and I had two servers to myself.
I journeyed to Tallinn on advice from a traveler that if I liked Bruges, Belgium for its architecture and old world charm I would love Tallinn. I did and would tell anyone who enjoys an ” Old Town” as I do, to put Tallinn on your list.