Sunday, September 18, 2016

A taste of Tallinn

so after a completely uneventful sail to Tallinn we arrived to glorious weather!

I am going to tantalize you with a photo from our lunch first - so you will read all the way to the end (it comes last as it was a leisurely lunch and we headed out of town shortly thereafter)

anyway- back to the chronology- we first went to the location for the song festival that was the venue for the singing revolution - a fitting spot to start exploring Estonia - the birthplace of their recent independence from Soviet control.

no crowds the morning of our arrival but you can see from the photo posted at the site - they get pretty much the entire population there when the festival is in full swing!

it is near the waterfront and we whizzed by this boat basin on the way back into the city-

a waterfront sculpture

then we headed to the upper town to start our walk through the old city- upper and lower towns - upper being outside the original walls and the lower within the walls-

an occasional side street not jammed with people-

the view from upper town over the lower town-

the wall of the old town and you can see the Dannebrog hanging under the roofed area in the lower right - this is the alleged location of its delivery from heaven!

this store looked to have lovely things but no bringing home a single paperclip for us!

loved some of the building "decorations"

you could see this point in the photo above (the view from the upper town)

getting close to high noon on the historic clock -

most of the old town is pedestrians only which is nice for walking around!

a cafe specializing in chocolate and coffee -

there was a weekend festival going on in the main square and so there were lots of chair and a large stage and some vendors in a flea market - arts and craft fair - so very busy lots and lots of people (of course when my mother and aunt and I were here in 2002 there was pretty much no one.... they were so close to having gained their independence then I think it wasn't on most people's radar...

Funny story or lame or pathetic- I was visiting the Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in late summer 2002 (as mentioned above) and the folks in my office (all college grads and more) asked me if I was being affected by the flooding.  We were having great weather so I said "not at all" and when I checked the news the flooding was in the Balkans (former Yugoslavian territory where the three of us - mom, aunt and I - went for the first time just three years later..... Americans are sooooo bad at geography it isn't really funny - it is pretty embarrassing for us as a country - it only reinforces that view of us as egocentric. No wonder all of our personal European friends have concerns about the upcoming election....but I digress....

on we went to lunch - we had a short list of places and one of them was also recommended to the guide by prior travelers so we headed there - it turned out they had a wonderful tasting menu for lunch and we were raving to the staff about the meal when we found out the chef was another noma alum!

the server deposited this tailored sack with utensils and instructed us to use whatever suited us LOL

an amuse from the chef-

the contents spread before us to see what we had as options LOL

the bread in every one of the countries we visited made us wish someone on every corner in the US would actually make bread like this.  It can't be rocket science but we are always seeking this tasty and chewy with holes in the soft part kind of bread and La Fournette in Chicago has it but who wants to hike to Old Town to get bread twice a week?

the mushroom broth - salted rib - truffle cream course-

the surprise course was white asparagus! a favorite of ours!

the terrine under greens and green apple and then uncovered to show off the luscious layers -

lamb for Phil and cod for me-

new utensils for desserts-

celery granita - roast apple and sour cream-

strawberries, creme anglaise, violet ice cream and strawberry sorbet- YUM YUM YUM

a knock your socks off meal - completely a surprise and boy were we happy! the food on the ship is at the level of a decent (not aspiring to better) suburban restaurant in the US - but we seem to be the only foodies on board.  One night when they were serving salmon I asked for mine to be medium rare which seemed lost on the server - I rephrased my request and said please do NOT cook it all the way through (of course it came cooked all the way through- res ipsa as we say in the law)

I found the painting on the bathroom wall interesting LOL perhaps I should have studied it more closely because it seems a bit more explicit in the photo than I remember it being LOL

so off we went towards the meeting point with a stop along the way to buy the chocolate (recommended by our local guide) and check out the market stalls along the wall of the old town-

two of the towers from the wall- the second photo hides a small park where you could sit in the shade on a very warm day like the one we had during our visit.  Tallinn is a lovely city worth substantially more time than allotted to it.

So we have not yet completed the trip but I have already concluded (based upon my having previously visited every one of the countries on this cruise and a number of the actual cities as well) that cruising is not the way to actually learn about a country or get to spend time with local people or even see what there is to see.  Tallinn really brought that home as many many of the streets and alleys and restaurants and viewpoints that I recall from the last trip were invisible in the run through you get on a half day tour and maybe another half day of free time if you are lucky in each port.... this is not conducive to real travel and is the "If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium" tourist type travel.  So it won't surprise you that my feedback form was not 100% positive.  However, that being said- if you are unwilling to do the legwork and the logistics arrangements for travel on your own and you understand the trade offs it is one way of getting out into the big wide world.

I would liken this to the HOHO bus - when we travel on our own we frequently will take the HOP ON HOP OFF (HOHO) bus in a new city - anywhere in the world.  It is a good way to get the lay of the land and to check out the locations of things you may want to come back and see - really spend time doing and exploring.  This was kind of a HOHO ship - the problem is many of the 94 other people will go home and 1. pretend they have actually been to these places and 2. never return for real exploration of even the ones they liked.  And if you think I am making this up I recount for you the dinner conversation one night when we found ourselves at a table with a couple who said they took the trip "because we could get seven countries in our passports" - Really? Why not just go from airport to airport and go through passport control out of security and back in and hop on a return flight to (sadly they lived down to stereotypes) Mississippi?

Sorry for the rant but this is a pet peeve of mine.  I don't begrudge timid types from not traveling on their own but it does not have to be like this... our first trip to China and our first trip to Thailand we with 14 and 10 other people respectively - and they were wonderful introductions to those incredibly interesting destinations.  We then returned on our own - many times to Thailand and it got to the point where we would always stop in Bangkok on any SE Asia or South Asia trip.  We also returned to China for off the beaten tourist path travel (some just the two of us and some in part with our brother Larry) - see fall posts from November 2013 through January 2014 from Lijiang and Zhongdian and Hangzhou and "Ju-jaw-jow!" (Zhujiajiao) for example-

and you can't say you weren't warned - here is the full title of this blog-


a blog about my new semi-free-life after 30+ years of law (travel, food, theater, and an occasional rant)

but on we go - our next port of call is "the city as a museum" St. Petersburg Russia- where we spend nine days during white nights in the 300th anniversary of its founding - no way this day and a half would do it justice but it was wonderful to return regardless.... so stay tuned -

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