It has been almost 2 years since I last stood foot in Europe. Currently living in Hong Kong I have been travelling solidly in the Asia region. However, Europe is the continent to which I have visited the most. I have tallied 16 countries in Europe and to keep this blog worldly I will now write about one of the most interesting cities, Tallinn, Estonia.
Located on the Baltic Sea it was this very reason as to how I travelled to Estonia as a pre-teen. I was on a cruise ship that was docking at Baltic Capitals. Sadly, as my hotel would float away in less than 10 hours I could not visit everything in the beautiful Eastern European nation.
The time was predominantly spent in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town. This town has been kept immaculately and it will throw you back to the Middle Ages. Gothic spires pierce the blue sky and the cobbled stones lead your weary feet to taverns offering cheap refreshments. If you remove the tourists from your mind’s eye you will feel transported to a bygone era reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’.
Walking from the cruise terminal towards the Old Town my family and I happened upon a bike rental shop ‘City Bike’ (still in operation today). The reason my family’s interest was piqued was because of a gigantic red, circular bike that was propositioned outside of the shop. It was a 7 seat bike! It was a mass orgy of the cycling world – it shocked me as I had never heard, yet alone seen, anything more than a tandem bicycle.
The bike rental shop were offering cheap guided tours of the Old Town. This seemed like an ingenious and fun way to spend our time in Estonia. My family (4 of us) and a local guide hopped onto the circular bike and began pedalling our way through narrow streets. Pedalling whilst having your back to the direction of the bikes movement is surreal and the engineering excellence behind the bikes performance is perplexing. Luckily, with a group all pedalling for the same bike it is easy to become lax and stop pedalling, much to the stern faced looks of a father.
This quirky tour was great fun in the surprisingly warm climate. Our unique mode of transport was attracting a lot of attention and I must have been documented in several people’s holiday albums. We pedalled arduously up an inconvenient steep hill, getting in the way of traffic. Horns blaring behind us, we reached the summit, only for the guide to smile and stop pedalling. Eerily, we slowly edged over the apex and a monumental downhill slope awaited us. Speed increasing, hair flying and shrieks of joy filled the Estonian air. It was like being on a rollercoaster.
With the thrills out of the way the circular bike and our speed demon souls emerged into a giant square. We were riding into Tallinn Town Hall Square with history dating back to the 13th Century on a very modern, alien looking, bike. This extreme juxtaposition was noted by many, if not every living person who was planted inside this enormous square. Feeling like a gladiator being pushed into a colosseum of lions, I emitted rosy cheeks caused by the embarrassing situation. Our guide’s constant use of the bell was not helping the situation.
In the same vicinity is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This holy places screams out Russian with its grand architecture. Although, to a pre-teen this Russian Orthodox Church was resembling a large tiered chocolate gateaux. With obligatory photos taken of ‘Old Thomas’ a weather vane symbolising Estonia’s past, we cycled along the historic city walls passing ancient stone towers.
The epic tour ended and it was time to hop off. Now thirsty, we sought out local beer. This came to us in the form of ‘Hell Hunt’, an Estonian pub that claims to be the first Estonian pub ever. The pub is easily noticed with its sign that features a naked blonde woman hugging a shaggy wolf. It’s a place where locals and tourists gather so is clearly doing well.
With that, it was time to vacate the Old Town and sadly, only glance into the distance at whatever the other parts of Tallinn had to offer. A strict time schedule meant the modern world of Tallinn would have to wait.
I loved the Old Town and if you’re under time restraints it is an ideal place to visit. It is full of charm and quaint backstreets but it is also a tourist hot-spot.
This trip was over eight years ago when a horrible camera was used. However, if you like what you see and want to check out some more recent photos, follow me on Instagram: Arik_Dane