Our first week in Tallinn has passed, and we’ve done our obligatory free Old Town tour (like we did in Riga) to get to know the city a little bit. Mission accomplished.
We arrived on Monday pretty worn out but full of great information from Chris our van tour guide. What a great guy and a wealth of information! Truth be told the tour was derailed more than once because he and I are a lot a like – we like tangents.
That trip from Riga to Tallinn I highly recommend because 1. You see a lot of Latvia that many people miss when they fly in and out of Riga and 2. You get to cross the border between Latvia and Estonia, which now is fairly non descript but used to be a passport/customs type affair.
We stopped at the Skeleton/Luge track (they fight over which style the track should emphasise, Skeleton or Luge, and for now they haven’t decided so it isn’t perfectly suited to either one. That’s Latvia for you, but don’t get me wrong, now we’re in Tallinn, I miss Latvia!
Next stop was an amazing national park and it had wild blueberries as far as the eye could see. I love that feeling knowing there’s food everywhere I look. Simple pleasures. Chris our guide is very conscious of the history of the Balkans and he made me appreciate how little freedom they have had, in fact, he can remember when independence occurred and how everyone linked hands between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and how special that was. As momentous as the Berlin Wall coming down, maybe even more so. Chris is Estonian, but proud of the entire region being free – no rivalry with Latvia could compete with that.
Imagine a forest without mountains and that’s most of the drive between Latvia and Estonia. In New Zealand you usually get mountains with your forests, so I found it alien but also wonderful whenever we got to some high ground we could see trees to the horizon and beyond. Logging is a huge industry in Latvia and Estonia but they don’t seem to be clear cutting, and this is amazing too.
In Estonia we stopped at a cave/castle wall, the Balkan region has kept reminders of their Midieval roots, points of pride in their history. Quite a lot of care has gone into restoring crumbling castle walls, and these sites are spared even graffiti – there’s honour among them and respect for these places, I reckon. Another castle we saw included a triangular swing that Chris tells us can be swung 360 degrees around – I’d like to see that! It’s big and imposing and takes a lot of effort to get going, but it really moves.
We found a dunny in this same small Estonian town, and it cost .20 Euro so we held the door open and all got in for the same .20. Don’t tell anyone. It is in a bunker and once you put in your .20 coin (if you can read them, Euro coins I’m still getting used to) you get access to half a dozen stalls for men and another half a dozen for women. Toilets are an elaborate mystery in the Balkans so far, so we go every chance we get. Good advice really.
Driving through farmland as we approached Tallinn I couldn’t help but think of New Zealand, and how even this far around the world things aren’t all that different. I think this won’t hold true if we manage to make it to Cairo or Istanbul. The road into Tallinn was pretty non descript, nothing old, no old stuff, as we say, but welcome – I think we were all pretty spent after 12 hours in a van.
Chris dropped everyone else off first and us last, and that was cool because we were so happy with Chris it was nice to have some extra time to get some advice on seeing his favourite city. He even told us which SIM cards to get for our phones and I didn’t listen to the advice at first but then mended my ways. Thanks Chris!
The one strange thing here is I was a genius and got us accommodation without internet so spent all day Tuesday organising a USB Internet dongle and the first one simply did not work. I recommend either having a PC computer, all the software is made for them more than Macs, or go to ELISA, not Tele2. Though props for the guy at Tele2 who helped me for at least 30 minutes trying to make the dongle work. By the way, we are walking distance from a mall that has everything we need, so there’s no need for us to search too far to shop or buy stuff. Mission accomplished there.
An Australian couple in Riga stayed across from us for two days and advised us to get scooters for the kids. Genius! We’ve been all around Old Town all day and the kids are not worn out like they were in Oslo and Riga, so props to them.
The rest of this week has been us teaching the kids and working, work has been levelling off and is a little bit less manic so that’s good, but the kids are just as manic so no change that. 🙂
This daily post is done, we’re off to the Zoo this weekend and will ride the buses and trains all day, to our heart’s content.
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