How many of the main attractions of a small capital it is possible to see when visiting a city for three nights? Most often, at least on my own trips, I’d say all of them, and the best ones even three times. But not this time. I did mention on my previous post that this year, the summer holidays would continue in Estonia after a quick visit to our lovely capitals’ most popular attraction, Suomenlinna. I’ve visited Tallinn, the estonian capital a few times as a kid, back when the Mustmäe market place was a popular shopping place for pirate CDs and fake clothes amongs most finns. (These days the city is mainly a popular shopping place for nothing more than cheap alcohol at SuperAlko). Besides that, I’ve also visited Tallinn on a quick work-related day trip some 5 years ago. So I can honestly say that until last week, I did not know the city at all and therefore I was rather excited to finally travel there.
Before arriving to Tallinn, I actually thought I’d have a good chance to explore the city thoroughly. However, from a traveller point of view, it was unfortunate that the weekend was fully booked for “conference” activities through a hobby. The three days spent in Tallinn were mainly spent on the conference activities from noon to morning each day, so I ended up not having the time nor energy for much hardcore sightseeing. Luckily I managed to squeeze in a few hours here and there so that I could wander around the old town a bit. To be fair, I still had a good time in Tallinn even though the Alexander Nevsky cathedral was only quickly seen through a window of a moving car. And the little I got to see of the city, was purely fantastic. So at least I got to see around enough to understand I have a good reason to go back for some more sightseeing.
The reason why I have not visited Tallinn earlier is purely because of my attitude towards the city as a travel destination. I’ve always considered Tallinn to be a dull city that is just too close by to be worth spending your precious little time. Why bother travelling to less exciting places nearby when you can explore the further corners of the world? Oh boy do I feel myself overwhelmingly stupid at this point – I absolutely loved the city the instant I got within the old town walls. Why had I not even given the city a proper chance before saying it is not a good destination for my trips? Several times, I could not help but to think how the city deserves a better than just “ok”-level statement as a travel destination. At least to me, the city served a huge positive surprise!
I absolutely loved the old town and its narrow little streets, beautiful buildings and the lively atmosphere. There were tons of people, but it was only a good thing, not once did I feel annoyed with the crowds, only more at home in the middle of the buzz. The relaxed atmosphere in the old town was so tangible, with nothing but happy people everywhere. The streets were clean and the buildings are well kept. How can you not love this city? Of course the further you go from the old town, the easier it is to sense the remains of former soviet-times, but really, I don’t think there is any city in the world where you don’t have the not-so-lovely areas. Actually, Tallinn was much like any other European capital. Many times I had a feeling much like when travelling in Prague for example, the only differences being the smaller size of the city and of course the fact that the badly behaving ones were Finns, not the British people. One thing I was also positively surprised about was the large number of tourists in the city from other countries than Finland, just like I was surprised about the same thing in Helsinki earlier that week. I was glad to see that many people have actually chosen to come up north instead of just staying in the more famous central European cities or the beach destinations in southern Europe.
Even though my visit did not offer me a chance to get to know the city well enough that I’d be able to offer any hints about sights or restaurants, there is one thing that everyone should keep in mind when in Tallinn: be careful with the taxis! The pricing is not regulated by the city and each company can decide their own fares as they choose, therefore hopping on a wrong one might end up costing you a lot of money. The good thing s that all cars need to have their prices marked in the backdoor window, so you can check them before you jump in. To give a better understanding about the differences: one 4km trip for our group with 3 different taxis ended up costing 4€, 8€ or 20€. On another trip with two taxis it was 4€ and 13€. And all prices were according to the meter without any deceit. So If you see a starting fare of 5+ euros and/or a km-fare of 2+ euros you might want to think twice whether that car is the one to take or not.
All in all, Tallinn proved my prejudices wrong and I quickly understood the beauty of the city. I also realized that it is a city that I want to explore deeper. The original defect of the city being too close to home, quickly turned into an asset of the city being so nearby, that it is easy to go anytime. I even suggested a few days ago that it might be interesting to go back later on the year when the apparently popular christmas market is open.