Hello, Little Granny again. It’s been a busy few weeks in Suffolk with trips to Norway and the purchase of a new car (you will have read all about that!) but we must now get back to our Baltic cruise.
Our second stop was Tallinn; the magical capital of Estonia with its gabled roofs and fairy-tale turrets is one of the oldest towns in the Baltic area. Estonia has been occupied on many occasions by foreign powers; most recently by the Soviet Union. Estonians were delighted to become a free and independent country in 1991 but the guide on our tour still appeared haunted by the Soviet Arm occupation and told us about life under that regime and the misfortune of those who had been sent to Siberia. Frightening!
We had opted to go on a small group tour of Tallinn, which was mainly on foot and included several stops to sample traditional Estonian food. I have to admit it wasn’t the best choice of tour. We started walking in the Upper Old Town, not the easiest as there are lots of cobbles but we marvelled at the onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Church of Alexander Nevsky. Our guide begrudgingly said we could go inside (she wouldn’t be coming with us) but a service was taking place and we would not be allowed to take photographs. We did climb the steep steps and peep in. I was surprised to find quite a few people taking part in the service which was, of course, conducted in Russian.
Getting Into A Baltic Sprat!
Our first stop was to a small local café where we were given a traditional snack of black bread topped with a cold Baltic sprat (herring). The herring had a very strong taste and wasn’t my favourite. It was washed down with something like Vimto (who remembers that?). No, I’ll give that a miss. Grumps and I were quickly finished and headed back into the cobbled street to wait for the group. Unfortunately, I turned my back on him for two seconds and when I looked round he had completely disappeared. Part of me hoped that he had gone back into the café to use the loo. Soon all of the party were out in the street and the guide started counting us. “Ve are two missing”, she declared in her strong accent. She ordered her compatriot to wait behind and look in the café for them. I had no idea where Grumps was and, feeling rather irritated by his disappearance, decided to keep quiet. We walked back up the hill towards the Russian church when suddenly out of the sunlight he appeared. “Where have you been” I demanded, “someone is looking for you down the hill”. He nonchalantly told me that he had decided to walk up and take more photos of the church.
Our tour continued through the old town, visiting the viewing platform with its beautiful vista of the red roofs and turrets.
We wandered along the winding cobbled streets to a small local winery where we sampled a glass of white wine and local snacks – both quite ordinary. The guide handed over to a young girl to tell us about the history of the winery. I have to say she was excruciatingly shy and knew very little.
Our next stop was a traditional Estonian restaurant in the Lower Old Town, a very pleasant establishment with a friendly owner. Here we were given a desert known as “kama”, which is a local speciality of mixed grains. Someone in the group said it tasted like cold porridge – yuk! Actually, it was more like cold semolina with a teaspoon of jam in the middle. It took Grumps back to his schooldays and he quickly mixed the jam into the mixture turning it from white to a pinky mauve. He must have been hungry as he devoured the lot. Having an aversion to porridge and semolina from my schooldays, I ate the pudding at a more sedate pace. We were given a strong cup of black coffee to wash it down – I needed it.
A medieval fair was taking place in the centre of the town with all the stallholders in traditional dress and we were given free time to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. We later learnt that on the days the cruise ships are visiting the prices of the traditional goods soar.
Our last stop was to a small medieval pub on the Square where we were given a shot of spiced schnapps. Now, I had eaten the cold herring and the cold semolina but the smell of schnapps reminded me of paraffin. I could not throw my head back and swallow it in one – Grumps did, his and mine!
Our tour was over and it was time to head back to the ship and set sail for St Petersburg.
The medieval architecture of Tallinn with its ancient walls and tower gates is beautiful. We will certainly be going back but I’ll give the food a miss next time.
More to follow ….