Tallinn in Estonia, has been perhaps one of the underrated travel location, it is slowly changing in the recent years. I have heard of the visits to Tallinn as part of cruise trips, you get a day to explore the city. Although, I have been wanting do a cruise trip , not necessarily to Tallinn, I have yet not been able to convince my husband on the merits and joys of a trip on cruise ship. Well then it has to be a solo trip !!!!
Its become a tradition for us to travel in February, somewhere outside United Kingdom. We wanted to continue the tradition. We looked at various options towards the last year end and we decided on Tallinn, Estonia. This trip also happened to be our first travels of 2018. It turned out to an incredible trip, we had an amazing time in the beautiful Tallinn. Tallinn , with its Old town and medieval buildings and architecture, looks like a page out of a Fairy Tale book.
We flew out from Heathrow Airport, London to Tallinn. The flight time from London to Tallinn is a few hours. I enjoy the early morning flights out, which means we can go to the airport in the morning, check in and drop our luggage and have a leisurely breakfast, watching morning sky aglow with orange rising sun. It gives us a chance to slow down and unwind , from daily life and get slowly in to the wanderer mode, bask in the reflective glory . I call ourselves wanderers , my husband likes to call us explorers.
The flight landed in Tallinn by late afternoon. There was ground snow across and the lake nearby was frozen. We grabbed a light lunch in the restaurant at Tallinn Airport. We bought the Tallinn card, which gives you access to most of the museums, tram rides, and hop on hop off bus tour. We prefer buying the cards, because it gives us easy and quick access to public transport and museum. We arrived at our hotel ,in Raavala, Radisson Blu Sky. It is located at a walking distance to the Historic Old town. The view from our room on to the city and bay was very pretty. We admired the view, left our luggage in the room and walked towards the Old Town. While walking towards the Old town I noticed a huge shop called Suvashop, which sells socks. It made me wonder if I ever had seen or been to a shop which sold only socks.
With that quintessential musing, I walked in to the UNESCO heritage, Old Town Tallinn. The Old town , with its medieval architecture, cobbled roads ,covered in dusting of wintery snow, looked splendid and out of this world. It was like walking in to a set of fairy tale movie. The Old town has many coffee shops, and are called Kohviks, some are traditional and some contemporary. I was recommended by a fellow blogger to visit Maissmokk.( http://www.kohvikmaiasmokk.ee/en/). It is a traditional Coffee house, selling coffee and cakes, and also known for its Marzipans. I was very impressed with marzipans with its very intricate and artistic sugar craft. You can also watch the marzipans being decorated. Tallinn is also very famous for a drink called Vana Tallinn. I had a Vana Tallinn coffee with Irish coffee roll and my husband had a cappuccino with Biscuit cake. In the blistery winter weather , the warm decor of Kohvik, the hot coffee and the cake felt so divine. We loved maiasmokk so much, that we visited the kohvik three days out of our four days stay.
We walked around the Old town for a bit more, and as the natural light faded away, the old town was iridescent in the warm glow of street lights. The Old town is not very big , in fact the whole of Tallinn is not very big and it is wonderful strolling around on the Old Town, at a leisurely pace, taking in the sight, wrapped up in warm coats, scarves and hats, the amber rays of street lights drawing geometric patterns on the cobbled roads and buildings. It is an experience, a veritable moment, you start to wonder whether is it the brilliant sight or the coffee you had earlier , making your heart go warm.
Upon returning to our hotel, we went to the 24th floor, where they have a restaurant/lounge with wonderful views of the whole city . We ordered a tea, sat on a table by the glass window, watched the skyline of city shine and shimmer in the lights while sipping the hot green tea. This became our routine for the next three days.
The next day, after a hearty breakfast at the Hotel,(The spread of breakfast is absolutely wonderful and delicious) we walked towards the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, in the Old Town. The walk is beautiful, though slightly uphill, but not stressful at all. It was a bright and crisp winter morning, the ground snow glistening in the wintery sun. We reached the Church. It is a Russian Orthodox Church and is a functioning church. There is no photography allowed inside the church. The interiors of the church is as beautiful and ornate as the outside. I loved the ceiling of the church, which is painted blue with little golden stars. There was a service going on in the church, with smell of frankincense, cloud of smoke rising from candles, making it look hazy inside. We stayed for a while inside. We walked out of the church with cold breeze hitting our faces. We walked on from there to Toompea Hill, Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform. The viewing platform gives a sweeping panoramic views of the city and also has the wall art “ Times we had” almost synonym with Tallinn now and an absolute favourite spot for instagrammers. The phrase is open for interpretation by viewer / observer. It is indeed a wonderful spot for the views and photos.
