Until it started raining, we walked along the familiar streets, and each turn made me happier and happier. It’s not like I thought that pandemic is forever, but for a while, I was thinking – will we ever have this freedom again?! And Tallinn… I really love Tallinn – for many reasons, not only because it is Boris’ city.
Remember what I said earlier about going abroad in the time of the Soviet Union? To put it bluntly, we were not allowed to travel abroad, period. But the Baltic countries (no matter they were called “Soviet republics,” we knew better!) were our tiny windows to the Western World. We knew that “we” – Soviet Russia, were hated, and somehow that fact also reassured us that we were in real Zagranitza. An overnight trip to Tallinn by train on student discount cost 6 rubles – something we could afford, and going to Tallinn for a day was one easy way to stay in a fairy tale for a day. A night in the train car, a day there, and another night back.
When we entertained the German student delegation, one of the tours we offered them was a day trip to Tallinn. We even managed to book a tour in German! We endlessly walked around the city, and I can only imagine how our German visitors felt. During the day, we grabbed food here and there, but when it was time to have dinner, our German guests wanted to go to Vana Toomas.
Now, Vana Toomas was (and still is) the restaurant on the Townhall Square, and it was the only “real thing” back then. And it was guarded against “invaders.” I almost forgot about this story, but yesterday, Boris reminded me about it when we passed Vana Toomas (not about the story – he was not a part of it, but how I told him this story).
We told the Germans that we could try, but they had to speak, and we would be silent. They agreed, and about fifteen minutes before the restaurant was to be open for dinner, we lined by its doors. In five minutes, several tall, muscle, and silent Estonians approached and asked one of the Germans in Russain what the hell they thought they were doing here. Following our instructions, the student replied Ich verstehe nicht. This answer created an instant miracle: we were cordially invited in, and the staff even moved the tables to accommodate our big company. We (three Russian female students) kept our mouths shut and whispered to the Germans when we needed something.
We loved Tallinn, loved its unique Medieval spirit, the walls and the gates, and the towers. We loved their independence. We loved that they hated us.
These times are gone. I had this feeling even in 2016, but even more now. We walked the streets of the city with Boris, and he told me that he felt this difference during multiple trips to the Baltic countries in the past several years. He told me: these countries parted their ways with Russia irreversibly and forever. And they do not hate anymore. They just not care. Pretty much like Finns.
Here is to our love and adoration for this unique place …