Tallinn Estonia Trip

29 May 2013

This weekend was a bye week for the Seinajoki Crocodiles. That meant a rare occasion to do a little traveling. Charlie and I had decided to take a quick trip to the little country of Estonia, which is just a short boat ride south of Helsinki Finland. Mika had told us that we could manage that with an overnight trip where we would leave early Saturday and return late Sunday. Mika arranged it and decided to also go with his girlfriend. So the four of us were heading off to Estonia.

where is tallinn

Apparently, Estonia is a favorite destination stop for the Finnish. The reason is because it is relatively cheap for booze as compared to Finland. A regular site coming back from Estonia to Finland on the boat is to see Finnish people lugging huge amounts of beer and liquor that they purchased in Estonia. I am talking about shopping carts full of the stuff. I did notice too that the price of a pint of beer over there in the pubs runs about a Euro cheaper than it does in Finland.

So our destination was Tallinn Estonia. Tallin is the capital city and is right on the Northern shore of Estonia. The city itself has a lot of very old architecture and actually contains a tourist area for the old city that is ringed with the old city walls and towers.

We started the trip early Saturday morning at 7:30 with the four hour car trip from Seinajoki to Helsinki where we would catch the ferry down to Tallinn. We arrived near the port with about an hour to spare so we decided to stop at an open-air market near all the boats. This place was packed with shoppers and tourists who were walking up and down the two full rows of vendor tents that were set up with goods from all areas of Finland.

Helsinki Market 1

There were artworks, food items, and clothing from all over. One booth was interesting in that it had shawls, hats, and skins from fox and reindeer out of Lapland, which is an area very North in Finland. The shawls were basically an entire fox pelt with head, feet and claws. I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of a booth like this set up in Portland where you would need a perimeter established to hold back the angry mob that would be protesting the practice of actually using an animal skin as a garment.

Another booth we checked out had some food items that we sampled. One of the foods was meatballs made out of reindeer meat. These proved to be delicious. Besides those were some little fish that were fried up whole called Muikku. These were about the size of sardines and were very salty but had a nice flavor once you got past the eyeballs.

In the harbor were lots of boats. One in particular was a tall ship with the masts and rigging of the past. I have always liked these ships and had Charlie take a photo of me standing with it in the background.Helsinki Market near boat lines.

Pretty soon it was time to board the cruise ship. We boarded and lockered our small amount of luggage and found a nice comfortable spot in a bar to wait out the 2 hour boat ride. The place was packed with people heading to Estonia. The trip lasted two beers and got we got up, got our stuff and queued up at the exit.

Off the ship we found the weather perfect. It was too warm for any type of light jacket as we made the short walk from the boat to our hotel, which Mika had pre-booked for us. We were staying at a place called the Tallinn Spa and Conference Hotel. It was a very nice place that featured a huge spa and sauna. They had nice silvery statues out front.

Naked statue outside hotel

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie and I laughed at the sign of a local business just across the street from the hotel. It was the Portland Gentlemen’s club.Strip Club across from our hotel

Those of you familiar with Portland Oregon might know that it ranks very high up on the charts for number of strip clubs per capita. At one point in the not too distant past, some claimed it to be the number one city in the states with the most strip clubs per captia. Not so any more apparently. We both thought it was somewhat ironic that a club in Estonia hailed by that name.

We checked into our rooms and were going to meet in the lobby in ten minutes to make a quick trip into the old town. It was about 4PM and we were getting pretty hungry. The plan was to get to the old town, eat something small, get back to the hotel for a spa, and then back into the old town for a booked dinner at a place called Ribe. Ribe came highly recommended by Mika. We did not take this recommendation lightly as both Charlie and I had witnessed him unconsciously wreaking havoc on six buffet lines on the cruise ship from Finland to Sweden just two weeks prior.

We entered the old town through one of the many entrances.One of the entries into Old Tallinn

The old town was rimmied with these types of walls and towers. The streets were cobblestoned and narrow and had plenty of tourists from all over based on the various languages we heard. Charlie and I caught the occasional familiar sound of the American as they joked and enjoyed themselves in this part of the world.

Streets of Tallinn 3

Before grabbing a quick bite to eat, Mika wanted to take us up to a viewing spot at the high point of the old town. Apparently, from there you could see over much of the old town and the view was spectacular. So we followed him up and up the small narrow streets. At points we were reduced to going single file up steep stairs and through old archways.

Charlie heading to high point in old Tallin

old door in Tallinn

At one point, we passed a guy in character that was trying his best to get every tourist to stop and engage themselves in his blacksmithing demonstration. I was a little interested in this and would probably have stopped to listen and watch this guy but Mika was on a mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, we reached the small plateau that was used as a viewing platform of the old town. To one side there was a three-foot wall that you could stand next to and take it all in. The site was worth the climb. From there you could see the everything. The pictures I took don’t really do the view justice but here is one.

Viewpoint over Old Tallinn 2

 

 

 

 

 

By now I was famished. We had to get some food. The last food I took in was about 24 hours ago at the home of one of our players who had invited Charlie and I out for a sauna and dinner with his family. That was an experience that I will write up later.

After getting our fill of the view, we headed back down the trail and soon found a little sidewalk cafe with an open bench for four. We didn’t want to eat a lot right now but had to get something. The menu offerred several nice appetizers and beer of course. I got some garlic bread and a small bowl of potato and cheese casserole. It was very tasty.

With that accomplished, it was back to the hotel to do the spa. Mika was excited about this part of the trip. He had talked it up several times. We made the short walk back to the hotel during which I realized I did not have a pair of swimming shorts. When I voiced my concern Mika said I could purchase a pair at the front desk of the spa.

