Sad to leave SE Asia after 10-plus months of amazing travelling and it feels a little weird but it’s time to go. And so, what better place to start the next exciting travel chapter than in Estonia’s medieval Tallinn…
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Waiting in the Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi for a flight to Moscow, with a transit in Moscow for a little over an hour, before the connecting flight to Tallinn (Estonia).
The 12-hour Aeroflot flight from Vietnam to Moscow was almost full of Vietnamese passengers, not very many Russians, and only a few other tourists – great people watching.
The actual flight was surprisingly good with very good food served. The only negative I have is with the cabin crew, they all looked as if they’re either attending a funeral or going to rip your head off. Not much smiling going on. The 2-hour connecting flight to Tallinn wasn’t too bad either.
Left Vietnam in a torrential humid rain only to arrive in Tallinn under a blanket of snow!
As it’s winter and snowing (have I mentioned snow?), many sights are closed and not open again until April.
There are however, still a plethora of ancient architecture and museums to occupy anyone’s thirst to explore this beautiful city.
Tallinn Old Town
Lose yourself in the wonderful Old Town founded in the 11th century with 13th Century buildings and steeped in Medieval history, glorious architecture, pastry shops, restaurants, and life! Spend days just wandering around in the cobbled streets stumbling upon ancient buildings. The atmosphere is gorgeous; love this place. Snowed last night and again today when walking around the Old Town…stunning!
The Viru Gates are the 14th-century round towers, which are the fore-gates left of a much more complex gates’ system.
This marks the start of the Old Town where you enter into another era steeped with delightful buildings and cobblestone roads, and ancient alleyways.
Town Hall Square and the Town Hall
At the heart of the Old Town is the Town Hall Square and the best-preserved Gothic Town hall in Northern Europe.
As headquarters for the ruling Burgermeisters, the Town Hall was built between 1402-1404 and is very impressive. Although it’s winter, the Old Town was a little busy but it didn’t take long to clear for a few photos – patience.
Town Hall Pharmacy
On the corner of the Town Hall Square sits this little pharmacy shop that dates back to 1422 and is the oldest continuing running pharmacy in Europe.
Apart from being housed in the Town Council’s former prison, which is a gorgeous building in itself, this photography museum has fascinating photos of an early Tallinn.
Many antique cameras are exhibited, including a 1930’s Minox camera designed in Estonia.
It’s just amazing walking up and down this prison’s 14th century stone spiral stairwell. Entry is €2.
At a guess, about 80% of the original Town Wall stills stands, in one form or another and you can walk around most of it; just pick up a map at the Tourist Information in the centre of the Old Town.
As a place of national symbolism, Freedom Square hosts a large cross that dominates the square’s west side and is the monument to the war of Independence, which was fought from 1918-1920 – very impressive and great photo opportunities also.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Built in the 1900s, this Cathedral seems a little out of place with its very Russian architecture in this medieval town.
From the Old Town, it’s about a 10-minute walk up to Toompea Hill where the Cathedral sits overlooking the city.
Port Harbour Area
Another free walk is to Tallinn’s harbour area, which also has an old marina.
Boats are dry-docked for the winter and the sea is frozen.
You’ll find a restaurant, Yacht Club (closed for the winter), and accommodation in the Port Harbour Area.
If you’re not staying in the Old Town, you most certainly will walk through a park to get to the Old Town as it’s almost surrounded by one park on another; gorgeous in the winter as everything is covered in a blanket of snow.
It appears that as in other parts of Europe, historical churches charge admission fees if visiting during out-of-mass hours, so be prepared to pay – I find this uncharitable!
Apartments work out more economical as you can keep the cost down by buying food at a market or supermarket and cooking meals yourself.
The quality is also more upmarket and comfortable than staying in Hostels – I’m too old for dorms these days.
Our host, Kaiku collected us from Tallinn’s airport and took us to the apartment (poor guy waited half an hour, as our plane was late).
The apartment is only a 30-minute walk to the Old Town. It is nice and cosy, includes linen and everything you need; nothing is lacking. Chocolates and sweets were also waiting and such a lovely gesture.
Extended our stay here as we loved it so much, but as this apartment was booked, we had to move to another of Kaiku’s apartments.
The second apartment is about a 20-minute walk from the Old Town and larger than the first one but still included all the trimmings.
Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but a way to keep costs down is not to eat out too much apart from the obligatory coffees and pastries every day. It’s easy to spend a lot of money eating out, which blows your daily budget out quickly.
I can get used to the Land of Estonia so far as it’s very civilised, with loads of great coffee shops serving up hearty warm meals and wonderful pastries for cheaper prices than SE Asia. Also loads of Italian restaurants here.
Spent almost 2 hours at the supermarket around the corner yesterday. It’s massive with long isles full of lovely cheeses, all types of fish that one can only dream of, cured hams and Salamis, mountains of chocolates, and so much more – heaven! And, all at prices one third or cheaper than Australian supermarkets…how can this be?
Maiasmokk Kohvik (Pikk tn 16) – Definitely a favourite daily haunt in the oldest operational cafe in Tallinn (and Estonia) and operating at the same location since 1864.
Immerse yourself in the wonderful unique interior and great ambience, unchanged for almost a century, whilst enjoying excellent coffee, fresh pastries, pies, cakes, or homemade candies – best in Tallinn and right in the Old Town.
Tallinn to Saaremaa Island
Sadly, it’s time to leave stunning Tallinn and westward bound for Estonia’s largest island, located in the Baltic Sea: Saaremaa Island.