At the start of May, Brigitte and I headed across to visit Jesse in Tartu (in southern Estonia). Brigitte had visited both Tartu and Tallinn before (she blogged about it here), but this was my first trip to “Eesti”. We caught the fast ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn (the Linda Line Express, which takes 1.5 hours), and headed straight from the harbour to the main bus station by tram. The tram lines were easy to understand from our little map, but buying tickets was a rather confusing process… turns out that you pop your fare into a little hatch in the tram driver’s door and you then need to validate your ticket in one of the little machines by the tram entrances (you can find ticket prices and route maps online). Interestingly, it looks like public transport will be free in Tallinn from some time in 2013… (see Wikipedia). We had an hour-long wait for our bus to Tartu (next time we might book our bus tickets in online in advance), so had a quick walk around the station’s neighbourhood – what struck me was the many contrasting types of architecture: old wooden houses, dull concrete apartment blocks and modern buildings all in the same street.

 

Our first sight in Tallin was Linnahall - previously known as the "V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport" was built when Tallinn hosted the sailing events of the Moscow 1980 Olympics. A big, ugly lump of concrete, now being overtaken by graffiti and weeds...

 

Two hours later, after a rather uneventful bus ride, we arrived in Tartu. Tartu is a small city (just over 100’000 residents) with a long history – and just like Tallinn had an amazing mix of architecture, with a handful of really interesting modern buildings (for example… the Tartu Rebase Street development, a.k.a. the “untidy stack of books building“). Brigitte and I were particularly fascinated by (possibly) the tallest building in the city’s centre which is shaped like an unravelling wrap. After some searching, I see that it is a residential building called the Tigutorn (“snail tower”) – definitely an interesting addition to the city. After a quick pop to the shops to stock up for the weekend (including tasty Estonian “salami” – anybody know its proper name?), Jesse drove us out to his farmhouse in the neighbouring municipality – into the wilds, compared to our Helsinki city living!

 

The "snail tower" in Tartu

Aah, sauna...

 

[click on the image below to scroll around for a 360° panorama]

 

After some bird-watching (first Hawfinches), salamander searching (failed), many good meals (including lots of yummy home-made preserves), two trips to the sauna and three restful days (which included some heavy yardwork – how did you convince me to help, Jesse?), we were back in Tallinn. However, this time Jesse took us to Kadriorg (Catherine’s valley), which is a large park containing a palace constructed for Catherine I by Peter the Great (as well as other sights, including the Estonian Modern Art Museum; KUMU). We didn’t have too long, but it was well worth it to walk around the grounds (more info from InYourPocket).

Swan lake, in the Kadriorg park


[click on the image below for another panorama]

 

And before catching our ferry back to Helsinki, I got the do the typical tourist thing – exploring the old town of Tallinn. It is really quite a site – massive walls and beautiful old buildings crowded onto a steep hill. Some times the old town felt a little fake – like an amusement park – but I think that is possibly just because it is so well maintained and so full of tourists.

The view from the top of Toompea (Castle Hill)

 

P.S. For some fun, search for “German Embassy, Tallinn” on GoogleMaps StreetView, and try to find Shrek and Donkey – they were in the same place when we visited too, and can found found in one of the photos on this page…

 

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