At the desk, I gave the lady in charge my size and and she whipped out what I thought was a piece of scrap material about the size of a large postage stamp. Nobody but me and Charlie seemed surprised by this. I could not restrain my laughter and said “not happening.” I decided on a quick nap in my room instead. The last I recalled was the word “speedo” in a conversation that Mika was having with his girlfriend, which I am sure was some sort of baffled explanation as to why I was not going to do the spa.

About 8:30 we all met in the lobby and were ready to make the trek back into the old town for our date at the Ribe. I really was not that hungry but this was supposed to be a special spot to eat. We found the place with no problems and were escorted to our table. It was a very nice place and I felt a bit underdressed. But, I had packed light and left my suit back in Oregon.

We started with a drink. Mika, who has taken to discovering the finer points of wine, got some red wine while Charlie and I both stuck to beer. From the menu, I got the asparagus appetizer, which was delightfully arranged and very tasty. It was in a light sauce and had some small stewed tomatoes as well as some fish egg stuff that according to Mika is the cheap version of caviar. The main menu choices were fish, pasta, duck, pork, or beef. Both Charlie and I opted for the pork.

Dinner at The Rike in Old Tallinn

The main entrees arrived after a liberal wait beyond the appetizers. The dish was excellent though! I have to say I have not eaten such tender and tasty pork ever. There were two nice, round center loin cuts that were pink and tender. I was pretty much done at that point but Mika insisted on the dessert menu.

From the dessert menu I chose “chocolate.” I have a severe sweet tooth and despite the fact that I really was pretty full I wanted to try this out. It finally came after an equally long wait and it was presented nicely in a ring of six different concoctions of chocolate. Each type was repeated once. These were not manufactured items but were actual culinary creations of various states entirely in chocolate. They were all very good. By the time I had finished them off I was truly stuffed.

We rolled out of Ribe’s at around 11PM totally satiated. But, the night was not over. Off to some pubs now.

On the way, we went through the main square of the old town. The square was dominated by an old large building near the center. This building is the old Gothic Town Hall that was built during 1402 through 1404. It was the meeting place for the ruling burgermeisters and has been a show piece of the city ever since.

Main Square building in Old Tallinn

The rest of the square was rimmed with cafes and pubs all of which were full of customers. The only modern piece of “architecture” was a stage that occupied one part of the square that was used for live entertainment. Nothing going on that night though.

The first stop after dinner was a place called Mad Murphy’s Irish Pub and Grill. This place was lively and packed with tourists. They had a live band playing there that consisted of three guys who were playing classic American tunes. The dance floor was packed and energetic. I basically enjoyed the scenery from a booth and was not even able to have a beer I was so full. We hung out in this place for about 30 minutes and then moved onto a place called The Beer House. We had passed this place a couple of times earlier and they featured beer maids that rivaled the St. Pauli Girl from the famous poster. Check out the link in case you don’t know what I am talking about.

We stayed here for about 30 minutes as well and I still could not find room for a beer. It was getting late now and we needed to get back to our rooms. The day had been long and fun but I was ready for some sleep.

We exited the old town through a really cool part of the wall.Night entry into Old Tallinn

I have never seen any castle architecture and have always wanted to see this type of stuff. Coming out this way we actually got a bit lost but our route ended up skirting a good portion of the wall. So, the walk out was very interesting as we got to see lots of the wall and old railings of the city.

The walk from the old town to the hotel was quick and soon we arrived back at the hotel. It wasn’t long before we were asleep in our bed, I slept soundly beneath atypical art decor atop our headboard.

Artwork in our Tallinn Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we were on our own until Noon when we were to meet at the boarding area. I took a long two hour walk around Tallinn that found me back in the old town and around the main town proper. Here are some more shots of the old town.

Here is another shot I took yesterday of a typical street view.

Old part of Tallinn 1

This is a shot of the exit we took last night out of the old town but in the daylight.

Day entry into Old Tallinn

 

 

 

 

 

Here is one of a street that was full of fresh flowers for sale.

Street of flowers in Old Tallinn

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on the way back to the hotel, I noticed again this weird structure that was decaying and near the water.  I later found out that the structure was the old docking port. It sort of resembled a Mayan pyramid but was larger on top. I climbed the several sets of old broken down steps and had a decent view of the water and my surroundings. Here are a few photos. Weird temple-like structure near hotelGraffitti art in Tallinn

View from weird structure in TallinnThis structure had multiple layers all of which I explored. The bottom layers had old, abandoned cars that were gutted and trash strewn about in every corner.  Down below there also was what looked like walled off office areas and administration wings also. I can imagine the entire structure would be a skateboarders dream in the US with all the stairs, ramps, etc

 

 

 

 

 

This is the view shot from atop the old structure.

 

 

 

 

The last leg of the boat phase was soon upon us. Charlie and I stopped at a sidewalk marina cafe and had a couple bloddy mary drinks. The lady running the bar didn’t know how to make them but the owner jumped right in and knew what we were talking about. They didn’t have all the right ingrediants but in the spirit of improvision they managed to whip up a couple that approximated the taste. We had a nice time reflecting on the uniqueness of the city we had just had the privilege of visiting for a short while.

from deck of boat back to Helsinki

Next, it was on the boat to Helsinki, a stop at scheduled American Football game between the Finnish National team and a Division III college team out of Illinois. That proved interesting. I will write a bit about it later.

5 thoughts on “Tallinn Estonia Trip

  1. Sue Rifenbark

    Oh I would love to visit Estonia!! so cool…wasn’t there a movie with Pauly Shore with some guy they dug up from Estonia? I would love to trek around that town. Also you should be a food critic….you do good at the description of your menu and food.. I could taste it!! Good luck this weekend!!

    1. Scott Rifenbark Post author

      Hey Sue – Great little place to visit. I remember that movie 🙂 Food was awesome! Needed more time to check things out there though.

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