Monday, February 14, 2011

Talinn by Boat

An overnight cruise to Talinn, Estonia to shake off the Finnish winter blues. Slide into port around midnight, get up in the morning and leisurely make your way into town.

Finns don't do things that way. At 6.30am a voice over the tannoy announced that we had to vacate our rooms in 15 minutes and the boat in a half hour. So we poured children into snowsuits and stumbled out into a snow storm. Talinn which was supposed to be 5 degrees warmer was actually much colder and more Baltic than Helsinki.

We stumbled onto a taxi driver who spoke little English but I managed to figure out his Swedish and he dropped us off at a hotel that was serving breakfast. I now realise it was a bit away from where we wanted to go but I thought it wouldn't be too difficult to get into the old town, find the tour bus we wanted to get an overview of the city as we only had 11 hours on shore.

We had a lovely breakfast, filled to the brim with caffiene and cakes we went out into the Estonian capital. Only to be confused by badly marked bus stops, winter and summer timetables, no show buses. I have to admit that I lost my cool. I'd had enough of planning things that fell apart due to no fault of my own, museums and amusement parks that weren't open, struggling in languages I cannot fathom or can only half-arse in. So I grumped for a while.

Then we decided that waiting outside with the 3 Weans for a bus that may never come was silly, so 3 hours already in the can we went off to a little science museum to let the kids warm up and have some fun. Foo discovered a wonky mirror that kept him happy for ages. My camera decided to die, so had to make do with my too expensive phone. But it did pretty well.

We then wandered the old town of Talinn. More medieval and interesting that Helsinki. Lots of winding cobbled streets, old wooden buildings and stone towers. There were lots of little craft shops hidden in lanes that we ducked into, including a glass blower working at his fire and a woman handpainting some fabric.

Ladies what lounge.

Of course the city had that annoying trick that most cities you visit have of offering lots of shops, restaurants, cafes or whatever you're not looking for until you're actually looking for them. We struggled to find some place for lunch, but eventally found a nice pub that offered Estonian food and hot wine with a slug of something more potent that kept wee Bumptious sleepy for a while - oops! But it warmed my cockles as well so made the bitter wind that sometimes caught up with us a bit more bearable.

We were guided around a bit by a lovely but funny Russian couple Stella and Olav. She had the full length full coat and he was decked out in leather, pushing their grandson in a very posh pram. They showed us the long way up to the castle and Orthodox Cathedral. Here's them leading the way:

After a long day pushing buggies up medieval alleyways and struggling to find interesting things to see and do, we finally crashed at Cafe Josephine (after Josephine Baker) for an overdose of chocolate cakes. The whole cafe was done up ala Parisian boudouir in velvets and muted lights. I have to admit I eavesdropped on a couple at a table near by as he tried to smooth talk his date - 'your ring goes wonderfully with your eyes'. Young love, heh?!

I managed to get Arno our faithful taxi driver to come and pick us up with a mess of Norwegian, Finnish, English and a few made up words, but he found us at 'un stor kirkko' which is Italian, Norwegian Finnish for the Big Church.

On the way back to Helsinki we had a bit more time to relax and let the boys explore and play on the ship, but I think we were all glad to see our beds that night, even if Bumptious took her dear sweet time settling. She has gotten a bit too used to sleeping with Mum, so has been struggling to get back into the swing of things.

Auntie departed the next day for American shores and work as usual. On Sunday the Chief, Weans and I went to a sledging party at the local Leikkiepuisto. We met some other expats and will hopefully be expanding our circle of friends soon.

And Monday morning brought all 3 Weans a present of a nice fresh cold. So we have Croupy, Snotty and Pheglmy, the new Dwarves. Winter is still with us, but I hope spring is just around the corner, even if that corner is a bit longer than what I would like.

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