Friday, 12 October 2012

TRAVEL: TALLIN, ESTONIA-- Review, Budget & Experience


WHY TALLINN?

It was in the middle of the July summer heat when I visited Tallinn, Estonia for the second time, first I was on a day trip with my sister and her family when they came to visit me in Helsinki and the second time I was alone with a backpack just for fun and adventure and I stayed there for three days. If you ask me, I would certainly come back to Tallinn anytime of the year because it is just one of those cities you would never get tired of and here's a brief review of why I said that:

Tallinn is one of Europe's hottest backpacking destination in these days and it sure is a beautiful city to visit for a casual or grand holiday. The city itself have a rather long history under the russian rule thus some of its qualities resembles a little bit of its old conqueror. Tallinn itself have two different version of itself, the old and the new. I prefer the old since the old town always gives you that medieval feel and people actually dress in a medieval custom and since I have lived all my life in a city; towers, buildings and skyscrapers never give me that 'wow' anymore and it is rather more of a 'humph..' with a sigh. Otherwise, the modernity of the modern Tallinn might appeal more to those people who prefer to shop than to explore. Three day's wasn't really that long to explore the whole of what Tallinn can offer but it was enough time for me to experience the Old Tallinn's grandeur. And if you ask me once again why Tallinn, I'd certainly reply: Why not? Read more below for more info!



(At the market square.)




WHAT TO DO IN TALLINN?

If you are a backpacker I would certainly suggest to book an incredibly (and cheap) awesome hostel where they host pub crawls because pub crawls are awesome and it would be the highlight of your evenings and nights in Tallinn since, like in Finland, the city closes down pretty early over there. Sad face for real. Anyways, here's the highlights which I did while I was there:



(A photo I took while on the walking tour!)

  • Old Town Tallinn free walking tour which always starts at noon everyday and the journey always begins in front of the official tourist office. It was a nice experience to be in this walking tour not just because it is for free but they also give really good historical run down, tips and a very entertaining two hour journey. Plus, this tour is organized by a group of young people who does this for fun and for a good benefit. The tour guide said "The reason we do this is to keep young people from all the bad elements a young person can be involve at but rather be busy sharing our country's beauty by showing it to people who are interested and to be a part of a good community."
  • A good walk around the old town.
  • My first pub crawl night with the Hostel gang along with other fellow travelers as we ventured our way to nearly every bar in this old town.
  • COCAINE SHOTS-- no real cocaine, don't worry.
  • The Russian Market. Should I say more? Alright, I heard you can buy guns and babies from there but never dared to bargain for some.
  • Museum, Art Galleries hopping. I am that kind of tourist, yes.
  • Market place. A great place to hang out for a while with a nice cold pint of cheap beer or a nice glass of wine. Can't say more.
  • Second pub craw with the same Hostel gang but with different fellow travelers.
  • More cocaine shots... I didn't even like it. But it was kind of their thing.
  • Elk soup. Man that was the 'thing' because it was really awesome.



THREE DAYS BUDGET

I set a 50€/day budget but I absolutely spent far less than that so that was really good for me. Just before you check out the chart, I just want to quickly say that I rarely eat breakfast and I am certainly aware that it is the most important meal of the day but I just simply could not get myself to eat too early in the day so I usually just grab a large cup of coffee and fortunately coffee was for free in the hostel, which was a good thing. Here's a quick run down on how much I spent in a day when I was there:
















ACCOMMODATION

The place I stayed at was cool, young and hip small hostel run by travelers who apparently got stuck in Tallinn for a while and are working at that hostel in exchange for a bed to spend their nights and small cash, plus tips. It was a very inspiring place to be and to see all those guys who are working there have been traveling for many years and they are surviving. Listening to their stories amazes me because I do not think I could be a penniless traveler and still have fun. For me, that was almost unbelievable. Anyways, I stayed at Alur Hostel and it is located at the Old Town itself, easily accessible from the sea port (the way I got to Tallinn from Helsinki) and a great location in general since it is in the Old Town. Technically, if you are there everything is near. End of story. Also, on the side note, a fellow couchsurfer who also works for free at some hostel located in Tallinn told me that there are plenty of great hostels for backpackers in the area and here are two other which she mentioned to me:
Note: If you are not a party goer nor a party maker, I highly suggest to find a more quieter hostel to stay at because these hostels are normally filled with young (or old) travelers who have never seen cheap vodka before. In short, these hostels are the bunk beds for the young, wild and free.. and drunk. Too drunk. However, if you are all of the above: young (or old), wild and free AND drunk then be my guest and book a bunk bed and enjoy another awesome night of your life pub crawling.


(Alur Hostel's common area.)




TRANSPORTATION
I am not too sure how much they cost to go by tram, train and buses around this city because I always went by foot since everything is accessible and the summer heat was too nice to enjoy when I was there that using the public transportation never crossed my mind. However, my sister went to Parnu, a town outside Tallinn, and she said that the bus hence the first class ride they had with a kid and a baby costed them pretty cheaply. So maybe with further research, transportation wouldn't be a burden to some.




SIGHT-SEEING

Dude, every land mark is for free to check out... for real. Of course some museums have fee's but I paid none, it was nice.






FOOD

Estonian cuisine have tons of russian influence hence the hundred of years under the russian reign, I bet they would pick up a thing or two from that big country. Anyways, there is this little place where I went for lunch every day I was there and they sell Elk soup, pies and drinks. Not only they are cheap, man the food was great as well! A large cup of Elk soup costed me 2€ while they sell their pies for a euro each and same with their beverages no matter what it is, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. For me it was full filling and it kept me running till dinner so for about 4€, that was a good deal for me. I also splurged on coffee's. I just couldn't get enough of it. Whenever dinner time arrives, this fellow couchsurfer whom I met there and showed me around town also came to dinner with me at some place she know best that serves good and cheap food. Here are a couple of place I've been (restaurants and cafĂ©):

  • Olde Hansa
  • Must Puudel
  • III Draakon is the place where they serve the elk soup I was speaking about. Beware though because those ladies would make you sing for a spoon! Sorry for this spoiler but loads of tourists really do get upset about this one. They didn't make me sing at all because I always came there rather early and they told me that it is too early to make someone sing for their spoon. Try the pickled cucumber fishing from their big tanks! It was super cool. They would give you this lovely smile if you catch some.

(The lovely lady at the III Draakon.)





ALCOHOL

Estonia is well known to the Finns as the alcohol haven and in there lies the cheapest alcohol you can ever find. Of course, it isn't exactly cheap for the Estonians themselves but for many tourist who visited that land, their eyeballs all come off its sockets by the sight of the alcohol price. A pint of beer can cost you under 2€ and a bottle of vodka for none the less just a few euros more. So be it, for tight budgeted tourists, it is surely a good place to get drunk without damaging your budgets. Oh! You must be wondering what the hell is that cocaine shot I mentioned earlier, it is hard for me to describe how did it work but I found a lovely blog who had the same experience as me and she wrote a fine detail on how it works. Don't worry though, it does not have real cocaine. Her blog is: curiouscatontherun and her post about the cocaine shots.


OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Absolutely positive! I had great fun, great company, good food, great culture, interesting history and an exciting story to share with my future kids. I will surely come back when I get a chance. Also, Estonians are happy people. They are so, should I say, way too laid-back. You can agree with me once you learn more about their history from the free walking tour! They gave loads of pointers on that or pretty much on everything.

Extra note: If you are a traveler and in need a place to stay in Tallinn for a longer period, you can contact hostels if they need workers in exchange for a bunk bed. I was planning to actually try that out but unfortunately I don't have so much time to do so. You can always try though. :)


E.