Saturday, August 19, 2017

[TALLINN] Sail In, Sail Out

Tallinn is easily accessible from Helsinki via a two-hour ferry ride. What surprised me was the ferry itself. I’ve only been on small ferries plying the Hong Kong – Macau route as well as some inter island ones in Australia and New Zealand. Those were pretty much straightforward. You have seats and an outer deck and that’s it. This one is huge and resembled a sailing department store. You have restaurants, shops selling signature brands, and then some slot machines. Am I really on a boat?

Tallinn is a popular daytrip option for tourists and locals in Helsinki and I don’t see why not. Regardless which way your ferry sails, you see a lot of people with cases of beer and booze in tow strapped to their strollers. I suppose that those are duty free up to a certain extent. Otherwise, why hoard them, right? That’s just one of the peculiarities you get to observe during the trip. The abundance of Mainland Chinese groups is also a hint on how popular the city is in the Baltic tourist circuit.

I didn’t take public transportation in Tallinn, but seeing the price boards I can say that it’s significantly cheaper than public transpo in the Finnish capital. After docking at the port, you can have a peek of the city center from the giant glass window before passing through Customs. Alleys and roofs, this is what Tallinn is all about, I concluded. The walk from the port to the old town will not take a lot of time. As long as the sun is shining, the leisurely stroll along the marina is guaranteed to be a pleasant one.

The first tourist attraction that greeted me was this tower that looked like a church, judging from the white cross at the front lawn. This one is right beside the gate of the old town. Cobble stones and arches. Welcome to medieval Europe! The template is rather similar for most of these old towns. Snubbing the small museum by the archway, I headed to yet another church whose tower is accessible with a fee that goes up depending how high you want to climb. I begged off and just took some photos.

The narrow alleys might become too crowded with the coming and going of tour groups, but wander about and you are meant to find your own alley that gives off the same medieval feel as the rest. The main square isn't that big but always teeming with activity. It serves as an obligatory stop for camwhores from various parts of the globe. What you should watch out for are the performers who come in the late afternoon. Toss a coin to show your appreciation.

You can easily spend a day inside the old town’s walls, discovering another interesting corner with every turn. There are several places that might be of interest for you. There's a hilly area to the west that enjoys abundant green cover. There you find a museum, but what most people enjoy is the view. I'm not sure how the area is called but it has these monk statues, around three of them. Exit one of the gates and you end up at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

The cathedral reminds me so much of the one in Sofia which, if I remember correctly, bears the same name. That one is way bigger, though. People tend to linger in front of the church or on the benches across the street. The hills also play host to a medieval church called St. Mary’s at Toomkirk. There was a wedding being held when I was there so the alleys were a bit crowded. My favorite part is still the Kohtuotsa viewing platform where you can enjoy the skyline of Tallinn, both the medieval and the modern.

It started to rain hard while I was there. We sought refuge in the one souvenir shop down the stairs. What I love about the view here is the juxtaposition of the red roofs from long ago with the modern façade of buildings in the horizon. I guess we can say that in this regard, of preserving the old and having it coexist in harmony with the new, the Estonian capital has been successful. Of the three Baltic capitals I’ve visited, this one seems to be my favorite so far.

[TALLINN] Sail In, Sail Out

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