August 15, 2014 § 2 Comments
I headed to Tallinn with very few expectations or notions of what I’d get up to. The only thing I had to go on was a friend’s trip to the UNESCO World Heritage City a few years ago and her description of it as “very pretty”. She wasn’t wrong.
Cobbled, often narrow, streets (quaint but totally impractical for wheely suitcases and high heels – an attempt with the later was not even considered by this not-so-intrepid traveller). Fortified walls separating the old town from the new. Pastel-coloured houses and churches galore. In short, an ideal weekend getaway if you are a lover of history and charm.
The old city itself is compact enough that a day and half is more than adequate to soak up the sights, snapping happily away with photos that are bound to make friends and family back home jealous. Further afield are the old prison (now disbanded and a end-of-the-night stop-off for hostel pub crawls) and Pirita Beach complete with white sand and half of Tallinn soaking up the sun.
And so to the essentials…..
To Stay: Tallinn Backpackers
While hostels are not everyone’s cup of tea, when travelling on a budget (and on your own) they are an ideal solution for a cheap place to rest your head and meet up with like-minded people. This time around it was Tallinn Backpackers – staffed mostly by Australians (ubiquitous no matter where you are in the world) and New Zealanders, there is a casual, friendly atmosphere, encapsulated by the “shoes off” policy and open common room. There is an 11PM curfew in respect of the neighbours, handy if you like a good night sleep, but if you want to party, there are pub crawls and it’s sister hostel, The Monks Bunk is not too far away.
I stayed in the top dorm (eight beds, mixed), complete with both a jacuzzi and sauna in the en suite bathroom. Though during my stay it was a tad too hot to contemplate either, it earned major brownie points, none-the-less.
To Eat: Von Krahl Aed
There is no shortage of places to eat in Tallinn, particularly around the Town Hall, but they tend to be very touristy and priced accordingly. My favourite eatery was Von Krahl Aed – a well-priced restaurant just a few minutes walk from the Old Town centre, with great food.
I had the lamb with pearl barley (I’m now a convert), fennel, cauliflower and blackberry sauce. If it were socially acceptable to literally lick your plate clean, I would have lapped up every last drop of the blackberry sauce (in fact, I would have been happy to eat a pot of it, on it’s own). That was followed by a trio of sorbets, which were the perfect refreshing end to the meal – anything heavier would have been over bearing in the heat. I was also pleasantly surprised to find New Zealand wine on the menu (Misty Cove, 2011).
To Do: Sights
Head to each of Toompea Hill’s three viewing platforms, which give you unobstructed, panoramic views of red-tiled rooftops, green parks and further out the enticingly blue harbour (a piece of heaven for this water-deprived, London-based New Zealander).
Walk through the churches or visit the Old Town Centre, but really the best way to see the city is to just meander. Take your time. Try to forget about the map and get yourself lost among the city’s streets – you’ll eventually find your way back to the crowds of tourists.
I’ll be the first to admit that it is easy to wax lyrical about a place when you’re blessed with pale blue, cloudless skies and temperatures nudging their way towards (and over) 30°C. But even if it were covered in snow and chilly, it’s clear that Tallinn is an easy city to enjoy and fall that little bit in love with.