A Little Bit Of Tallinn

We had about three and a half hours in Tallinn. In contrast to our visit in October, the weather was sunny, and I was so glad to have one more opportunity to see the Old Town. On our way there, we passed this building:

It was erected in 1952 and probably symbolized the submission of Estonia to Russian occupation. However, it looks so grotesque with these tiny balconies, which do not go together with the imperial spear with the star on top, that it looks more like a caricature of the Soviet architecture.

It used to be a sububurb..
I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how they attached the trees to the streetlight poles ๐Ÿ™‚
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Tartu – Part 3

We wondered whether there was anybody else except for us in the hotel, and hence we were curious to see whether somebody would show up for breakfast. The breakfast was served in the hotel restaurant in the basement. We saw one more person at breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚


The buffet selection was great, but just when we filled our plates and sat down, a waitress appeared and asked whether we wanted to order something :).

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Tartu – Part 2

We were looking for a nice place for dinner. There were a couple of internet suggestions very close to the hotel, and we decided to walk past them and check what they looked like. One of our potential top choices ended up being closed, so we went to another one. That one was the restaurant Holm located in the Lydia Hotel, and it turned out to be fantastic! In short, it was like in Peninsular when Vlad worked there, but for half-price. I should have figured out that this was a high-end place because I saw the menu online, but I forgot that we are in Estonia for a moment.

There was an option of a taster menu – a five-course dinner for the price of 53 euros, we asked whether the portions would be half-size, and when the answer was yes, we went ahead with this option. Unfortunately, I can reproduce all that was said by the waiter when he introduced each of the courses; I can only copy a very short description from the restaurant website.

Since I told them that it will be a non-alcoholic dinner, they started by offering us a special local quince soda, as they stated locally grown and produced.

A sample of pumpkin soup “on the house”
House bread with somehow specially made butter
The first appetizer was made of sunchokes (I believe it was a sunchoke puree), black truffles, and some nuts. I am not sure about which nuts and what else was there since the menu does not succumb to google translate ๐Ÿ™‚
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Tartu – Part 1

On the brighter side – the trip to Tartu was fantastic, even with the weather as it was.
We took a ferry to Tallinn and then walked to the bus station, where we took a bus to Tartu. The Lux busses are very comfortable and convenient for travel. The seats are pretty much like the airplane seats. You can lower the back or even increase the gap between two seats, and there is a folding table and an entertainment screen. Also, there is WiFi available and an electric outlet at each seat.

Although it turned out that Boris had to take his computer with him (he was waiting for one important email confirmation), we resolved to reduce the computer usage to a very minimum and kept it that way.

Tartu is an ancient city, to the point that I believe there is no official founding time of the city; people have lived there since the 5th century B.C. However, the “second Estonian city” is pretty small, and it didn’t take us long to walk from the bus station to our hotel, which was located right across from the main building of the University of Tartu.

The hotel Antonius is located in the 17th-century building last rebuilt in 1811, and the interiors are kept pretty close to that period.

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In Tartu First Time After 39 Years

I disappeared from everywhere except for Instagram because first I was en route to Helsinki, and then we left for a two-day trip to Estonia, and I didn’t take my laptop with me (since I only have my work laptop in Finland). Now I have no idea when I will have enough time to blog about this trip.

The trip was amazing, and every tiny detail of it was just incredible. But in addition, it was a very meaningful trip in a way I didn’t think it would become. Only when we were on the way to Estonia, I realized that the last time I was in Tartu was approximately the same time of the year, 39 years ago, during my winter break at the University. I realized that it was sort of closing the circle because Tartu nearly became my hometown. I was going to transfer to the University of Tartu; I already talked to the Dean, and he had nothing against my transfer, except that I had to catch up with classes in Estonian, but my friend Anna Mints was saying it was not so difficult. There were reasons I wanted it, and there were reasons I didn’t. Recalling it now, I think I was just not adventurous enough, but it was just a couple of months before I met Boris for the first time. And if I would transfer, I would never meet him. I would probably “become Estonian” because I had a reason to become. And I can’t even imagine how different my life would beโ€ฆ
I didn’t find a thing of what I remembered from Tartu of 39 years ago. I was trying to find the old building of the Department of Mathematics. I remember how it looked, and I thought I remembered where approximately it was situated, but I didn’t find it.

There is a new building called Delta, in a different place. And Tartu does not look a bit of how I remembered it. Which is actually good ๐Ÿ™‚

Estonian Maritime Museum

I just realized that I forgot to blog about one more museum in Tallinn – the Estonian Maritime Museum. The museum is relatively new, and its centerpiece is an old cog – a Medieval merchant ship. 

It was built at the end of the 13th century, and it sailed for quite a long time until it sank in the mid-14th century. The ship was discovered and lifted from the sea in 2015. Now, the cog, along with hundreds of artifacts discovered on the wreck, occupy the museum’s first floor.

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Tallinn: Getting Inside

The rain started shortly after 11 AM, as forecasted. At first, we could ignore the random drops, but later, the rain became more substantial, and we switched to numerous museums and cafes.

The first cafe we landed in was Maiasmokk, the oldest in Tallinn (in business from 1864). That was the first public space we entered in Tallinn, and there we learned that by city ordinance, proof of COVD vaccination is required to enter any place. Masks are still required.  

Tallinn depends heavily on tourism, and I was very happy to observe that this requirement didn’t impact tourism negatively and that the business owners were happy to comply with the city ordinance.ย 

This round pastry with cinnamon was heavenly good!!!
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Tallinn: Walking The Streets Of The Old City

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 …

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Visiting Tallinn: The Ferry And More

On Tuesday, I took a day off, and Boris and I went to Tallinn for a day. Tallinn is a two-hour ferry ride away, and it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world if you ask me. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there were restrictions on travel within the EU to the non-EU nationals, but now I wanted to enjoy a newly acquired freedom: if you are vaccinated, you can go anywhere!

Another decisive factor was the option to get a rapid COVID test on the ferry- I still need it to enter the US, and that was, it was cheaper (39 euros) and fasted (no extra time). 

The ferry used to be pretty crowded, even off-season, but it’s not the case anymore. We decided to take a 7-30 AM ferry to Tallinn (9-30 AM arrival) and return on a 4-30 PM ferry. 

Of course, it was the only rainy day of all the days I stayed here! We knew about that forecast for a while, but I still needed my COVID test, so we decided not to change our plans. And the trip was amazing, even though it indeed started to drizzle shortly after 11 AM, and the rain became serious later in the day. But you know what – because of that we visited a fantastic maritime museum and spent some time in two of dozen tiny Tallinn cafes! 

For those of my friends who do not know yet: Boris lived in Tallinn until he was 15 (and then he moved to Leningrad to attend a specialized mathematical boarding school associated with the University). And the reason his family stayed in Tallinn was that his father was a Navy officer. This time, even more than before, we talked about how he and the adults around him felt back then in Estonia. 

That being said, he understands the Estonian language (although he does not actively speak it) and has a lot of cultural insights. Each time we go, I tell him that “that’s his city,” and although he says “not anymore,” I still insist on him deciding where we go and what we do. 

I do not know yet how many blog posts I will make out of this one day, but I am going to start ๐Ÿ™‚

We left the house at 6 AM, because we wanted to walk to the terminal (the public transport does not run so often in the morning, and there is no direct route to the port).
We bought the tickets with breakfast, because it was too early to have breakfast at home anyway, and because there is no other place to sit on the ferry except for the cafes. The breakfast selection was outstanding, and I liked that all the food was of a really small size to I could try many different things
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