Estonia scores high on our list of favourite places

11 June 2018

Ian and I chatted yesterday about the need for us both to get up and go out for a run as often as we can, so this morning, Ian headed out first, returning suitably sweaty and hot.  I went next, and had a lovely run down to the seafront and along a great cycle path towards Tallinn city centre.

But we both struggled with our runs.  I think we are both dehydrated and I hadn’t slept brilliantly, as Cornelia came into our bed for a cuddle (which usually involves lying on top of me) at about 4am.  I then managed to move into her bed, only to be found again by her at about 6am, when she crawled back in with me!  I don’t mind in the slightest – I love the cuddles of a snoozy toddler – but it does mean that I endured yet another night of broken sleep!  As it happens, Ian and I both managed our runs and had breakfast, and showered, all before she finally woke up at about 11:00.  I kid you not.  But last night, the little monster didn’t sleep until 23:30 – although she must’ve been knackered, she was just wide awake, chatting to her Gang, and every now and then just calling out to me to tell me that she loves me.  Again, I can’t be cross at that – it’s just so gorgeous!

Once she’d finally risen and had her breakfast, we went straight out on the bikes, heading for Old Town, and again, we weren’t disappointed.  Tallinn was virtually untouched by WWII, and even during its Soviet occupation, most of the town was physically unaffected.  This meant that all of the buildings are originals from the 1600s (and earlier), and you could definitely imagine medieval life here, despite the various “novelty” tourist attractions.

The Old Town is full of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as “men’s clubs” and, judging from the advert on our food menu at lunchtime, massage parlours providing “extra services”.  We didn’t sense the seedy side at all, but I guess it must exist in the evenings and weekends!

The feel of Tallinn itself is one of some sophistication and wealth.  There are loads of smart Audis, BMWs and Mercedes, yet the driving is considerate and the most sensible of all the other European countries we’ve visited so far.  For example, there was a long queue of traffic where some roadworks were taking place, but the road itself was eerily quiet – no beeping horns or screeching tyres as people jockeyed for position.  And when I was out running (and later cycling), every single time we needed to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing, not only did the cars stop, but they actually anticipated that we were going to be crossing the road, and waited for us to get there, waving us across with a smile!

Ian has done all the research on Estonia, and it currently has the fastest growing GDP in Europe, and there has been heavy investment in education (apparently number three in the world for attainment, after Japan and Singapore).  This is already starting to show, so far as I could tell from our short visit.  The people who we have dealt with (bar our slightly grumpy apartment host) have been warm and friendly, speaking excellent English.  There’s also a lot of gentrification and development; including around one industrial area through which we cycled.  Former Soviet-era buildings have been re-purposed as bars, coffee shops and trendy markets, with an appealing hipster vibe, including bicycles, beards and (probably) ironic tattoos.

Anyway, we locked up our bikes and wandered around the Old Town, before Cornelia requested a beefburger for lunch (?!).  We found a nice spot in the main square, and ordered from our friendly waitress, who was happy to oblige Cornelia, who was being very specific with her food order.  “JUST a burger and a bun.  No sauce.  No tomatoes or salad.  No pickles.  Please.”

While we waited for our food to arrive, Cornelia wanted to look at our local map, so we had some fun getting her to find different things on it, such as “How many hospitals are there?” and “Where can I go to church near where we are staying?”  She just loves learning like this, and we really enjoy teaching her. She is so keen to learn more and more (most of the time) and wants us to keep feeding her in that respect.  She is learning all the capitals of the countries we’ve visited (19 so far!) as well as “Hello”, “Please” and “Thank you” in most of the languages (although, to be fair, we’ve forgotten a few of them along the way).

After lunch, we wandered around a bit more.  I’m not sure if I’m a little weary of seeing another old building?!  Luckily, Cornelia had spotted a “petit train” and, as she’d walked and exploring so brilliantly all afternoon, I took her on it, while Ian went in search of postcards and stamps.  The train was a bit crap – there was no commentary, so it was just a silent sight-seeing tour for 20 minutes, but Bugsy enjoyed spotting the large woollen dolls adoring various shop entrances, and waving the flag she’d been given by our driver at various passers-by (who all waved back).

I was quite keen to get home after that, so we could have an early supper and try and get her into bed at a reasonable hour.  Bugsy and I had a long trip to find a loo for her (which actually was a great diversion, as we found the fabulous Freedom Square, complete with the Monument to the War of Independence on the way), before speeding back on the bikes.

Ian has hung a blanket over the window, in an attempt to make it a bit darker, and I’m hoping she will go to sleep soon!  It’s 21:30 here now, she’s been in bed for over half an hour, telling them a VERY long story (which was brilliant – I wish I’d typed it out as she was telling it!), but finally seems to be showing signs of fatigue.

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