Crossing the Gulf of Finland separating Helsinki and Tallinn, one leaves behind the very Western, design-oriented and modern capital of Finland and reaches the Estonian capital, with an Eastern past and a Western future, celebrating the Middle Ages as well as its youth’s creativity.
As many others, we did this passage onboard a nine-deck cruise ferry, with about 10 bars and cafés as well as one huge duty-free shop to entertain its passengers during the 2 1/2 hour journey. Well, not only for entertainment; many Finnish and Estonian passengers stock up on duty-free booze or get drunk on Finnish vodka at Estonian prices. For us, it was a very relaxing journey which brought us to the starting point of our hike.
But wait, first we had five days to spend in Tallinn; last days to live in an apartment, last time to be tourists, not backpackers, and some days to enjoy the company of Jan and Romi, Moikens brother and his girlfriend.
Of course we walked the 2.5 km from the ferry terminal to the rented apartment, in a traditional wooden building located South of the beautiful old town of Tallinn. Tarvo, the owner of the apartment, explained everything we needed to know and assured us that “of course the supermarkets are open until 22.00 and on Sundays, we are in a city!” Zurich has just been degraded to small town.
We stocked up on local food and got ready to cocoon in the flat all Sunday to work on the website and prepare for the hike.
On Monday, we managed to get in touch with the Estonian ramblers association and their president, Tõnu, was kind enough to meet us on short notice for lunch and to answer all our questions on hiking in Estonia. We learned that the E9 hiking trail is not well developed in Estonia, as local hikers prefer to hike in the countryside, not at the coastline. The Estonian State Forest Management Centre (RMK) set up numerous hiking trails, campsites and resting areas all over the country. There are less of them at the coast, but that won’t stop us.
After lunch, we did our first stroll in the old town. We were not disappointed – narrow alleys, medieval buildings and the impressive castle district overlooking everything make discovering Tallinn a great pleasure. Add to that a huge variety of excellent and affordable restaurants, cafés and bars, and you have a lot of good reasons to spend a few days in this city. (No, we are NOT sponsored by Tallinn Tourism.)
In the evening, our travel partners for the next three days arrived and we went out to sample some local beer and food.
In the next two days, we went all around the old town and the surrounding neighborhoods; discovered the maritime museum located in seaplane harbour hangars dating back from WWI and found out about the KGB activities in Tallinn’s only tourist hotel during Soviet times, Hotel Viru. We spent some time in the creative area of Telliskivi. We got addicted to Vana Tallinn and loved to cheer in Estonian “Terviseks!” We saw a performance of the comedy festival taking place in Tallinn and tried out the Estonian version of Snakes and Ladders (combined with Truth or Dare) in a secret bar. Thanks to José’s initiative, we received the code for the door (no identification outside) and enjoyed some hours there.
All good things come to an end and on Thursday, April 30, we said goodbye to Jan and Romi and did the last preparations for our adventure. We bought a detailed atlas of Estonia, out of which we ripped all the pages we would not need for our route. We received some valuable last-minute tips for our trip from Kaido, an Estonian friend. José received a new look for the trip. Of course we did not go to bed as early as one should who intends to start hiking at 7 AM the next morning, but still we woke up early enough on May 1.