Estonia Week on 501 Places – The beach off-season, and a Russian feast

Everything in Tallinn is close; most things are certainly within walking distance. This is a view from Pirita Beach, apparently popular in the summer but today almost deserted, looking back towards the Old Town, little over an hour’s walk away.

Having learned that most museums in Tallinn are closed on Mondays, we decided to take a long walk along the coast today. Besides, with me still nursing the cold I had picked up just before we left I didn’t fancy spending the day getting dirty looks from people every time I sneezed (you should have seen the folk on the plane yesterday – I think they could almost feel the H1N1 virus leaping over my seat and onto their flesh when I failed to suppress a small sneeze (it seems it is not permissible to have a cold in 2009).

We headed up the coast from the Old Town, through parkland and along a long promenade. Those who have seen my previous posts will be aware of my fascination with public art, and Tallinn is rich with examples of  statues, war memorials, abstract shapes and the downright weird. Some hail from the Soviet era, although many of the strangest are from the last decade. Here is one of my favourites.

Lone walker on Pirita BeachThe beach itself is a delightful spot. A busy and impressive marina is soon left behind for quiet woodland, before emerging on a long sandy stretch of beach. We wandered along here for a while before stopping at a very nice cafe for a spot of lunch and a rest before the walk back. There were a few people on the beach; a young group of girls doing some aerobics, a few joggers and a scattering of others who, like us, were wrapped up against the stiff breeze and talking a stroll in the sun. It was a very pleasant place to pass an hour or so, but we were left to wonder how it would look when it’s busy, and left to believe that it can actually be warm enough here to take a dip.

The walk back was long but fascinating. We visited the giant Song Festival Grounds, built by the Soviets and then a site for the independence protests that took place in the 1980s. This was a great place to sit and enjoy the classical music coming from a musical bench (which was a first for us).

We passed both old 1960s style Soviet built appartment blocks and high end luxury houses, built in recent years and homes that must have cost millions of euros to build. The rich-poor divide is clearly alive and well here as it is elsewhere. Our contact with local folks is limited to date but on passive observation it is easy to concur with others who have pointed out the status of  the large Russian minority as a poorer part of Estonian society.

It was with some pleasure therefore that we experienced Russian culture at its most proud this evening with a meal in the well-known Russian restaurant, Troika. Recommended to us by both an Estonian friend and our Lonely Planet, it did not disappoint. We passed on the black caviar (over 200 euros a go!) and the bear stroganoff (dependent on success of the hunt, as it says on the menu) and settled for some more mainstream dishes.

It was certainly a filling meal, so much so that I had passed up the chance to have a second cake of the day, preferring instead a good stroll around the Old Town after dinner to settle the stomach.

Tallinn is the destination of choice for an increasing number of stag and hen parties from the UK, and it’s easy to see why. Strip joints, sex shops and massage parlours advertise their wares freely in between the cafes and bars of the Old Town. Clearly there is a balance to be struck between making the most of the income generated from these high spending large groups, and not destroying the romantic mystical atmosphere that the old buildings eminate. I hope the city finds it and doesn’t sell its soul too far to the boozy gangs.

Tomorrow is hopefully a day trip out of the city to the west coast, depending on getting a bus in the morning. For now I am off to nurse this man flu of mine…

I am grateful to www.europenethotels.com and the Tallinn City Tourist Office for their partnership and support of Estonia Week on 501 Places

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Freelance travel writer

2 Responses to “Estonia Week on 501 Places – The beach off-season, and a Russian feast”

  1. starrybluesky #

    Just back from Tallinn,( the last city of my "12 City Project" shooitng Polaroids with the last of my supplies) so have enjoyed reading your report. Look forward to your "out and about " report too. I was intrigued by the countryside as I was travelling to Tallinn, but because the focus of my visit was to photograph the city I stuck with that.

    September 15, 2009 at 8:22 am
  2. Andy Jarosz #

    Thanks! Your project sounds really interesting. Where else did you get to?

    September 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm