Whilst sitting in a Tallinn cafe I was asked ‘what do you know about Estonia?’. I couldn’t come up with many answers.
Well the first thing I noticed when crossing the Latvia/Estonian border was that the road signs looked very different. That’s because the Estonian language is more closely related to Finnish and Scandinavian languages, rather than Baltic or Russian. The second was that it felt a lot colder and wetter than the previous Baltic states.
We took a walk down Estonia street to the museum of Soviet occupation, now we were going to learn something about Estonia. The small museum was filled with interesting artefacts from the last one hundred years. Ranging from WWII Finnish uniforms to Soviet era prison doors, one thing I found particularly interesting was a condom dating back to the 1930’s in a paper packet. I didn’t realise that condoms were around then, it’s good to know that with two world wars to contend with, Estonians still cared about practising safe sex.
Estonia’s first period of independence lasted 22 years beginning in 1918. This was followed by a long stretch of Soviet occupation, German occupation and and more Soviet occupation, before finally reclaiming its independence in 1991. The visit to the museum was followed by a walk around the old town.
The largest tower in Tallinn, Kiek in de Kök meaning ‘peep into the kitchen’ in an old German language, got its name as the occupants of the tower had the ability to see into the kitchens of nearby houses
We had a pub crawl around the old town. I think I have a new favourite drink – white beer. Walked in the English pub and walked straight out, could easily have been a bar in Newcastle’s Bigg market. Finished the night in the Depeche mode bar where we heard all of their hits being played on repeat.
The next day we visited Paterai prison. The KGB prison was converted from a sea fortress in 1920 and only ceased operating in 2002. Inside was very eerie, especially the hanging room where hundreds of inmates met their fate. The Irish guy we we asked for directions said that he climbed into prison at night when he was intoxicated (never in the world, a drunk Irishman!) Must be one of the only people to ever break into a prison.
Had lunch at a place called African kitchen. African cuisine a reggae soundtrack, perfect.
Discovered a memorial for the Estonian ferry disaster in which 852 people lost their lives, one of the biggest maritime disasters of the 20th century I was very surprised that I’d never heard about it before.