Old Town Tallinn, Estonia

So, as many of you can tell, I’ve been in Tallinn for quite a while now.  And  I feel the need, finally, to try to explain why I’m here.  Unfortunately, I’m not really sure what it is about the city that makes me feel like it would be impossible to leave…  but there is just something about this city.  A certain je ne sais quoi if you will.

Down the street in Old Town.

Down the street in Old Town.

On most backpacker’s itinerary, Tallinn usually fills one, two or maybe 3 days.  Most often it is a stop over point for people going between Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, or from Europe into Russia.  (For those that are still unsure, Estonia is just across the Baltic Sea from Finland, next to Russia, and north of Latvia.)  On paper it doesn’t seem like much.  Less than 500,000 people.  Not a big city geographically.  Some interesting sounding museums, but really how many museums can you go to?  And for the least religious country in Europe, a surprising number of churches.  But nothing that is a must see, major draw.  And we’re fine with that.

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Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Tallinn

When you actually get to Tallinn, you realize that, though it is small, there are plenty of things going on.  Tallinn is full of bars, pubs, clubs, and galleries.  Every night in Tallinn there is at least something going on, an every day as well.  The town has heaps of interesting shops and markets, as well as cool cafes and restaurants.

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Window display of Labor bar, in Old Town… shockingly, they’re known for their extremely cheap test tube shots..

But really, my favorite things about Tallinn have nothing to do with any of that.

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Side street in Tallinn

Windows

Windows

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I love how, though it is well preserved, Old Town in Tallinn actually feels old.  It isn’t completely restored to look old, it just kind of… looks old.  Paint is cracking, brick is exposed.  The cobblestones are uneven.  But it is still beautiful.  There are so many small touches that just stand out.

Abandoned building

Abandoned building

I love the spiral curves of the handrails in Tallinn.

I love the spiral curves of the handrails in Tallinn.

I also really love how well you can get to know the people in Tallinn.  Estonians aren’t known for their…. warmth.  I was told when I got here that Estonians were shy people that didn’t talk to anyone.  And while I can say that a lot of the time that is true… it’s not universal.  And people in Estonia are really nice most of the time.  Part of what I love about living in a city this small is that when I go out, it is not unusual to bump into someone that I know.  I would say half the time I go outside I run into someone that I know somewhere.  It’s just fun.  It makes it feel like home.  Like I have more of a community here than maybe I really do.

Some really cool street art scattered about as well.

Some really cool street art scattered about as well.

Tallinn also has some really beautiful and peaceful parks.

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As well as 24 hour flower stalls, where you can buy beautiful flowers any time you may need them.

Or, you can just take pictures of the pretty flowers.. because you're on a budget...

Or, you can just take pictures of the pretty flowers.. because you’re on a budget…

One thing about Tallinn that I especially enjoy, is walking around at night.  Bars are open late, so there are usually always at least a few people around, and Tallinn is also pretty safe when it comes to being able to walk around alone at night.  I love the way the city looks at night, lit up.  It’s no New York or Paris, but it’s beautiful in it’s own way.

Town Hall from across Town Hall Square

Town Hall from across Town Hall Square

Kiek in de Kök tower

Kiek in de Kök tower

As a group we joke about the Tallinn trap.  ‘Come for three days, stay for three months’ seems to be the unofficial slogan of the city.  (Estonia’s official slogan, by the way?  They paid a ridiculous sum of money to a marketing firm…  the result ‘Welcome to Estonia’… You don’t always get what you’ve paid for)  But realistically, so many people get caught in the trap here.  Our hostel staff is almost exclusively guests that have just decided they could leave.  Sometimes, you won’t think someone’s stuck in the trap.  They’ll leave… maybe go to England for  a year or so… but they come back.  How could you not?

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The view from the lookout. Tallinn’s Old Town, and the Baltic Sea.

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