I slept like a baby and woke up refreshed this morning at 10am. I went down to breakfast and thought that there wouldn’t be much I could eat, as I have a high food sensitivity to dairy products, bread yeast and beer yeast and have to stay off these sort of things for a while. I asked the hotel beforehand if they could provide soya milk but they said no. But actually they had quite a lot of other things I could eat, like porridge, meat slices, some fruit and rice crackers. One thing that surprised me, was that there was salad for breakfast. I could never imagine eating salad at breakfast time. Maybe it’s an Estonian thing. Strange!
I wanted to do the free “Chillout Walking Tour” which started at the tourist office every day at 12pm. I had read on Wikipedia about this tour, which is given by students and offers a bit of an alternative side to the normal guided tours. I like those kind of tours, as it gives you a different perspective on things. You tip at the end, if you want to. That’s how the guides make their money.
There were a few Americans waiting at the tourist office at 12pm, one or two Spanish people, a girl from Manchester, who was volunteering in one of the hostels for a few weeks and me. They all knew each other apparently, because they were staying in the same hostel. And our guide was called Denis. He was a student from Tallinn and had lived there all of his life (all 23 years of it, I’d say). So we started at the Gothic St. Nicholas Church, which is now a museum and houses artwork from other medieval Estonian churches. We carried on to Freedom Square, where the glass cross is, which symbolises the city’s independence from Russia in 1918. The cross cost 80 million euros to build, which the people of Tallinn are not happy about, mostly because of the cost but also because it looks to them, a little bit like the Nazi swastika. They were hoping more for a soldier with a weapon to represent their fight for freedom.
After this, we followed the wall of the old town, to the “Kiek in de Kok” museum. This museum traces the birth and development of Tallinn. Kiek in de Kok means Peep in the Kitchen. It refers to the watchmen of the tower who could peep into the kitchen of people’s houses from the tower. One watchman threw himself off the tower apparently, after seeing his wife having a relationship with another man in their kitchen.
The next place we went to, was the Danish King’s Courtyard, where I was last night. Up the hill a bit from there, on Toompea, is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox cathedral, with its onion shaped roof and belltower. Right opposite this, are the parliament buildings. But something even more interesting for me, was a cute but very unusual public toilet, which looks like a Tardis from Doctor Who! It cost 30,000 euros to build, is in the shape of an arch and has a semi-circular tardis looking blue light on the front and a strip of blue light at the bottom. It’s open from 7am to 11pm and if you get stuck in there a minute after 11pm, you’ll have to spend the night, which would be the cheapest night’s accommodation you’ve ever had, albeit not the most pleasant!
The next part of our tour was uphill a little, to the Dome Church, which has the gravestone of a man who is the equivalent of an Estonian Don Juan. This guy’s gravestone is right inside the front door. The meaning behind this (and this is where the alternative side comes in), is that people will walk over his gravestone and cause him pain in his afterlife, in order for him to make up for his sinful life while he was alive. People also say that another reason why the gravestone is right inside the front door, was so that this guy, could look up under the ladies skirts from the grave!
On the walls of the church were ornate plaques made from wood. That for me, was what made it unique. It’s a lovely little Lutheran church, in a small square, near a viewing point looking over the city.
All over the old town are stalls, with people dressed up in medieval attire selling almonds of different flavourings: sweetened almonds, covered in chocolate and brown sugar, pepper, garlic and spice flavoured salted almonds for 40 krowns. I tried both the sweet and the salted ones and they were both delicious. I don’t know how the people at these stalls stayed outside all day, selling almonds, in the freezing cold. I asked one girl and she said “No, it’s not really all that cold. We wear several warm layers and it keeps in the heat”. Fair play to them is what I say.
We went to the viewpoint and there is a good view over the red coloured rooftops and to the left the port comes into view. It was nice but I’m sure it would be nicer on a sunny day. It was very dull and overcast and not so good for taking photographs.
Where the Dome church is, is part of the Upper old town and there is a walkway down to the Lower old town, through an archway, which used to be the only entrance between the upper and the lower town. Here they used to charge people entrance to the upper town and it was also a place where artists and musicians used to perform. Pikk Jalg (Long Leg) starts at this archway and nearby, is another street called Luhike Jalg (Short Leg).
We carried on to the Holy Spirit Church and then to the oldest pharmacy in Estonia and one of the world’s oldest continuously running pharmacies, spanning nearly 5 generations called the Rae Apotheek. Part of this pharmacy is a museum (in the back room) which anyone can visit. In the cabinets there are items which they used in medicine years ago. It was in this pharmacy that marzipan was first made, as a medicine. They have a book about the pharmacy’s history and in this book there’s also a list of items that they used when making medicine: items such as parched bees, sun-bleached dog faeces, earth worms in oil etc. There is even a remedy for syphillis! I really liked this place. This was a cool pharmacy!
Then he brought us to Raekoja plaats and took us to the spot where you can stand and see the spires of 5 churches from here. And that was the tour. We all tipped him. I think he did a pretty good job and was able to answer all sorts of questions that we threw at him, including where he would recommend to go for food.
I went to Cafe Rae on the square to have lunch. The goulash soup and tomato bruschetta was delicious. There’s a really nice, cozy atmosphere in that cafe, I like it. I would go back there again. So after being fed and watered, I headed back to St. Nicholas Church. It’s used now as a concert hall and a museum. It’s a nice church/museum but the only thing that really stood out for me, was the painting of Berndt Jocke’s “Dance of the Macabre”. There are 7 or 8 different panels to this painting and it’s very dark and foreboding but it does give you explanations about each panel in English and Estonian.
I went into the tourist office to see about ghost walks and to ask about any concerts that were on. They gave me a number to call about the ghost walks, which I did and they said, that as usual with it being in the offpeak season, they were only running them if they had a minimum of 5 people in the tour, which I didn’t. But they said that they would call me if they had enough people. There was also a concert on in the Opera House: jazz music with Ted Curson but I decided in the end not to go to that as I wouldn’t have been properly dressed in jeans and t-shirt.
So instead of going there, I went to a bar called Clazz. Just behind the town hall, there was a sign on the wall advertising this bar and it’s jazz music. On my way there, I went to the ATM and took out some money. Two seconds later, this guy came after me with my card! Thankfully! Fair play to him, at least he was honest. You see, I wasn’t used to the ATM system here. You put in your card, take out your money and your receipt, and your card is the last thing that you get back, so I forgot about it. In Holland, you get your card back first, your money and your receipt.
I got to Clazz at about 9.50pm and sat at the end of the bar, where I could see the stage and the whole bar, so I had a great view. The music started at 10pm and God they were great. There was a piano player, 2 saxophone players, a double bass player and a singer. The music they played was jazz with a modern feel to it. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the band. I should have written it down but I didn’t. They also did some great covers like “Sex Bomb” from Tom Jones and “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie. I was buzzing. I loved the music. The singer was especially good. He had a great voice, which carried, right down to the tips of your toes and his energy was contagious. He looked the part too, with a very attractive dark blue waistcoat and suit on him. www.clazz.ee
There was a free seat beside me at the bar and I got talking to a few people while I was there. One was a Belgian guy, who works in Tallinn for a few days from time to time and an Estonian guy, who was the worst for wear and was in Tallinn for a conference with a few colleagues. It was a really enjoyable night, the music was great and the service at the bar was very efficient and friendly.