Day 3. Thursday 16 May. Helsinki and Tallinn.
Still getting used to the six hour time difference, so the earliest 10.30 ferry to Tallinn seemed like a good idea, since the day was bright, sunny and calm. Sorted out transport for the three days – one ticket to cover all public modes: the system is efficient and regular. Trams have been an eye opener since our trip with Charlie on the new Canberra light rail, but it shouldn’t have been because we’ve regularly used the Melbourne system.
Ferry to Tallinn, in Estonia, took about two hours over a calm Baltic Sea, with very little other shipping in view apart from a couple of other ferries in the distance and one tug. That changed on arrival – three cruise ships tied up. Horror! … memories of disgorging tourist ships (Alaska trip) and crowds crawling all over town.
An easy walk into town to catch up with all our fellow tourists, with cafes and restaurants full of lunchers and drinkers, people hovering to snaffle any table that became vacant.
So we wandered up and down a few back streets and found a perfect spot. Salmon and duck, shared, accompanied by two local craft beers. D just wanted to find a quiet warm spot to curl up and have an afternoon granddad nap, but this was not on the agenda.
A comprehensive tourist map gave us about fifteen ‘must see’ sites, which T had narrowed down to about five. So off we went, over cobblestone and paving streets, marveling at the structures and colours, with glimpses into the inner courtyards behind the street frontage.
T commented that at any moment, she expected Villanelle (‘Killing Eve’) to pop up…there were so many look-alikes. And lo….!
Needless to say, Old Tallinn is 800 years of history. A comprehensive display at the Tallinn City Museum presented a 100 year synopsis, by decade, as an excellent introduction to everyday life in more recent times with alternating German/Russian influence/control. T was taken by the reference to the Russian small –concrete -apartment-building period, creating ‘Kruschevskies’. Other galleries covered aspects of Medieval history to give a comprehensive overview. We were reminded of those history lessons in middle high school.
The Town Hall Pharmacy, from 15thcentury, and still serving today, has a fascinating display of previous compounding ingredients. We were a bit doubtful about some of the remedies on offer!
Tallinn was a walled city and three towers were open today – the lady in charge told us that on one day only in September all of the towers were available to the public, with music at each of them, but we can’t imagine how this works, as it’s a steep single file staircase climb, with rope handrail, requiring good balance, no vertigo issues (and some insurance).
We passed a small but vocal protest against Russia, just down from the Consulate. Two policemen arrived but they were more interested in interrogating the bicycle taxi driver than the protest.
Our final stop was St. Olav’s Church, with a spire that dominates the landscape.
By now it was time to head back to the ferry for our 19.30 return trip, but not before a quiet beer (D) and herbal tea (T) on the way. The architecture near the port and below the old town is marvelous. At the terminal, T chatted to a Finnish guy who ‘has a friend in Australia…in a big city down the bottom’…eventually worked out he meant Perth. He loved watching ‘The Flying Doctors’, and appreciated the importance of this service. When T commented on the Russian era, he offered comment on how important it is today to maintain a watchful eye all along the Finland-Russia border (‘noone likes the Russians’)
The sun was just setting as we arrived back at the dock. It’s an amazing feeling…daylight still at 10pm and plenty of folk out walking in town. There’s an air of ‘no menace’. And T remarks on the genteel public behavior…no aggro, no rubbish and very limited access to alcohol apart from at bars and restaurants. A 24-hour supermarket provides soup and bread for a midnight snack and then the trusty tram to ‘home’. Tomorrow is ‘Helsinki in a day.’