Later that day I woke up in a medieval town that seems to be torn straight out of the pages of a storybook; in the fantasyland of cobbled streets, pointy spires and red-tiled turrets. Cafe workers dressed in vintage clothing embraced their heritage and stood proudly as they ushered guests into Estonian restaurants and pulled them to their fragrant almond kiosks.
Tallinn’s old town is just marvelous! I walked around the old city every day, shuffling down cobblestone paths on Tallinn’s narrow streets, staring at medieval cathedrals and sunny squares. Visiting here is really like stepping back a few centuries — and they have done a good job of preserving their history and medieval structures.
But what was heaven for me is the colors of the city. The entire calm pastels walls, pretty doors, colorful and charming.
N. even bought us umbrellas that are matching with the city colors, and we were once again super happy. 🙂
T: “There is no doubt: I’ve lost my heart in this wonderful place.”
T: “This is really the most beautiful old town I have ever seen.”
T: “I want to go through this alley”
T: “Okay, it looks like it will lead us to a place full of magic.”
T: “It will take us on a journey through time.”
T: “No, we are already there.”
T: “Look at this Soviet chic décor”
T: “All I need now is a summer beer garden in that retro décor and let’s create a Bohemian vibe.
T: “This city is just like poetry; it compresses all times into small place, add some chic to it – a lot of golden and wooden shades among all of that pastel colors and voilà!
N: “My heart goes shalala lala, shalala in the morning.
Oh oh oh shalala lala, shalala in the sunshine.
Shalala lala, shalala lala in the evening….”
T: “MINE TOO! Omg, N. they have so much marzipan here. It is making the city even better. ”
N: “I can see. If you have to choose from all of the tastes in the world just one that you can remember, I know it will be the taste of the marzipan.”
T: “I am so happy” I was mumbling while my mouth was full of this amazing sweet.
Later on I asked my local friend what’s going on with marzipan, as I thought marzipan is coming from Germany, and then he explains to me.
Okay, so you can imagine me now in a magical wonderland, in which I am already falling in love, finding out that my favorite sweet ever is actually invented over there. Not all the sweets, but the best sweet ever!! The king of sweets. The delicious, delicious piece of heaven.
Falling in love with a city, a country? Sounds a bit odd, I know. But yes, it’s possible.
The second day, on our local tourist guidebook, we found a tip: go and check Patarei Prison. So we did. It was on the way to the district we really wanted to check, although we were still fighting with the non-enough-sleep from the previous night.
So, what is Patarei? Hm… I cannot even remember now what was the feeling I had while I was trying to find a point of entering that place, but let’s say that it was the strangest, quirkiest, and the most bizarre “tourist attraction” I have ever experienced. So, now it is an abandoned place (later I heard from my local friend that when he was 13 years old -that’s like 12 years ago, he was still playing around the prison while some of the prisoners were still there). You have to pay for the entrance and then you can explore it. Do not misunderstand me, it is not like a museum with a guide and explanations of every part inside – it is far from it! It doesn’t even look like the inmates have just moved out from it, it is more like “we put all the trash from the last two floors here in the rooms, so enjoy” (as above the second floor we couldn’t enter).
So it is a mess with dirt, trash, broken glass everywhere. But I found beauty in some of the random installations and graffiti throughout, I have to be honest.
N: “I don’t understand this place. In Montenegro, we would have rave parties in this place.” (actually, later we found out about the all-night raves held at this prison)
T: “Well, me neither, but I really like some of the graffiti on the wall of each cell. I want to meet the person who wrote it.”
N: “Imagine you were one of the prisoners here, and you are alone in the cell small like this (the cell was really, but really small). I would kill myself somehow immediately.”
T: “I just hope we have just invested entrance money for something really good they want to make out of this huge place.”
N: “Haha, investing in Estonia, sounds cool.”
And the best part? After we’ve finished with the prison, we head outside to the part of Tallinn we actually wanted to see from the beginning of that day. But as soon as we turned the corner, first, we found this:
And then this:
Yes, the worst tourist attraction has the best beach bar ever. Something that we really needed at that moment as we were very tired. After a few seconds, in front of Patarei my friend and I have separated our thoughts, lay down and for a few minutes it looked like we are enjoying our thoughts and a beautiful place. Later, I asked her what was she thinking about at that moment, and she said “I was just imagining this place in our city. There would be a big container. A lot of trash and this prison would already be sold. And Estonia made this beautiful beach over here. And they are going to make an amazing thing out of this prison, you can feel that. I want to see how they are going to develop, preserve or forget the nation’s many sites of Soviet history.”
That was true. Although I was thinking about my friend’s question about the small cell and what if I was one of the prisoners during the soviet union’s regime. It didn’t last for a long, as some locals interrupted ours, on the first look, really calm, full of harmonious thoughts.
Finally, we continue the long battle with those local guys who approached us with (for me) a very boring story. So, I couldn’t wait to sidle off quietly to Kalamaja, the Hipster’s part (as the guys told us). Here we found a completely different aesthetic. The district is a network of quiet streets characterized by beautiful early-20th-century wooden homes, originally built to house factory workers.
The wooden buildings date back to around a hundred years ago, some are a little older, others newer, some are beautifully fixed up, others still have burn-marks from fires. During Soviet times, the area was used as a base for the Soviet Armed Forces.
Besides the little wooden houses, enormous factories also operated here, nowadays, they have mostly found other, rather clever uses. For example, The Telliskivi creative city. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a lot of factories in the area bankrupted with only the abandoned structures still left. The factory site here suffered a similar faith and was an eyesore up until about ten years ago when planning and rebuilding started. A few restaurants slowly opened up, offices moved in and parties began.
N: “I can really feel the spirit of Tallinn here. I don’t feel comfortable walking here as I have a feeling I am disturbing their art and something really personal they have left here. I think everybody hates tourists and us now, as we are jumping on their souls.”
T: “Calm down and come and hug that hipster’s tree, I know you like it.”
Last day my friend went to buy some souvenirs and I was just following her, looking at terrible made once, as I hate souvenirs. But at the end of the day, I found the perfect one (although, unfortunately, I didn’t buy it). Obama is always involved…. or at least Putin. Or Obamushka. Or Putinshka. Or both.
I’ve never felt free and unworried as last night in Tallinn, watching first the sunset, then the sunrise, seeing the town’s silhouette in the distance, breathing the salt-breeze. The city arouses longings and can fulfill them.