Sad to leave SE Asia after 10-plus months of amazing travelling here, 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 is almost full of Vietnamese passengers, not very many Russians, and only a few other tourists – great people watching.
The actual flight is surprisingly good with very good food. The only negative I have is with the cabin crew, they all look 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 isn’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 the 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 lies the Town Hall Square and the best-preserved Gothic Town hall in Northern Europe.
As headquarters for the ruling Burgermeisters, the impressive Town Hall was built between 1402-1404 . Although it’s winter, the Old Town is a little busy but it doesn’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 (€2 entry) hosts fascinating photos of an early Tallinn.
Many antique cameras are exhibited including a 1930’s Minox camera designed in Estonia.
It’s just amazing strolling up and down this prison’s 14th-century stone spiral stairwell.
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 – 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 fought from 1918-1920 – very impressive and great photo opportunities.
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.
A restaurant, Yacht Club – closed for winter – and accommodation graces 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 white blanket of fresh 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 costs down by preparing meals yourself.
The quality of apartments is also more upmarket and comfortable than staying in Hostels. I’m too old for dorms these days.
Our host Kaiku collects us from Tallinn’s airport and takes us to the apartment (poor guy waited half an hour as our plane was late).
The comfortable cosy apartment is only a 30-minute walk to the Old Town and includes linen – nothing is lacking. Chocolates and sweets also await and such a lovely touch.
Extended our stay here as we love it so much. As this apartment is booked, we move to another of Kaiku’s apartments.
The second apartment is around a 20-minute walk from the Old Town and larger than the first apartment, but still included all the trimmings.
Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but a great way to keep costs down when travelling longterm is don’t 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 out your daily budget quickly.
I can get used to the Land of Estonia so far with its great coffee shops serving up hearty warm meals and wonderful pastries at cheaper prices than SE Asia – also loads of Italian restaurants here…
Spent almost 2 hours at the massive supermarket around the corner yesterday. Long isles full of lovely cheeses await, as does all types of fish that are occur only in my dreams, cured hams and Salamis, mountains of chocolates, and so much more – just heaven! And, all at prices one third or cheaper than Australian supermarkets…how can this be?
On Pikk tn 16, the Maiasmokk Kohvik is definitely a favourite daily haunt and is the oldest operational cafe in Tallinn (and Estonia) – 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 but remote island, located in the Baltic Sea: Saaremaa Island.