Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tallinn du bist so wunderbar

We´ve made it to Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Yesterday the Bulli/Combivan/Microbus/OldHeapOfTin passed 3000km on this trip and we´ve had no problems with it at all.

We left Riga and headed directly across the border as we´d used up all of the 4 days alloted to Latvia. Yes, I am fully aware of how ridiculous it is to do a country in four days, and how much it just smacks of Contiki, but I consider this just a prerun and we can come back later anyway - there are flights from Berlin to Tallinn/Riga/Vilnius for 30Euro thesedays. After all the whole point is to get ALL the way around the Baltic Sea AND get to the North Cap and if we´re not careful we´ll run out of time at the other end.

We crossed the border at Valka/Valga, a little town which is split in the middle by the border between Latvia and Estonia. There are three border crossing points in the town, but only one is for cars. Apparently the locals are quite used to foreigners going to the wrong one as we had several bored looking natives on bicycles waving us impatiently to the right control point so that they could cross the road. And I´s got´s me´s another stamp.

We spent the night on Lake Purhujava (forgive the spelling, I don´t have the map with me) which was created by the tears of mother´s whose sons had died in an Estonian epic. It´s said by psychics to be full of positive energy and the Dalai Lama blessed the place. However, two days later, on the highway to Tallinn, we came across a tree that had been planted by the Dalai Lama - in a random place on the side of the road - so I´m not so sure he wasn´t just wily-nily planting/blessing/bestowing across the country.

We then spent the following day cruising through south-eastern Estonia, near the Russian border and the area of the Setu people, who speak still another language and have their own culture going on. Half of it is now in Russia and the people are dieing out, with the youth not learning the language or traditions. It may be due to the upside-down metal mixing bowl breast plate the women wear once married - I must admit that I wasn´t sure in the end if you were meant to try and squish both boobs inside it, or leave it sitting on top of them to whack you in the chin with every step.

We also nipped over to a small border area where the only road connecting several Estonian villages actually runs through Russian territory. You can drive down it, providing you don´t stop for the 2 km stretch, so we did. Then did a u-turn and drove through it again. It is a truly bizarre experience - the border to the European Union was a rusty, sagging, unguarded wire fence running through a field of purple Lupine flowers.

We did a bit more sightseeing in the area - up to Räpina and Lake Peipsi (not named after the drink), and then decided to bang through straight to Tallinn. It was interesting watching how the housing improved along the way from east to west. What were rundown, paint-peeling wooden cottages with collapsing barns became shiny, newly painted wooden cottages with perfectly repaired barns and BMW´s parked outside.

Tallinn itself is amazingly touristy. The other capitals of the Baltics have been normal cities, but the centre of this is just awful. So it was a surprise to discover that if you go just one stree over, literally 25 metres from the screaming throng of German and English tourists and costumed estonian girls, the next street was quieter, containing empty art galleries and cafes with a single patron. And only one street further and the houses were boarded up, youths sitting on steps and 300 year old buildings stood in which people are happily going on with their lives without the clamour of "Hey Dan! Wouldya look at that!" We climbed a tower in the city walls and walked along them, completely alone up there as all the other tourists were playing follow the leader up the hot, steep hill to the upper city, something we´ve decided to give a miss as we´ve already seen too many castles as it is.

Tomorrow we´re on a ferry to Helsinki, there to start the Scandinavian tour.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the adventure along with the both of you. I'm following your travels with a highlighter on my atlas it all sounds wonderful, what amazing sights you are seeing. Thanks for the postcards. Check Yahoo!!!!Luv you guys!!! Anonymous from Aussieland