New Zealand’s closest neighbours are New Caledonia and Fiji, each about two hours away by plane. So it’s still a buzz to be able to pop across to places like Estonia and return the same day. Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, lies about 80km south of Helsinki, across the Baltic Sea.
Tallinn’s Old Town is an amazing place to visit and its lack of wooden buildings mean many original buildings date back to the 11th century, for the most part free from any fire damage.
The first time we visited Tallinn we went on a huge ferry that left around 6pm and arrived just after 10pm. We were not allowed off the ship until morning, when we went ashore and had lunch before returning to Finland.
Many people don’t even disembark, except to stock up their trolleys with alcohol, as it’s much cheaper in Estonia than Finland.
The second time we went, we took a faster ferry that took about 2 hours to get there and returned later that day. The fare was about €25. The trip on the larger ferry only cost €40 for the three of us and included our cabin for the night.
While Peter Jackson’s movies may leave you thinking New Zealand is inhabited by hobbits and elves, I think they’d be most at home in Tallinn’s Old Town. There’s a restaurant (above) where people sit around candle-lit tables and eat elk soup out of wooden bowls, while a woman in a headscarf kneads dough behind the counter.
The old walls of the town are still standing and you can have a drink at the top once you have negotiated the huge stone stairs that are set about 50cm apart from each other in height.
The view from the top of the town is reminiscent of Prague, as you look out over all those red-tiled roofs.
There are so many little stores and places to see we still have reason to visit, plus we’ve yet to explore much beyond the Old Town walls.
Until then, I’ll enjoy reminiscing about our trips over the Baltic Sea and the blue-sky days we had, especially as we move into the darker months. With the sun currently rising in Helsinki just before 9am and setting at 3.30pm those sun-filled days make Tallinn seem a world away!