Tallinn is a tourists dream. Especially if you’re a lazy tourist. The medieval Old Town emerged largely unscathed from nasty wars and nasty Soviet slab buildings and Lenin statues. It’s surrounded by walls and towers dating back to the 13th century, so there’s no bewildered swearing at maps and guidebooks, you just look for the walls and towers and once you’re safely inside its all perfectly preserved cobbled streets, hidden lanes, soaring churches, and souvenir stalls.
The best part about Tallinn is that there are no stag do crowds. The locals we spoke to were worried that will change now Easyjet has kicked off its Stansted – Tallinn route, turning their World Heritage listed city into the new Prague.
But for now you mostly see elderly Germans being herded (slowly) off coaches, Americans docking for the day from their cruise ships, a trickle of backpackers and oodles of Scandinavians. The Finns are particularly fond of Tallinn – it’s just two hours by ferry from Helsinki.
Our hotel was outside the old town, but Toompea was close enough to gaze at when I couldn’t sleep. You get into a routine even when you have just six nights in a city, and mine was to stand at the window blowing my nose, feel the mosquitos make polka dots on my legs, and watch dodgy people wait for trams. On Friday night I strained to hear a drunk Swede talking at a sober Estonian. After ten minutes of experimenting they realised their common language was English.
“Do you like Russia?”
“Russia. The Big Red Machine.”
“Since you are Estonian I think you would not like The Big Red Machine.”
“I am from Sweden and I do not like Russia. The Big Red Machine.”
“My friends do not like me. Because I drink.”
“Are you lost?”
“Yes. I am lost. Can you show me to the cold beer?”