Monday, June 27, 2011

Travelogue: Part 4

Time to recap our most favoritest trip day ever! Eh... maybe not EVER, but definitely the best on this adventure.

As I think I mentioned once (or twelve times)  before, Estonia was the place we had the highest hopes for and the little country did not let us down! Medieval Tallinn was magnificent and we would fly back tomorrow if we could!

This tower, Fat Margaret, was the first glimpse of the ancient walled city as we approached from the port. It lead to a gorgeous stone arch over cobblestoned Pikk Street, which rambled past old colorful buildings. We were out early, so we were able to take our time without battling for space with the tour groups. It felt a bit like Charleston, SC, with that sort of charm, mixed with a decidedly European vibe.

Pikk Street wound past charming churches (see Here) and opened up in grand style to the Town Hall Square. It was lined with umbrella-strewn restaurants and cafes, while the 15th-century town hall itself loomed overhead. The town was preparing for a festival, which we stumbled back upon later that day. We shared pizza while listening to Estonian children sing religious songs, followed by a parade of women in traditional folk costumes. It was one of those travel moments you live for!

At the top of a steep (like, crazy ass steep) stone ramp, you emerge into a courtyard in the Upper Town. The ramparts of the city wall tower overhead and when you come out from underneath them, you see this Russian Orthodox church. Since it was Sunday, there was prayer going on, but we were able to stand in the back and listen to the priest (preacher?) although we didn't understand a word. The widows on the front steps, shawls over their head, begging for change seemed to be one of those honest worldly moments you don't stumble across every day.

A few blocks up other streets, behind another church, around the bend, and under an arch (did you follow all that?) was THIS view. And THIS is why you fall in love with Tallinn. Among other things, like the fantastic people, cute stores, charming buildings. But this view. ::sigh:: Had those tour groups not come up behind us and run us off, I could've sat there all day. The bright side of being run off was that we ducked into a cute little store and bought a set of nativity ornaments that were handcarved and handpainted. Such a great souvenir!

The town was over-run with adorable back lanes and stone buildings. This was a side street Rick Steves had mentioned in his walking tour of the town. (We printed a copy from his website and did the tour on our own. Got some history without being stuck in a group!) I believe it was called Catherine's Passage and it had arts & crafts stores on one side and old tombstone ruins lining the wall on the other side. We also meandered well off the well-worn travel path and snuck outside the city walls to stumble across another small, local, festival and to wander through an art installation.

We left Estonia with a bit of a heavy heart. It's definitely one of my favorite places I've ever been and definitely tops on my list of places with Puff. (Although our 9 day Ireland adventure was pretty rock star!) We would love to head back here someday and also explore nearby Riga, Latvia, since it looks just about as cool as Tallinn.

Gotta have a dream list, right?

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