Our best day yet! We didn’t know what to expect in Tallinn, Estonia. I’m sorry to say that Estonia doesn’t come up in my everyday conversations – but it earned a warm spot in all of our hearts today. What a fun place! If medieval cities get your blood pumping, this is the town for you.
We all liked Stockholm, but it didn’t hit a spot in our Top 10 Places to Relocate for Six Months list. But Tallinn is right up there.
The weather finally cooled a bit and there was a brisk breeze in the harbor. Ellie, still a bit under the weather, slept in and George and I dined on the buffet balcony. I love sitting there in the morning. Tallinn is a apparently a popular cruise ship port, the ships just kept arriving. It is fascinating watching the pilots parallel park a 900 foot ship between two giant behemoths. A Disney ship pulled in and blew its huge horn – and the opening bar to the Disney theme played. Everyone on our ship started laughing and smiling. Even on a competitor’s vessel, we all love Disneyland and everything it represents.
I’m getting tired of my breakfast, so today I switched it up a bit:
We woke Ellie and headed out. Definitely bypassed the Hop On It and Hope You Get Back Bus, and paid 8 Euros per person for the local shuttle. There were quite a few people walking, but George doesn’t last long and Ellie isn’t feeling great, so we took the shuttle. For three blocks. Damn ride was three blocks. Granted one of them was a long block, but it was 24 Euros! We are transportation challenged….
Tallinn is not a little village. It has around 450,000 people, but of course we were in the touristy Old Town area. One of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe is in here. Founded in the early 13th century, it doesn’t take any imagination to visualize life during the 1200’s.
Well, one place that take a bit of imagination is at the Old Town McDonald’s. Yep, that darned clown Ronald McD must have taken a cruise vacation and decided to open up a McD’s in the old city.
This isn’t any ordinary McDonalds, either. This is the highest tech McD’s that I have ever seen. And one of the busiest. Normally, I won’t let George go to one, no matter how hard he begs. But how can I deny our granddaughter? I made her promise she would just get a snack so we can eat authentic Estonian food for lunch.
Don’t speak Estonian? Not a problem, because you order electronically on a screen. In the language of your choice. Just tap the screen to identify your native language. Design a meal, order it up and pay without ever having to say a word. And tell it if you want take away or to stay.
Next, walk over to the pick up station and wait for your number to appear on a screen. Grab your food and munch away.
Menus differ in each country, and in Tallinn Ellie chose a cheese nugget something. It was deep fried plastic cheese with minced jalapenos embedded in the cheese. I tasted one and it was, sadly, very tasty. Nothing like deep fried cheese….
A large portion of the original town wall, complete with towers, still stands. Ellie and I climbed the death defying stairs and pretended we were Estonians under attack. Arrows shot through the narrow slits in the towers and boiling oil was poured on the invaders through the larger windows. We walked the top of the walls and stepped back in time. Well, I did – I love imagining how it must have been. Ellie tried to look interested and thought I’d gone off the edge. My kids did the same growing up, so it didn’t bother me. I’m happy!
Ellie and I had great fun checking out all the linen and knits for sale by local vendors. The prices were so much better than Stockholm, that we were a bit giddy. After a couple of hours of exploring, we decided to find lunch. Again, the Italians have invaded and there were a crazy number of Italian restaurants. And a surprising number of Chinese and Japanese explorers crossed the continent to open restaurants, as well. We thought about trying Estonian sushi, but George voted no. He wanted Italian, of course. We were on some side streets and couldn’t find Estonian food. Drove me nuts. Finally, we came to an outdoor Indian restaurant, and we all agreed we would try it. I was grumpy, because I wanted Estonian food. A lovely member gave me the name of a restaurant, and I had googled the address. We weren’t anywhere near it, and my companions wanted to stop.
So Indian food it was. Or not. There didn’t appear to be a restaurant, just a raised platform in the street with seating for about 10 tables. No staff, just people sitting at the tables. They had kindly provided blankets on the chairs to cover up with, which we appreciated (it was windy and a bit chilly). We sat there for 15 minutes and never saw a waiter. There was a nice couple next to us; the lady had a salad, which she wasn’t eating. The man had nothing. They didn’t speak and just stared at the street. Lover’s quarrel? Food poisoning? Nope, it turned out the waiter never brought the man his food and his wife was patiently waiting for his to arrive. About ten minutes later, a harrassed waiter brought his dish. I asked if we could order. He glowered at me and said “You see all these people?” motioning to the filled tables. “We have lost ALL their orders. Go away!” Then he turned and trotted down the street. It turned out the restaurant was about a block away, and this poor guy had to job back and forth between.
So we left.
We did finally find the town square, which was filled with authentic tourist Estonian food. Yay! Ellie ordered a cheese platter appetizer, and I ordered one with fish. George ordered a small bowl of soup. I wondered why such a small meal and he admitted he had already eaten Italian food while Ellie and I were climbing the town walls.
Tallinn is home to Europe’s oldest continuing pharmacy. Founded in 1422, it is still in business. Ellie has developed an earache, so I wanted to get her some ear drops. We searched high and low to find this place and then found out it was about 45 feet from where we had ate lunch. The pharmacist was very helpful and I paid twelve Euros for one ounce of mineral oil. Oh well, how many kids can say they got ear drops at the oldest working pharmacy in Europe?
No ride to a 13th century village is complete without an 18th century horse carriage ride, so we hopped aboard and took a trot around the town. For 30 Euros we had a 15 minute ride driven by two teenage girls with headphones in their ears. Very authentic!
We were trotting along the city walls when we came upon a group of Japanese tourists, who wanted to take a picture of the horse. The horse obligingly stopped and there were cameras and phones clicking all over the place. George had his back to the drivers, couldn’t see the tourists and thought he had said something that made the drivers stop. He leaned forward towards Ellie and myself. Simultaneously, as he half-raised up, the horse passed a giant burst of gas – which was loud and smelly. George, still not knowing what was going on, said “Did I do something?” The Japanese tourists all started laughing and waving their hands in front of their faces. Ellie and I looked at each other and laughed so hard we snorted. Which made us laugh harder.
We got a horrible case of the giggles and George just sat there totally perplexed. He again asked if he had done something funny, which set us off all over again. Poor George lost his sense of smell with chemotherapy, so he didn’t get the same big whiff that the rest of us did. That horse must have had some beans in his hay….
It was a totally charming day. The people were extremely nice, the prices reasonable, and the temperature wasn’t conducive to a You Bake Tourist pizza, as it has been in every other town. Although there has to be more pizza places in Scandinavia than there are in Italy.
Tired, but joyful, we caught our shuttle for the three block ride back to the ship. We paid for it, so we had better use it!
The next two days are in St Petersburg, Russia. We are required to be in a state authorized tour group, or have individual visas. I have booked us two ten hour tours; which is going to be crazy. I’m hoping Ellie feels better and George can make it.
If I’m too tired after the first ten hour leg in St. Petersburg, I may put both days together. If you don’t see a post tomorrow, that will be the reason!