Saturday morning in Helsinki, waiting for the boat to Tallinn. The weather had been rather stormy the previous days, the super speedy one had been cancelled but the Viking Line was still running. I never really expected it to really be that huge, cruise ship… I can’t recall the last time I stepped on such an impressive ship. Tahiti, probably, going from the main island to the archipelagos. A cheap ticket, meaning everyone slept in one of the binges, right on the floor, side by side with just a pillow and a blanket they had brought along.
Going to Estonia was a simpler affair – 2 hours and a half and I would be in a different country. But sailing there – ah, there is a sense of adventure. Slowly, we pass the harbour and quite a few of the 330 islands and islets. Some have a marina of their own, others just a house or two, one has a submarine and a fortress – makes you feel like a giant… Further than that, the full sea awaits. The wind is so string it almost slaps me in the face, tangles my hair with sea salt. Most of the passengers retreat inside – there are lockers to leave your luggage in for a mere 2 Euros, restaurants, a karaoke bar, a dance floor. More importantly, there is a rather big duty free with fantastic prices… Locals will buy cases and cases of beer: you can even buy a mini-trolley to carry them easily back home. Luxury make-up and perfumes, cigarettes, spirits, sweets, liquorice, chocolate, it’s all here.
And soon enough, Tallin’s in sight. Don’t let the harbour fool you: the old part of the city is just a fifteen minutes’ walk and oh, what a wonder… Beautiful streets climbing up the hill, lined with pastel coloured houses. Pink, yellow, white, blue, green, beautiful engravings on the walls or the doors. Church spires everywhere, monasteries, a castle, all in amazing condition and protected by the UNESCO. It would take a lifetime to see it all, there always will be details you haven’t noticed before.
My mistake, again, was to think a day would be enough. How cruel not to have the time to dig in the history of the place, take a guided tour, wander through a few museums… Understand it, in other words. I got distracted by the many art galleries (incredible ceramic in Fe, black oak necklaces in Hindricus annos 1393, complex weaving and embroideries at Lühikese Jala Gallery). The local cuisine is authentic but creative, using super fresh and local ingredients (if you get a chance, do try Farm‘s grilled deer striploin with its juniper wine sauce and Rataskaevu 16‘s frozen blue cheesecake with passionfruit sauce). If you’re staying overnight (some great Airbnbs around here by the way), head to F-Hoone for breakfast: hidden in an industrial part of Tallinn and surrounded by street art, it serves unforgettable syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes) with vanilla sauce and sour blackberry jam. There also is a little market nearby selling purple cabbage, all kind of berries, huge radishes, mushrooms and, side by side, antiques… In other words: it’s a fairy-tale kind of city… Try and time your boat back to Helsinki to arrive there with the dusk. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
>> More about Tallinn here <<