After lunch, we visited the KGB cell museum. It is situated in the basement of the grey House. It was used as prisons during 1940-1950. The museum shows the methods used to crush the Estonian Resistance movement and prison conditions. It is very humbling experience and makes you think about the meaning of Freedom.
Another wonderful part of Tallinn which I loved and admired is Telliskivi Creative City. The Old industrial complex and parts have been converted in to a creative centre, consisting of shops, creative studios, bakeries, independent shops and restaurants. It also houses the offices of many NGO s and a flea market is held every Saturday The whole area is strewn with beautiful wall art. The unused walls of the old factory and industries have turned in to canvass for art work. I absolutely loved the idea of using the empty Old industry buildings and turning them in to something so beautiful and constructive, without having to demolish any of the old structures.
Telliskivi Creative city is near the Balti Jaam Turg Balti Jaam Turg is a huge market very similar to farmers market but on a much larger scale. You can get everything under the sun, from fresh vegetables, groceries, chocolates, fabrics ,haberdashery to handicrafts. There various shops selling produces from with in Estonia and also handicrafts from Poland, Finland, Russian,Finland. There are cafes and restaurants too inside. It reminded me of Crawford Market in Mumbai and the Spitalfields Market in London. The market is massive and is also one of the perfect spots to pick up souvenirs. I bought a woollen scarf and got chatting with the friendly lady who sold us the scarf. She was the one who told us about the origin of the products. She also mentioned she has a neighbour from India, from whom she sources some of Indian scarves, which were for sale in her stall. There are also other places for souvenirs like Guild market and Katherine s Passage markets. The Baltic ambers, Russian Dolls though not specific to Estonia are very popular souvenirs. There are products made in Estonia too, wooden products, the local wooden coasters, beads and woollen products which are equally popular. The quirky me I picked up socks from the socks shop which I had seen earlier called the Suvashop ( https://www.suvashop.com). It was by chance we passed the Balti Jaam, and I am glad we did.
The next day we visited the Kadriorg Palace. It’s a baroque palace, made by Peter I of Russia for his wife Catherine in 18th century. It was meant to be summer palace and after Peter I s death, Catherine did not show much interest in the palace. It was rebuilt and restored in 19 th century by Russian Royals and was run down later during Soviet occupation. It was restored in its present state by Estonian government with the help of Sweden after independence. It currently displays various collection of art work. The Kadriorg Park around is also considered worth a visit and is know for its greenery. When we visited the park , it was fully covered in pristine snow, and was absolutely tranquil and trees dappled in winter sun. We walked from Kadriorg Park towards the bay. We saw the Baltic Sea, icy and frozen and the shores covered in snow.
Tallinn has plenty of options and choices for vegans and vegetarians. We ate at Chakra( http://chakra.ee/eng/index.html) an Indian restaurant, definitely worth a visit if you like your curries, staff are courteous and polite, the ambiance is warm and welcoming, and food is delicious. The mint paratha and Dal makhani was authentic and delicious. Another place I immensely enjoyed is Clayshill, a Gastropub (http://www.clayhills.ee/). As the name suggests the menu is contemporary and has soups, sandwiches to pasta and Risotto. We tried the Beetroot Soup and warm roasted vegetable salad. It was absolutely delicious and a food for soul on an afternoon when it was snowing. We had a perfect spot near the window, to tuck in our warm food and watch the snow fall on the cobbled roads of old town. We also tried an Italian restaurant in Katherine s Passage called Contravento (http://www.controvento.ee/en/). The decor is rustic and usage of the heritage features of property to its best, adds a charm. We had Bruschetta, pesto linguine and Penne Arrabbiata. The food was delicious and staff very polite and attentive.
Tallinn was getting ready for its celebrations 100 years of independence. Lights were being strung up on streets , the landmark spots were getting decorated. The sign of ‘100’ were being displayed everywhere. There will be special events throughout the year. The independence of Estonia is also celebrates the Singing Revolution, which brought them Independence by singing.
The Guildhall museum which is an interactive and interesting exhibits explaining the origin of Estonia since ice age to it present day, the inhabitants, religion and the livelihoods of the region. At present Estonia is Silicon Valley of Europe and is know for IT services and is the birth place of Skype.
I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Tallinn and exploring the city and wandering around the streets and discovering the street arts, the handicrafts and markets. Tallinn is less crowded, quiet reasonable, hence is a value for money. The city has a charm and romantic allure to it, with its medieval buildings and I can say for sure it has completely won me over.