Tuesday, 15 July 2008


so we get off the hellish bus having seen more trees than either of us had previously imagined. plus loads of storks which was cool. and again with the taxi. but this time a big blacked out merc with a russian driver. we'd been in riga after all. and again dropped off right where we were staying. we walked up the street and i said - look there's the hostel. and t said - isn't that a stripclub above us. and isn't that a sex boutique next door. and yes it was.

and that was our abiding memory of tallinn. very nice yes but loads of stripclubs, russian speaking women hanging out outside them, dodgily dressed chain smoking russian blokes in tow. while riga there was an undercurrent in cleaner, more tourist friendly tallinn you had the sense you could get into bad trouble much more easily.

the old town itself was nice to look at but full of tourists, like a theme village and as soon as we left, which was only briefly, we realised what an island it was. outside the centre the prices halved, the bigger buildings became faceless, more modern, and those avenues with lovely old wooden houses were places the tour groups just didn't go. we'd meet people later who'd been to tallinn years before and wouldn't go back now. riga should look at tallinn carefully if it doesn't want to turn into it.

which is a shame as in riga we'd had a sense of latvia but in tallinn we had no sense of estonia or its people. we went to the kumu to see the estonian art, saw the same images we'd seen in the soviet exhibition in riga, old cold war era cartoons from workers magazines, where the workers are all proud and free and the capitalist bosses are crude jewish caricatures. as for the more modern estonian art many excuses were made for the sense of not knowing what to do in the face of the soviet collapse but by and large we just didn't like what we saw, not because of any dislocation but because it just plain wasn't that good

our best times in tallinn were when we got out of the old town, away from its theme park old worldiness and into the park, onto the tram. or, as on our last night into the dm bar, a place which only plays depeche mode, 24 hours a day. strange yes, but oddly enjoyable, especially after a couple of vodkas the size of a house or, in t's case, the strange and vile smelling local tourist tipple, vana tallinn (even worse than the latvian black balsam which she'd also tried)

t recommends the textile and design museum, we both thought the kalev chocolate was better than the latvian laima (tasted like cooking choclate - sorry, latvia). the best food we ate was in the african restuarant, just across the road from the (astonishly) scottish club. but the best thing, still that crazy depeche mode bar.....


joan of dm said...

i adore the idea of visiting a dm only bar, i'm so jealous i could spit!

swiss said...

i figured you might. all the (estonian) details here
unfortunately it's not unique and there are two of them in tallinn alone and another it seems in moscow. bloody theme pubs!

joan of dm said...

the more dm bars the better. can't have too much of a good thing etc.

Laura from Estonia said...

I was very sorry to find out that someone has had such a bad experience in Tallinn. As a life-long talliner I have grown to love the architecture of the Old Town and the little cosy cafes there, even if the prices are higher. The centre of town is quite an usual city centre, very silimar to Riga. Viru Centre might not look that good, but it is very pleasant to walk around in and good for shopping. On the other side of the park there is the concert and ballet theatre Estonia and Drama theatre, where you could get a cultural exerience. Of course it would be more pleasant to walk around in the wooden house region of Kalamaja or private house region in Nõmme. But did you see the art in beautifil Catherine´s Palace? Or the views from Toompea hill? Or the site of our National Songfestivals? If not, then you missed a lot of beautiful things in Tallinn and I hope You´ll come back one day to see them :) A tourguide can help you with that, if you have trouble finding them yourself

swiss said...

we definitely didn't have a bad experience just that we felt that we didn't really come into contact with any estonians!

you're right of course that the architecture is nice but the old town is so cleaned up, so touristified it's like being in a bubble! it was only when we got out of it that we began to get a sense of what was beyond.

it would be easy to say that a person'd have a similar experience if say, they stayed in the old town of edinburgh - equally they wouldn't see very much of the country. and there seemed an insularity, a tension we hadn't had before - or maybe that's the proximity of finland! lol

seriously tho, no way it'd put us off coming back, rather the opposite, tho maybe next time we'll bypass tallinn and get out into the country. for me the interest is not so much in the buildings etc but looking at another small nation with an interesting history and, whether i want to or not, comparing it to the experience of my own country.

maybe next time i'll take my bike and go slower!