Monday, December 10, 2012

A Tallinn Adventure

It's only an hour across the Baltic on the fast boat from Helsinki to Tallin, Estonia. 
Here's the fast boat--yes the tiny little red one.

It looks a bit more substantial if you lose the monster ship.
That makes it a perfect day trip and we booked on the 8:00 AM out and 5:00 PM return. The day was a bit overcast, but nothing to think about at the time we were settling into our comfy seats in the upstairs lounge.

A smartly uniformed hostess scurried around taking breakfast and drink orders as we chugged out of the harbor.  Two German women across the way ordered tall glasses of beer.

 Nothing like an early morning tipple I always say. We had had a full breakfast at the hotel so weren't in need of further sustenance alchoholic or not.

I noticed that one brave young hiker even went out on the tiny after deck, which you can only inhabit at your own risk while the boat is moving as this sign declares.

Shortly after hitting open water the warp drive on our red rocket hydroplane  kicked in and we began to really move.
After ten minutes or so we did notice that the sky was getting darker and rain was pelting the windows. Then we began to experience an occasional rhymic pounding as we slammed  slam into the tops of some of the larger waves rather than gliding over the swells.  The brave hiker on the outdoor deck came back inside looking a tad bedraggled and very wet.  As the bouncing got more pronounced more folks were holding on to their table edges.  Water began to cascade onto the windows as we smashed into more and more of the large waves.

Our happy hostesses began to circulate again but this time it was to distribute little airline style barf bags.  Some folks were definitely beginning to turn a bit green and one not so hearty soul spend the next several minutes with the bag clamped firmly to her lips.

The German frauleins, however, continued to sip their wake-up brews unperturbedly amidst the rocking and rolling.

In another thirty minutes or so the wind and rain began to abate and shortly land was sighted.  Our boat slowed down and I popped out on the little open deck to shoot a few pictures of the Tallinn Harbor.


By the time we left the ship it was just a cool cloudy day in Estonia.  Since we didn't have a lot of time we took a cab from the dock to one of the old town entrances.  

From there we discovered we could walk to most of the main sights.

The central town square was our first target.  It is fringed with outdoor cafes

 and anchored by the slender spire of the best preserved Gothic Town Hall in all of Northern Europe--at least that's what the guide book says.  It makes quite the picture as you approach it from one of the narrow side streets.

At the very top of the Town Hall spire is a weather vane called Vana Toomas.

A long time ago Vana Toomas was a low born lad who won an archery contest that was reserved for nobility.  The victory got him an appointment as an apprentice guard rather than a prison sentence.  He went on to greater glory by performing  a number of heroic actions in the Livonian Wars. Sometime later the townspeople noticed a similarity between the weather vane and  their favorite military hero.  Thus the vane became the man and Vana Toomas became the city's mascot. 

We took our lunch outdoors under the sign of the boar in one of the arcades of the Town Hall
Our boar's meat pastie and some kind medieval grog was purveyed by costumed server.

Then we chowed down at an old plank table.

The Town Hall is still used by the city government today

But it also houses a remarkable museum and many ancient artifacts. There are models of the old town fortifications.
And lots of manikins decked out in period costumes.

It is your job to guess which one is a dummy and which one was strolling the streets as a tourist shill and photo op.

Antiquity is everywhere in the Town Hall and even the basement men's room has an archaeological display.

After lunch we saw the Estonian Freedom Monument celebrating the 1991 revolution that freed the country from Russian rule.

There are museums everywhere and old churches tucked away down any number of narrow cobbled streets. Even though the weather remained cloudy, we were able to take some nice photos.

One of the oldest is the 14rh century Holy Spirit Church

The 13th century Niguliste Church is now a museum of sacred art and a concert hall.

The Russian Orthodox Alexander Nexsky Cathedral was built in 1900.


No visit to Tallinn is complete without climbing Toompea Hill

The view from the top is fine even on a rainy day.

While up there we discovered the charming Theatre Cafe that had a tiny little postage stamp stage

and some awfully tasty snacks.

My favorite museum was the Nuku or  Puppet Museum. It houses a mammoth collection of every kind of puppet and marionette under the sun plus a theatre and workshops to build puppets. We tend to forget that in most of Europe puppetry is a significant art form.  


Unfortunately it did begin to rain again in the late afternoon and the mist closed in. 

About 4:00 PM we caught a cab back down to the dock where we suddenly noticed that there were a whole lot of people standing around.  Some inquiry soon led to the crushing news that the 5:00 PM boat had been canceled and it would be necessary to re-book tomorrow.  We got into one of the lines and began to wonder how we would manage to get a hotel and how we might survive without even a tooth brush.  Lo and behold, when we got to the ticketing window, we discovered that our trusty daughter-in-law (who had bought our tickets) had been notified of the cancellation back in Helsinki. She had re-booked us on one of the larger car ferries that also ply regularly between the two countries on a regular basis. All we had to do was to find our way to a different dock in a couple of hours and get on board.  The trip back took a bit longer than an hour, but we didn't need a barf bag.  






No comments: