Our port of call today was Tallinn, capital of Estonia. We had visited here once before, on the Caronia in 2002, so we were looking forward to seeing how it had changed, particularly since Estonia had joined the EU since we were last here.
Today we were doing a half-day excursion that would give us a good all-round taster of this lively city where the past and present blend to form a very interesting experience. Estonia, of course, used to be part of the Soviet Union (along with its neighbours Latvia and Lithuania) but since their independence in the early 1990’s the people are a fiercely patriotic and proud nation.
We boarded our tour bus and set off through the Old Town with its medieval city walls with their ramparts and turrets; the town was built from the 13th to 16th centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We came to a massive park with a huge stage/amphitheatre and were told that this is where the Estonian Song Festival is held annually; about 30,000 people attend, all wearing national costume, and sing patriotic songs. Our guide explained that it really is an impressive and even quite moving sight to see.
Next we visited one of the old Guild Houses where we enjoyed a good cup of coffee along with some Estonian cake, while being treated to a folkloric dance show. It was very entertaining. Then it was back out into the sunshine to continue our tour, which took us past a lovely residential area of private homes and the Pirita Marina which had been used for yachting when the Moscow Olympics were held in 1980.
We then had some free time to browse around the craft market in St. Catherine’s square as well as look in the shop windows. Our guide said that we could either get the bus back to the Black Watch or could walk it; she told us it was only about a 20-minute walk and showed us which direction to go. Trevor and I decided we’d do some exploring on our own and then walk back to the ship; after all the food and (free!) booze we’d been indulging in it would be nice to have the exercise. 🙂
At this point we broke away from the rest of our party and had a good look around the shops and streets and stalls. There were many trendy pavement bars and cafés doing a roaring trade from the two or three cruise ships that were docked in Tallinn. We bought some postcards and stamps and then wandered around, looking for an ideal bar to sit and write them out. We spotted an Irish bar called Shamrocks (fancy coming to Estonia to sit in an Irish bar!) which had free wi-fi so we went in, ordered a pint each of their local beer, and sat outside in the shade to enjoy our drinks, people watch, write out the postcards and check our emails. 🙂
After spending a pleasant hour in such a way, we decided to take a slow walk back to the Black Watch. We set off on our way, looking in the shop windows, and I spotted a shoe shop that proclaimed that a sale was on and some of the shoes were only five Euros (less than a fiver at home!). So I couldn’t resist going in. 🙂
I didn’t see any of the five Euro shoes that I liked, but I then spotted a pair, in my size (37) that I just had to have. They are a sort of beige colour but they have metal studs and spikes at the toe and some more studs and spikes at the heel, as well as a 5” stiletto heel. Talk about kick-arse shoes! I would have to be careful when crossing my ankles not to spike myself! The shoes were 36 Euros (about 33 quid) so not too bad. I decided I’d wear them tonight. 🙂
Back on the Black Watch we dumped our bags in cabin 4085 and went and had something to eat and drink. We then sat out on the deck for a while in the sunshine before going back and having an afternoon nap, before just generally whiling away the afternoon, reading my Kindle and looking at some of the offers Fred Olsen Cruise Lines had for booking a future cruise with them. 🙂
We then got washed and changed and for dinner. Tonight, however, we didn’t go to the restaurant on our usual table; but instead we went to an Indian buffet they were holding in the Garden Café. It was delicious; I had a spicy lamb biryani and some tandoori chicken washed down with a cold bottle of Kingfisher beer, yum yum. We love Indian food and tend to have a takeaway at home every couple of weeks or so.
Later on, in the Neptune lounge, we laughed ourselves silly at Bruce Thompson, who was billed as the ‘king of the one-man bands’. I am always fascinated when watching these types of musicians; they play the guitar, mouth organ, drums, cymbals and tambourine, all at the same time, with the drums operated by strings attached the the heels. So just dancing and tapping your feet makes the drums beat – it’s great to watch. Bruce also threw a bit of comedy into his act and invited someone from the audience, who (reluctantly!) came to have a go. He was a big fat man and he went backstage to get equipped with his drum kit and other stuff, including cymbals strapped to each knee. Watching him trying to bang the drum and play the cymbals and blow on a sort of kazoo was hilarious, and the guy was a good sport. So all in all, a good night’s entertainment. 🙂
After the show we hoofed it along to the Braemar Room for tonight’s quiz, where we were joined by Geordie John and Linda. We got 15/20 which we didn’t think was a sufficiently high enough score to win, but unbelievably, we did. Not before time, ha ha, as we’d had plenty of near misses. John started singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and mocking some of our rival teams, but when I told him we’d won because our team was called Mega Mackems he went mad and tore the quiz paper up, lol 🙂
We shared a bottle of the Fred Olsen bubby between us and sat and talked and laughed and shared a bit of banter until there was only the four of us left in the lounge! Most people had gone to bed early because we were due to arrive at St. Petersburg, Russia in the morning. We left the Braemar Room around midnight and returned to our cabin, for another night cruise on the Baltic. 🙂