One of the main things we were excited about when moving to Helsinki was the nearness of other European countries. Specifically, Estonia. I’d say it’s a fair guess that more than half of Americans would not be able to point out Estonia on a map. (I mean really, we have a hard enough time remembering which state is which, let alone other countries.) So for those of you who aren’t pros at geography (like me, I’m not ashamed to admit it), Estonia is about 50 miles south of Helsinki, across the Baltic Sea. It’s so close, you can take a ferry!
Which is exactly what we did. Little Man, world traveler that he is, was lucky enough to spend his first birthday in both Finland AND Estonia. What better way to celebrate his traveling life than going to yet another country?!
The ferry, though only two hours, seemed quite a bit longer. They do have a nice kids area for children six years and under, but it’s not quite suitable for a one year old. Most kids are rather rambunctious, so we spent a good deal of time walking around the decks and getting some fresh air. After a small nap, and what felt like most of the day, it was time to disembark.
We were now in Estonia! Our first order of business was to locate our Air B&B. It was about a twenty minute walk from the docks, located in Old Town. I was super excited about this place because it was advertised as “ground floor”. Yeah. Maybe that’s different in Europe, but I would call it “garden view”. It was in the basement. Other than making it difficult to get the pram in and out, it was great. Very open, with lots of natural light.
After checking in, and getting the lowdown on how everything worked, we met up with my in-laws, who were visiting from the US. While we were waiting for their room to be ready, we decided to explore. Tallinn is BEAUTIFUL.
Old Town is, obviously, old. It’s filled with those classically European buildings and cobblestone streets. It’s exactly what I always pictured when I thought of Europe.
Outside of old town, Tallinn is a modern city, with some very modern architecture.
We spent most of our time walking around the city, taking in the sights, and enjoying some comparatively cheap coffee.
After falling in love with the ease of toting around a baby in Helsinki, I couldn’t help but notice how much more difficult that was in Tallinn. The narrow, cobbled streets made pushing a pram a solid arm workout, many restaurants are up or down half a flight of stairs, and asking for a high chair was met with a look of contempt. In general, I got the impression that many locals are not welcoming toward tourists. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference, like the way you place cash in a tray instead of handing it to a cashier. It was a complete 180 from the friendly Finn’s I’ve become accustomed to.
Attitudes aside, the beauty of the city is undeniable. We walked passed the flower market at least once a day. It was my favorite sight and I wish we had one in Helsinki.
On our way to the ferry at the end of our stay, we made the typical stop at the Alko for some cheap booze. (When in Estonia, and all that.) I even found some cloudberry liquer! I have yet to try it, but I’m pretty excited about it.
The ferry ride back was uneventful, but I have to say that I was amazed at how much like home Helsinki felt. It was so nice to be back in a city where I not only had my bearings, but know how things work (for the most part). You’d think by now that I’d be used to not understanding the language around me. Being in Tallinn was an eye opener. A lot of people say that Finnish and Estonian are similar languages, and while I was able to pick up on a few spoken words, I had no clue what the signs said. I can make a decent guess in Finnish, but I was lost in Estonian. So thank you, Tallinn. For a beautiful weekend, for inexpensive coffee and liquor, and for making me appreciate Helsinki for the home that it is.