If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about food. Food is one of my very favorite things. You may have also picked up on my love for Estonia. So I wanted to write a quick blurb about a great meal that I had at a great restaurant in Tallinn. That it was my going away meal, is poignant. Continue reading “Best Meal, Estonia”
There are many reasons to love winter in Estonia. For me, the best part is that the old town in Tallinn turns into a winter wonderland. It’s so beautiful to see the old city covered in snow. Another highlight is the Christmas Market in town hall square. It doesn’t quite feel like the holiday season until the tree goes up in the middle of the city… and the holiday spirit lingers until after the market is taken down the after the first week of January.
This year, we got a little shorted on the snow. Not only did we not have a white Christmas, we only had one sort of snowy day the whole month of December. But, it doesn’t even matter once the Christmas market is up and running!
In addition to selling tons of Estonian handicrafts, gifts, and souveniers, the Christmas Market is widely known for its Glogi. The Estonian mulled wine is extremely popular in the winter, and delicious.
Most of the stalls selling wine also have a variety of add ins that you can choose from to make life a bit more interesting. Fruit? Nuts? My personal favorite is raisins. Because there is something poetic about taking a grape, dehydrating it, and then rehydrating it in the fermented juice of more grapes.
Basically, the Christmas market is fun for adults. A chance to grasp at a little of the left over childhood whimsy… but for kids, I think it would be just as fun.
Santa’s got his own house.
As do the reindeer. Oh, yeah. There’s reindeer.
There’s even a little four person carousel!
Lots of lights, all around.
But then, as much fun as it is, the Christmas Market has to go away at the end of the season. Town Hall Square never looks quite so big to me as it does the first day I see it after the market stalls are all taken away.
(Finally snowed…) And now the square will look so big until the summer, when all the restaurants put out their terraces, making it smaller, but much more lively and fun.
Before embarking on this trip, I was unaware that the Euro Cup was happening this summer. Happily, I ended up being able to watch several of the games outside in large crowds, on giant screens set up in parks. It was really a great experience. We don’t do much public viewing of sporting events in the US, so it was a new experience for me.
My first game was Germany vs. Portugal. I watched at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They had quite the fan zone set up. You became an instant super fan. You walked through this corridor, and got a flower necklace in the colors of the German flag, they drew the German flag on your face, and gave you a fan to wave and use as a noise maker. You walk in an ordinary person, and walk out a super fan!
Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only super thing about the experience in Berlin. I had really high expectations, especially considering the number of people that were there, but for the most part they just stood there. I was expecting a lot of chanting and cheering, but mostly it was just a lot of standing quietly and watching. Focusing. I was put into a bad mood by the crowd before the match even started because the entire crowd booed during Portugal’s national anthem. I think that’s really disrespectful, and goes against the entire spirit of the competition.
It did change a bit once Germany took the lead, there was a little more cheering, but still it was a rather subdued crowd. After they won, though, lots of drinking and partying ensued, including these guys walking down the middle of one of the main roads in Berlin.
The next game I watched was in Copenhagen. I went to watch Denmark play Portugal. I was couch surfing at the time, and my host was Portuguese, so I stood with the only group of Portugal supporters, but I stood on the edge and rooted for Denmark (and for Portugal when my host was looking.)
Walking into the area where the screen was set up, our group of Portuguese was stopped several times by Danish people saying they hoped it was a good game, and good luck, and other nice things. It was heartwarming. Once we got inside however, we got beer thrown at us, so it was short lived. But it was only one beer, and they missed, so all in all not so bad. The Danes though, they know how to party.
There was a lot of general chanting and cheering, but the place basically turned into a mosh pit when Denmark scored.
And every time Denmark scored, the flares were lit. Ultimately, the amount of smoke that they caused made it impossible to see, and therefore the flares were not popular with the people in the back. But it was fun.
Unfortunately for Denmark, they lost. But it made our little Portuguese group very happy!
From there I was on my way to Sweden. I tried to get to Stockholm to watch the Swedish match against England, but I ended up watching it in Malmö. The crowd was sitting. Sitting!
They did however all bring picnic blankets and full on picnic spreads. Wine with actual wine glasses, and spreads of well prepared food. My friends and I were sitting on the ground drinking the cheapest beer we could buy at the grocery store. It was warm. Tourists.
The game was probably the most exciting of all the games I watched. England won 3-2, but the score was going back and forth all game. By the end of it, everyone was standing and screaming, but to no avail.
I was already in Tallinn when the Euro Cup final happened. I thought I was going to be watching the game in a bar somewhere. But, lucky for me I was in Tallinn, actually, because all the other cities that I watched the games at only showed their country’s games on the large outdoor screens. Because Tallinn has a large permanent screen in Freedom Square, they had been showing all the games. I watch the Euro Cup final there with a huge crowd. I was really surprised at how many people were there, especially considering Estonia wasn’t playing.
There were two drummers leading the cheering. One for Italy, and one for Spain. However, the chants were drum drum drum I-tal-li-a… and drum drum drum Es-pan-i-a, so everyone cheered at the same time. Different words. At the end of the game, both drummers hugged, and I felt like that really embodied the spirit of the Euro cup.
Lots of fun. No regulation on bringing drinks, so everyone was partying, and shockingly, because the game was so lopsided, everyone stayed until the very end. With most people staying to watch the trophy presentation and everything.
I would also like to point out that this picture was taken at exactly 10pm Estonian time. Please note the sunshine. Tallinn is far north, land of the midnight sun and all. Great fun! The sun sets at about 11 or 11:30, and rises again around 3am… but the sky never gets quite dark. Always a gray or rose color. It makes it extremely difficult to tell time at night, but it’s really fun.