Last week I visited Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. It was an action-packed week with so many fun and fabulous things to see and do, but I’ve put together a list of some that stood out.
1. Olde Hansa – Admittedly a tourist trap (but of the best kind), this “medieval” restaurant seeks to recreate a rich merchant’s house and “honours the forefathers of the Hanseatic League”. But there’s some serious re-enacting going on here, and no detail is overlooked. The menu boasts of “feasts” that feature all kinds of wild and wonderful fare including rabbit, bear, venison, salmon, lentils, rose cream, pickled herring, mushrooms, cheeses, spelt, sauerkraut, berries, black bread (and a billion other courses) made according to authentic medieval recipes. Every single dish was curious and interesting, with unfamiliar spices and weird combinations of ingredients. This was no ordinary meal! Our server was a top class re-enactor, and was informative and entertaining without being too cheesy (just). The costumes, candlelight, furniture, drinks, and cutlery were all fantastic – and even the bathroom sinks were based on medieval designs . It was a bit over the top, but so much fun.
2. Helkurid (Reflectors) – I noticed on my first day in Tallinn that everyone appeared to be wearing strange tags which were tied to coat pockets, zippers, and bags with pieces of string. I assumed these were bus passes, but upon asking a local why everyone was wearing “tags” she explained that these were “helkurid”, or reflectors. After some investigating, I discovered that, in Estonia, pedestrians are required by law to wear at least one light-coloured “helkur” after dark (which is a LOT of the time in winter). These are usually and on a string about 60 cm from the ground (the height of car headlights) and swirl around like fishing spinners. The ones I noticed at first were square, but then I began to see stars, hearts, circles, flowers, and animals flipping on the wind. Variations of these life-saving accessories can be purchased from grocery stores and designer boutiques alike. Reflective hats, bags, keychains, and even jewellery are also popular. And that is how fashion meets function.
3. Old Town / New Town – Steeped in history and charm, the medieval Old Town is fairytale Tallinn. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and boasts fashionable boutiques, tasteful craft shops, and quaint cobblestoned alleys. But just outside the city walls, minutes from the Old Town Square is the “microdistrict” of Lanamäe. Constructed in the 1970s/80s, this sprawling mass of prefabricated high-rise blocks housing about 119,000 people is a testament to the city’s Soviet past. It’s amazing to see the severe Soviet New Town juxtaposed with the warm, cozy Old Town.
4. It’s by the sea – and in my books, that’s always a great thing! Sandy beaches and busy ports are great places to catch the brisk Baltic breeze (FREEZING cold wind). The busy port also means that it’s easy and cheap to catch day ferries to to nearby Helskini (Finland) and Stockholm (Sweden). It’s also definitely worth checking out Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour – a fantastic interactive maritime museum with lots of boats, planes vikings, and a real submarine that you can explore! Informative and entertaining for kids and adults; ’cause everyone likes to dress-up like sailors and operate remote control model boats, right?
5. Handicrafts – There are lots of places to find beautiful handmade jewellery, puppets, homewares, clothing, and just about anything else you can think of. In particular, it’s worth visiting Katariina käik (St Catherine’s Passage) which is home to the St. Catherine’s Guild, a collection of craft workshops where artists use traditional methods to create and sell glassware, leather accessories, hats, quilts, ceramics, hand-painted silks and lots more. The workshops are housed in small, 15th- to 17th-century rooms and are set up in an open-studio style so you can watch the artists work. It’s also worth checking out the Telliskivi Loomelinnak/Telliskivi Creative City which is an up and coming business hub with offices and shops for all kinds of creative types. Concerts, events, and flea markets are also held here.
BONUS: Pickled mushrooms! I had these twice in different restaurants. Does anyone know if these can be bought in then UK? Or have any good recipes?
That’s all for now! Have you been to Tallinn? What were your favourite things about this lovely city?
If you haven’t been, but would like to go, Easy Jet offer cheap flights out of London, but you can also fly from other UK airports. Don’t foget you can always fly into Helsinki and take the ferry to Tallinn for under £20. Happy travels!
Don’t forget you can follow me on instagram @ashleyfayth to follow my creative and domestic adventures!