If you were in chorus in middle school, at some point you heard the wail of a thirteen year old as she poured all her unrequited crush anguish into Eponine’s feature from Les Miserables “On My Own.” This song, beautiful in its own right, holds a special appeal for those young girls who know the ideal man is out there and must suffer through the pain of being alone in the meantime. I have certainly had those periods in my life, where it felt like I was the only person on my own in a room full of couples. Even now, a lot of my friends are married or getting married, and I am traipsing around Europe on my own. But I love it.
Confession. Sometimes I kind of feel like a freak for loving it. This summer, I did a lot of mini-trips on my own. I visited relatives, but along the way I saw the sights, and I really enjoyed it. I loved going in to Emily Dickinson’s house and knowing that I could ask any super-dork question that I wanted. I loved just going to Emily Dickinson’s house! Of course, I could do this with someone, but I get a charge from finding my own way.
This morning, I got up after a restless sleep. There were two snorers in the room I was in, and they alternated snoring ALL night long. That’s the downside of traveling the less-swanky way. Since I wasn’t sleeping anyway, I got myself up for a four-mile run. The weather was crisp and cool, and I had the streets to myself except for people stumbling home after a night out and the cleaning crew beginning their days.
I passed by some interesting sights.
Luckily, a few stories down there was this:
I always love seeing which foods are labeled “American.” When I get to Hannover, I’ll take you guys to the American section of the international aisle in Kaufhof. Interesting stuff.
I ran around the old city and ended up near the parliament buildings at 6:45, just as a loud clanging of very royal-sounding bells rang through the street. I couldn’t exactly tell which building it was coming from, but at that instant, I felt so special. There I was, all alone, on a perfectly cool morning getting a private show of beautiful bells. It reminded me of when was in Slovakia. I happened to walk past their parliament building during the changing of the guard. If you’ve ever been to the changing of the guard in London, you know it’s a mob scene, but in Slovakia I was the only person to stop and watch. This morning, I was the only person to be right there, experiencing those bells.
I went back to the hostel for a delicious breakfast. I don’t know if it was typical Estonian. There were definitely some Estonian components, but it was also that typically European continental breakfast since there are so many travelers.
I found the darkest rye bread I could and tried the Kama, which was delicious. It had a sweet taste from the Kefir, and all the different seeds gave it a pleasant heartiness. Of course, since it was still early, I wandered into a coffee shop on my meanderings through town. I can’t resist! (And I needed to wake up after those snorers!)
I walked around and saw the medieval gates.
In front of the gates, there is a flower market, which stays open pretty late and then reopens pretty early. I guess I don’t know enough about Estonian culture; perhaps flowers are an important component of their national identity.
And, just in case anyone was worried, right behind the gate there’s this little friend:
If nothing else, it’s good for the free bathroom! Typically, you have to pay to use the bathroom in Europe. Here in Tallin, each visit is about 50 cents.
But, while you’re carrying around all that change for the bathroom, make sure you watch out!
The morning was mostly meandering, but I did set up a fun activity for myself knowing I would be out and about until late. I also had to stop by the pharmacy because I am the world’s best traveler when it comes to staying healthy. Remember that time I got pinkeye in Cayman?
This time, I got my typical winter sore throat/ears. It happens every year.
At noon, I went to the Tourist’s Office to catch up with the free tour! Local students organize the tours to provide a more laid-back view of Tallin. Our tour guide was charming; he taught us lots of fun facts about Tallin, and I’ll share my faves with you here!
According to the guide, some academics in the USA rate the Baltic states second in corruption after Africa! Yeah!! He pointed out a number of examples of this corruption (likely a remnant of Soviet rule). For example, this church (the name escapes me!) took the Germans about 10 years to build during the 14/1500s. After WWII, it took the Soviets thirty years to rebuild, and then when they were almost finished, an accidental fire destroyed a lot of their progress adding another 10 years to the project.
This is the monument to Estonian independence in Freedom Square. Our guide said Estonians hate this monument for many reasons. First, it cost in the hundreds of millions of Euros. Secondly, the cross reminds them of the Nazi symbol. Finally, 67% of Estonians do not claim a religion and would prefer another symbol to the cross. After the monument was complete, a fungus started growing beneath the glass, and it cost a bunch more Euro to fix. The fungus was red, and Estonians joked that they would never get rid of Russian red!
Kiek to Kok (I know! say that one out loud!) is the name of this watchtower. The phrase loosely translates to the German “look in the kitchen.” In medieval times, one of the watchmen was said to be able to see into his kitchen and find out what his wife was preparing for dinner. He would get home and predict the meal. She thought he was magic until his deathbed confession…
An even more beautiful view 😉
These pictures were taken from upper town. On our way back to lower town, we walked through the narrowest (or one of the narrowest) streets in Europe.
This street used to be called bloody street. In the olden days, when women wore full skirts, two women couldn’t pass each other on the street. Obviously, this predicament led to arguments between the various women who experienced it and then duels between their husbands defending their honor.
We made our way down to one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies, allegedly the site of the invention of marzipan. According to our guide, this delicacy was invented by an apprentice named Marz (Marzipan= Marz’s bread) but that assertion is debated by the German’s and the French. Still, wouldn’t you rather marzipan than some of the other medieval cures?
We concluded our tour in the center of the town square. Because so many people used to be in the square trading and doing business, they couldn’t always attend church; however, from a certain point on the square, you can see all five church steeples (just to know that God is always there.)
They did have to do some fancy architecture to get that 5th steeple in. Can you see it?
After the tour, I had a huuuuge pancake lunch. It was delicious! I chose the savory ham and cheese pancakes, and I even met a friend. Alessandra is a college student from Brazil who is the daughter of a diplomat. She has lived all over the world and is taking some time off from university to travel and learn Italian. We spent the afternoon together—taking time for a hot chocolate!
After Alessandra and I split up, I wanted to find some dinner before my big night. Try as I might, I cannot be fueled by hot drinks alone! I found this awesome little medieval restaurant beneath the town hall.
How could I resist?
The women working there were great; it felt like medieval times! They chastised me for not carrying my own spoon to the restaurant, but they were willing to loan me one.
I enjoyed my soup by candlelight and even had time to write a postcard! Check your mailboxes—maybe you’re the winner! 😉
After dinner, it was time for my BIG ADVENTURE. I had seen a sign for a special event earlier, and I thought it was something I definitely wanted to do. Unfortunately, when I went to get tickets, the woman at the ticket counter couldn’t speak English. (She was also kind of rude. I found this a bit in Estonia, which surprised me, but it could also just be a cultural misunderstanding.) I went to Tourist Info, and the supremely kind woman there wrote me a note to get the ticket. YES!!
Wahoo! I was here for their Cultural Film series and it was Star Wars weekend!
I made my way up to the roof and was greeted by this awesome sight!
They showed the movie in English with both Russian and Estonian subtitles. It was chilly on the roof, so I bundled up with two blankets and treated myself to some hot teas (shocking).
Watching Star Wars on the roof of a five-story mall in Tallin, Estonia was awesome. The chill in the air. The scenery of the city. The drama of the storyline. The humor of those old school special effects. The Empire Strikes Back will never be the same.
Now, I know this post was long, but my day was even longer. It was time for that magical thing that had three letters and starts with a B.
Oh man… see you in Riga, Latvia!
PS: I didn’t catch how to say “Luke, I am your father” in Estonian, but if you’re ever there and need a good line, try this one, “Sul on kena tagumik!” You have a nice butt! (And you do!)