Thursday, July 24, 2014

Working Our Way North to Tallinn, Estonia

July 5, 2014 - The weather has been continuing to improve the last few days - it gives me hope for our future in Amsterdam that it won't all be clouds and rain. Though the temps have yet to hit 70 in July. However to be fair, we are a bit further north now; Tallinn, Estonia to be exact. We are pretty far north - the sun didn't even set until almost 11 last night!!!

So today was our day to spend exploring in Tallinn. Knowing it was a small city (only about 400,000 people) and that our focus would be on the old town, we knew that the one day would be enough. It would have been great to have a few more hours to spend exploring but overall a day was good. 

I wasn't 100% sure on the history of Estonia and if it had ever been a part of the USSR.  From what I can tell, it was part of the SSR (Soviet Social Republic) but many in the international community did not recognize the Baltic States to be a part of this.  Regardless, they were run independently from the USSR and never fully integrated into that government.  These days, they are known to be a huge technology hub (Have you heard of Skype???  Yup, started there.) and are known as the Silicon Valley of the Baltic Sea, but they are also economically dependent upon tourism, especially in their old town which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

The cruise ship docked an easy 15 min walk into the old town. It was easy to find. As with most old city centers, this one was for sure geared towards the tourist. American style pubs and the like, souvenir shops at every turn, etc. But mixed in with the tourism was some gorgeous architecture, cobblestone streets and adorable local artisan shops.

The fog over the water as we docked in Tallinn - eerie, yet beautiful.  You can only see the tower in the distance.

Also called Fat Margaret, this is actually the Maritime Museum

The boys refused a picture together, hence the two almost identical pictures.

Walking into the Old Town

"Moose ears!"

Josh just really liked the sign because it showed a naked woman on a dog.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Tallinn as we were walking was that any building that you walked by that had a history behind it (which was many) had an acrylic plaque on it with details of it's history. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of the plaques but they were very interesting to read as you were walking and made for a more informative walk around the city.

Walking thru the Old Town - streets of cobblestone lined with beautiful, colorful buildings.

I've always had a thing for beautiful doors.

On the left is actually Town Hall, though it looks like a church (at least according to TripAdvisor, it's Town Hall).

View down one of the streets

We eventually worked our way over to the Old Town center.  As expected it was filled with tourist shops and restaurants.  However, that did not diminish from it's beauty.  

Town Hall Square

More of Town Hall Square

It reminds me a little bit of Brugge, Belgium with the colorful buildings along the edge of the square.

A better view of Town Hall

I would love to know what is up with those dragon type things sticking out of the top of Town Hall.

Admittedly we did the little touristy train around the city.  It was a quick ride and gave us an idea of what to look for when we walked around.  And without that we wouldn't have seen the point where you have the most beautiful views of the city which we went back to at the end of our day.

Aidan on the train

Liam on the train

Part of the wall that protected the city


We had lunch at a typically touristy place in the center that was so so. Literally as we left lunch, we turned the corner and saw what would have been a much better choice. With all our travel, we should know better than to eat in the center. Regardless we were off and running for some more exploring. 

They were highly amused by the bird rock barriers (we saw a few varieties of this on the cruise as you'll see).

As we were searching for the Toompea Castle, we came upon a school for archery.  Both kids have done archery before and love doing it and so they insisted that we try it.  There was only about a 15 minute wait and we had plenty of time so we let them do it.  It was harder than Aidan remembered and it probably didn't help that she didn't have a left handed bow for his size so he had to do it as a righty. But they both had a great time shooting at the targets!

As we wandered we came across an archery "school". Both kids, of course, were eager to try. Both had done it before, Aidan as recently as his colonias in May. They had a blast and when it was their turn there was no one else in line and so they were able to really take their time and enjoy shooting!

Liam ready to go!

You can tell it was a little harder for Aidan to pull back as he's a lefty and this was a righty bow.

After the archery we decided to try to find the highest point in the city with the best view of the Old Town.  We'd seen it when we were on the train but finding it on foot was another matter.  We finally made it only to find out there was a second, better view, just down the road.  So we have pictures of both - not a bad thing.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

View from atop Toompea Hill

However, this was the better view we found out...

More of the old city wall

We had only a few items on our list to see and to be honest, as we were seeing them, I didn't know specifically what those places were til I googled them after (using my list as a key and matching up the pics I took). A little backwards, I know. But it made for an easy, relaxing day of touring Tallinn.  No game plan, just wandering. 

We eventually made our way back to the ship, an hour before we had to be on board. The kids are loving the adventure club and begged us to go before they closed at 5 (they reopen after dinner). And so Josh and I got an unexpected hour off.  What did we do?  Connect to wifi to try to update our iPads with books (kindles) and games (for my long flight home to the US next week). Sad lives, I know!

Regardless, the next few days are intense. No more sea days for a while and early, early days. Tomorrow, St. Petersburg, Russia!!!  It's the only tour we are doing on the trip and lasts both days of our stop here. Not only does it feel safer to tour there in a group, but it's also the only way we can get a visa to enter the country. Excited nonetheless!!!


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