03.11.10 – We had just five hours to spend in Tallinn, Estonia and we wanted to make the most of it. Neither one of us had travelled together before but I think we did a great job because no one was stressed out and we made “democratic” decisions. It also helped that Tallinn is a relatively small city and it’s easy to make the trip from Helsinki so there wasn’t any pressure to see everything on one trip.
We spent all of our time in The Old City which is just a short walk from the ferry terminal. The Old City is a beautifully preserved medieval town originally built in the 15-17th centuries. Estonia has experienced rapid economic growth since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Old Town reflects how the country is prospering. The few crisscrossing streets which make up the Old Town are filled with trendy shops and restaurants, beautiful cathedrals and the Raekoja Plats, the square in the heart of the Old City.
We spent the morning in the Estonian Maritime Museum which presented the history of Estonian ships and navigation. A number of the exhibits were models of Estonian ships, WWI mine sweepers, fishing trawlers and a 1914 ice breaker, as well as historic old wooden fishing boats dating back to the 15th century. The museum is located in Fat Margaret tower, was built in the 16th century and was part of the medieval city gate system. The roof of the museum is open and provides a panoramic view of the port and Old Town.
Next we wandered down the streets going in and out of some of the little shops. I told Bazhena, who is from Russia, I wanted one of those Russian fur hats which were always popular in American movies about the soviets. Of course the girls found one for me which had bunny ears on top… so I passed on that one ;) One interesting find was a shop that sold marzipan which is very popular in Estonia. This shop actually had a museum below the shop which had everything from busts of people like Madonna, Eddie Murphy and Vladimir Putin as well as a three foot high lighthouse with crashing waves and seagulls flying above, all made with marzipan! I picked up a couple of gifts for Max and Emma.
We made our way into a cathedral. The best part of visiting the cathedral was when Mus’ab, who is Muslim, said “I’ve never been in a cathedral before.” It was a nice “first time” share with someone and it opened up a nice discussion about the differences between Catholic cathedrals and Muslim mosques. Luckily Mus’ab has a great sense of humor so he was laughing when we all started talking about getting a picture of him sitting in the church eating a pork sandwhich and washing it down with a beer, three big no-no’s of the muslim religion, to send to his friends back in Jordan. All kidding aside, I hope he’ll be able to take me to a mosque someday.
We were getting hungry so we started looking for a place to eat. Silvana, who had done the most research before the trip, had heard about a famous place located just off the main square. Luckily we found Olde Hansa and settled in. Here’s how Wikitravel describes it.
Olde Hansa, The ruling king among Tallinn’s restaurants with some of them trying to copy its style. The place is simply medieval, not just in terms of food but also in the sense of performance – no electricity, no music except live and authentic, no modern inventions. The house special is bear meat “marinated in rare spices and cooked over a fire in honour of Waldemar II, the brave King of Denmark” costing €40+. Try one of the extraordinary beers, such as the honey beer. – Wikitravel
It was awesome! We barely had time to talk because we were so hungry and the food was delicious. We all ordered something different and we made sure to share. Not only was the food great but the beer was great to. Our waitress/serving wench was pretty lively and when I ordered a beer she asked “Would you like the man’s size of the woman’s?” Way to up sell! The next question was “Do you want spices in it?” Well, I said yes to both and it was… interesting. It tasted good but I couldn’t finish it! I’m not sure what the alcohol content was but by the time I was half way through my man-sized beer I was ready to lay my head on the table.
Medieval restaurants move at medieval speed which was nice and relaxing but by the time we got out we didn’t have too much time before we had to head back to the ferry. We started making our way and our last stop was at a little cafe called Cafe Josephine where we could get coffee and desserts. I had probably one of the best desserts of my life. It was a slice of cake with raspberries, white chocolate mousse and drizzled with a rich chocolate. Pure heaven!
We made it back to the ferry and the whole time I was thinking, I can’t wait to come back here!
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