After a short 2 hour ferry ride from Helsinki, I made my way towards the medieval old town of Tallinn, Estonia. The Baltic region of Eastern Europe has a rich culture and history that seems to often get missed on tourists’ plans. I definitely didn’t know much about this area before my visit, but I am so glad that I got to start my Baltic tour in Tallinn.
The city is both a signal towards new advancement and a memorial to the past. Within its borders, you can wander through cobblestone streets with medieval towers standing above you, and stand right at the site of former Soviet buildings, where only the facade has changed. The Soviet presence is definitely noticeable, as some structures were just boarded up and closed when the regime lost control. A prison is situated right along the seafront, with broken windows and the paint slowly chipping off. An amphitheater with hundreds of steps has overgrown weeds and fencing up to avoid graffiti additions. Other buildings were turned into modern-day spaces, such as the old KGB headquarters being luxury apartments today. The history is so raw and evident in these areas, something that means so much more than what I read in class.
Tallinn has many stunning parks and spaces to bask in the ambience of beautiful weather. With a few cruise and ferry ships arriving into the city throughout the day, there is always a busy sense of movement and a murmur of conversation. There are several viewing points in the old town where you can see over the city from different angles, and they seemed to be the favorite spots for photos. I personally loved being by the sea and catching some time in the sunshine as well. The city definitely seems to come alive when the weather is nice; outside patios at restaurants and pubs are filled, people are enjoying picnics on the waterfront, and walking paths are crowded with bikes and conversation.
I met two kind people from Italy in my hostel within the first few hours of me checking in. Livia and Nicola had been traveling throughout Europe for the past few weeks, and were quick to invite me to walk around the city with them. It was awesome to have some consistent dialogue and get to know them more. They ended up introducing me to some great food, giving me suggestions of where to stop in Latvia, and becoming familiar faces as we connected throughout the night. I was able to show them my Ice Ice Baby knowledge at a karaoke bar, and we wandered through the old town until the late hours of the night.
After Tallinn, I took a bus down to Riga, Latvia, where I will be for the next few days! As always, thanks for keeping up with my travels and for all the well wishes!